Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hiyo Silver, run away!

So I took this crazy online survey to find out what sort of Dungeons and Dragons character I would be, if I were such a thing. You can try it here:  http://www.easydamus.com/character.html

There were some questions about spending time in the woods, which is something I like to do, and so I can see why I ended up a Ranger, but the rest of my characterization seems to derive from left field. I dunno, give it a whirl and see what manner of creature you are. Stats on the sidebar indicate that most visitors to the site score as humans, which is I suppose reassuring. Also, most people rated themselves high in intelligence. That is rather an awkward point; most people think they are above average in that way, but it can't possibly be true. In fact, half the people you meet are below average.

Appears I am a

Neutral Good Human Ranger (7th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 15
Dexterity- 12
Constitution- 14
Intelligence- 16
Wisdom- 15
Charisma- 14

Neutral Good- A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Rangers- Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Illustrated Ozymandias

Suggested by an essay at DiploMad2.0

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Riot gun part 2: Pattern size

Personally, I like a wide open pattern.The whole reason for preferring a shotgun over a rifle is its hit probability and I don't intend to compromise that.

Is it better if your gun throws a broad, open pattern of shot or a small tight one? It isn't a simple question. The shotgun's hit probability, which is superior to any other small arm's at close range, owes to the spread of the shot. If you reduce the spread, you reduce the shotgun's advantage.

Things get more complicated, though, when you consider that a pattern that is too wide increases the number of pellets sailing past the target, doing you no good. Since pattern size increases with distance, a loose pattern loses effectiveness rapidly with range as the pattern's density degrades. What to do, what to do?

As a sort of baseline to the discussion, the riot gun for its first hundred years or so was almost always cylinder bored or Improved Cylinder choked, and threw open patterns, firing shells concocted with no special effort taken to keep the patterns tight. The usual rule of thumb is to say that such armament patterns about one inch per yard: A 30 yard pattern will be about 30 inches across, etc. Individual guns and batches of shotshells will do better or worse than the approximation.

The combination of an open choke and garden variety buckshot shells gained an awesome reputation over the years for cleaning up the bad guys, so we have to say it is not bad. Urban policing, jungle warfare, home defense, it did a good job for those roles and more.

In the mean time, sporting development of the shotgun proceeded in the direction of tighter patterns. Hunters of turkeys and ducks want patterns that are nice and tight, concentrating the pellets into a compact swarm. Shotshell advertisements extol this shell or that as throwing tight patterns. Choke makers offer various grades of tight, tighter and tightest. Custom gunsmiths will rebore your barrel for tighter tightness. Before long this thinking spilled over into fighting shotguns, and you now see some riot guns that are set up to throw buckshot in very small spreads.

Federal shotshells that contain the FliteControl wad, and Hornady shells with the VersaTite wad, offer unusually tight buckshot patterns even out of standard cylinder and IC guns. Actually both of these shells use the same patented wad technology, licensed from the inventor. These shells are very impressive, a definite advance if what you are looking for is tightly clustered hits.

With the options now available, in barrel work, chokes and ammunition, it is easy to shrink your pattern compared to the baseline performance of an open choke and plain old shells. That's fine if that's what you want, but it isn't what I want.

I will deal in a future installment with the question of pellets that miss and go sailing on their merry way. It appears to be less of a safety problem than some writers make of it. Remember, in this connection, that the open choked riot gun has been in use for more than a century. It is only recently that it occurred to us to worry about the question.

Personally, I like a wide open pattern.The whole reason for preferring a shotgun over a rifle is its hit probability and I don't intend to compromise that. Integral to this line of reasoning is the observation that most defense shootings are at short range--very short--and the spread from a cylinder or IC bore is likely none too wide for the circumstances. But here is a case where I can have my cake and eat it too. A supply of the tight patterning VersaTite or FliteControl shells turns my wide patterning, open choked gun into something that throws a pattern that is less than half the size. That is not what I want, usually, but it is nice to have the option with no more trouble on my part than poking different shells into the gun. My usual load, though, is just the plain old inch per yard buckshot. It's something that has worked well for a very long time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Riot gun part 1: What ammo is best?

My thinking is that #1 buckshot is the best choice most of the time, though #4 buck has a lot to recommend it some of the time.

Today I'm launching a series that will be ongoing for some time. As I noted previously, my posts here will  be on a now-and-then basis. But I have a number of things to talk about on the topic of defensive shotgunning. Expect this to take a while.

For years and years, the 12 gauge riot gun has been my preferred 'preparedness' weapon, for potential use during some sort of hypothetical societal crisis, such as a general breakdown of law and order, or perhaps a zombie apocalypse. It is also what I keep on hand for home defense. I like the shotgun for its outstanding hit probability at short range. Since nearly all lethal force encounters, apart from the battlefield setting, are at short range, I don't worry very much about the shotgun's uselessness at long range.

I will be writing up a series of suggestions on how to use a riot gun efficiently. I am not an amazing shot, by any means, but I have paid attention to the craft of shooting and done so for a very long time. I have sought to understand what works and what doesn't. I will present things that have struck me as useful techniques and methods as, over the years, I have tried to understand how to make best use of my weapon. Try these tricks and see if they improve your shooting.

The Right Buckshot

The first of these tips I'll be offering is simple: Use the smallest shot size that will get the job done. This does two things for you. It maximizes pattern density, which is always useful, and it minimizes danger radius, which is sometimes useful. It is a bit of reasoning well proven in sporting uses of the shotgun, but the idea does not seem to be well understood in combat shooting. The famous double-ought buckshot that everyone is using is bigger shot than necessary for most uses, has a sparse pattern and carries lethal energy a whole lot farther downrange than you are likely to shoot at anything when using a shotgun.

In a previous post I talked about a nifty ballistic calculator, which is downloadable for free, that calculates the flight of round balls. Since buckshot is a bunch of round balls launched at the same time, you can use the calculator to check on the behavior of buckshot pellets in flight. Among the things the calculator will tell you is the energy remaining for a ball at various distances.

An old military estimate says that a ball needs a minimum of 58 foot pounds to inflict a lethal or disabling wound. That number was figured into the design of the famous claymore mine, and served as an artillery rule of thumb for many years before that. It is an easy matter to use the calculator to find out how far buckshot flies before the energy of each pellet falls below 58 foot pounds.

Using, then, the 58 foot pounds minimum and the Connecticut Muzzleloaders calculator, we take for our entering argument the nominal sizes of buckshot:

#4 -------.24 cal
#3 -------.25 cal
#2 -------.27 cal
#1 -------.30 cal
#0 -------.32 cal
#00 -----.33 cal
#000 ---.36 cal

To keep things simple I'll look at just one muzzle velocity, 1250 fps, as that is about what's realized in fact by a lot of standard velocity loads marked 1325 fps or thereabout. Get the free calculator and run your own numbers for other velocities if you are curious.

Bad news for #4 buck. It has dropped to 58 foot pounds per pellet just nine yards from the muzzle.

That may explain the spotty reputation of this load. It gives you good pattern density but the pellet energy is not very good at a distance. Sizes #3 and #2 are of only academic interest, since the manufacturers aren't loading those sizes in 12 gauge shells. If anyone is interested, the calculator says that #3 is down to 58 foot pounds at 17 yards and #2 carries 58 foot pounds out to 38 yards.

Number One Buck, with its .30 diameter and nearly twice the mass of #4 buck, does a lot better, reaching out to 76 yards before the energy drops to 58 foot pounds.

And now the famous 00 load. That gets out a little past 115 yards.

For size 0 the distance is a little over 100 yards. For 000 it is 160 yards.

58 foot pounds is not very much; it is comparable to the much despised .25 ACP. The shotgun, though, is launching multiple projectiles, which makes a big difference.

It is, of course, unlikely that you will hit anything that you intend with buckshot at 115 yards. That raises a safety concern. To what purpose, then, does 00 carry lethal energy out to 115 yards? Bear in mind, too, that the 58 foot pounds figure is not a magic number, below which projectiles are harmless. A much less energetic projectile than that can kill, if it hits someone in exactly the wrong place. Safety concerns, therefore, are not adequately addressed by supposing that, when the energy falls below some magic number, the projectile is no longer deadly. A pellet is safe when it has stopped. But we can say that a projectile that has less energy, when it flies beyond the distance at which it might reasonably be used, represents, comparatively, less of a threat.

My thinking is that #1 buckshot is the best choice most of the time, though #4 buck has a lot to recommend it some of the time. 00 is surely not a bad load, or it would not have gained its good reputation and enduring popularity. It is, though, bigger than it needs to be.

 #4 buck is a great load so long as you are sure that, should threats appear, they will be close. This test shows nine inches of penetration into ballistic gelatin at 50 yards, well short of the FBI's recommended penetration minimum of twelve inches. While the shot is still dangerous at 50 yards it may fail to be decisive. The energy falls well below 58 foot pounds; as I said it's not a magic number, but the clear result is that there are limits to how far you can shoot with this load and expect it to work properly.

#4 buck is, though, fine for most home defense scenarios, for they occur at much shorter distances than 50 yards, and it gives outstanding pattern density. Because it loses energy fast, this size bears consideration for use in built up areas where you have concerns about danger radius.

00, the de facto standard, of course has plenty of pellet power for as far as you can hit with it, but it is dangerously energetic for farther still.  #1 buck is not as dangerous as far. It also comes close to splitting the difference in pattern density between #4 buck and 00. Depending on brand, #4 buck shells hold from 21 to 27 pellets; 00 shells hold eight or nine. The available #1 loadings are 15 or 16. There was a 20 pellet #1 load but I have not been able to find it for sale  for several years. It was never highly popular because it has quite a kick. It's not a lot of fun to shoot. I'm saving what I have left for a zombie apocalypse.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Navy Yard shooting -- and mental health

To my profound lack of surprise, it now appears that  the Navy Yard shooter had mental health problems of a serious nature and an obsessive interest in violent video games. As I blogged previously, this country's high profile, big headline mass shootings have  a common denominator in the mental infirmities of the perps. A possible exception is the crime of Maj. Nidal Hasan; his motive may have been religious. Or crazy. You decide.

Following the Navy Yard shooting there was a rush in the news media to blame the AR-15, the 'evil gun' scapegoat du jour of the gun ban chorus, though at this point it is highly doubtful whether such a  weapon was used; if it was, it was obtained by the killer from a victim. No matter, Dianne Feinstein decried the "military-style assault rifle." These shootings form  a convenient pretext on which to hang calls for gun bans and other infringements. But what we need here is not more gun control laws, of which we have more than enough, but more nut control. The Navy Yard shooter previously showed abundant signs of being unhinged, but nothing was done to get him off the street.

There is a fine line here and we must tread it carefully. Efforts to protect society from the dangerously insane must not become pretexts to oppress the harmlessly insane or the merely peculiar. But we may have gone too far in the other direction. Some high-minded politicians thought they were doing a fine thing to all but do away with mental hospital institutionalization, decrying the hospitals as snake pits and putting people into them as a grievous violation of human rights. Now, though, when someone has a serious mental problem, society's response is often nothing very substantial or useful, until he ends up in jail, or the morgue.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Colorado recall successful

John Morse, ousted president of the Colorado Senate, was quoted this way by the New York Times:

“We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” he said afterward, as his supporters trickled away from a hotel ballroom here in his district. “If it cost me my political  career, that’s a small price to pay.”

The thing is, pushing through a packet of anti-gunner laws did not make anyone safer and everyone knew it. Coloradans saw the gun control push as funded from out of state and an imposition on their rights, a feel-good measure that burdened the innocent while skirting the very problem it supposedly addressed.

I hope the rest of the country's Democrats are paying attention. Less than half the states have  recall election laws, but all of them have elections, and siding with Nanny Bloomberg against the Second Amendment is perilous. There is an undercurrent of resentment out here in the electorate, not just over ill considered gun laws but over a wider perception that we are seeing heavy handed, leftward leaning displays of power over the people, to no purpose but to gratify the political sensibilities of  the far left.

The undercurrent is against political force used for things that feel good or sound right, but underneath are unsound governance. The resentment is focused on power for its own sake and pretexts for its use. This is a good healthy American sentiment, a feeling that individual rights ought be compromised only upon very good cause, and then only sparingly and carefully.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eyes up during reloads

Here is why they tell you to keep your eyes up and looking around while you reload your gun.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


My posts about gun safety draw only small numbers of readers, though the topic is among the most important I write about here. I suppose that people see a title about rules of gun safety and figure they know all about that. It is apparent, though, that not everyone does know, as witnessed by the gun accidents we read about in the news. If everyone really knew about safety such news stories would cease, or be so exceedingly rare as to be remarkable man-bites-dog stories.

I want to challenge my readers to do something today or this week to promote gun safety, but be warned. There is some chance that you will be ignored. Order some pamphlets. Distribute my safety screeds, or someone else's if you prefer them, or have a frank talk with a shooting buddy. The gun safety problem won't go away until we recognize that it is a problem that belongs to all of us.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Gun rights: the more things change...

Gun rights advocates always find themselves plowing ground that has been gone over before. Consider the following passage from a very old book. Though from the eighteenth century, it presents a line of reasoning highly relevant to gun control arguments in our time.

     A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility who considers particular more than general conveniences, who had rather command the sentiments of mankind than excite them, who dares say to reason, ‘Be thou a slave;’ who would sacrifice a thousand real advantages to the fear of an imaginary or trifling inconvenience; who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.
     The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.

That is from Cesare Beccaria, in his book Of Crimes and Punishment, published in 1764. Human nature has not changed sufficiently to make his conclusion false in our day; it is still true. The crooks who carry guns don't ask for permits. Indeed, to do so would tip off the cops, and so they never will. On the other hand, hampering the law abiding when they feel it wise to  go armed does nothing to prevent crime. The longer I think about the matter, the more sense I see in constitutional carry. That kind of law is probably a bit much to push for in some states, at present, but it may be the best answer in the long term.

As a sidelight on this, we know that Thomas Jefferson was a Beccaria fan. We also know that he had some rather good pocket pistols, screw-barrel types; a museum has one of the pair but the other is lost. There was no one to write him a permit, either. To whom would he have applied? King George?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

King George's Revenge

Among the complaints lodged against King George in the Declaration of Independence, we find this one:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

We are no longer ruled by England, but we have managed to institute new swarms of officials using home grown replacements. The government in Washington feels no motivation to limit the numbers of public employees, but the reverse. The millions of positions in government service, overseeing regulations that in some cases we do not need, comprise a reliable voting bloc for the status quo. Big government makes out their paychecks. Why would they ever feel that big government could be a problem?

The Constitution is a brief and fairly straightforward document, thus its requirements could be met with fewer than the millions of workers, more numerous than all of our military, now employed at the task. At that, much of the citizenry feels that "government worker" is an oxymoron. Viewing the question in light of the country's economic vigor they are right, since the positions are not productive.

The bureaucrat is a taker, not a maker. Sometimes he has a doubly negative effect, firstly by drawing a salary and producing nothing, secondly when some rule or regulation he enforces has a negative effect on business. There are many rules and regulations like that, not all of them necessary, and some which are open to capricious enforcement.

Of course there are some useful roles for government employees. The trouble is we have more employees than those roles require. Doubtless there are instances when having a government enforced rule contributes to everyone's health, safety and economic security, such as rules about dangerous pollutants, highway design and honest banking, to name a few. The trouble comes when every need, real or imagined, is copiously covered by rulebooks for all occasions.

It is often better if the people are left free to work out innovative solutions when they encounter a problem, rather than having their actions dictated by a bureaucrat with a book. Of course when the people work out their own answers there will be good answers and bad ones, but sensible people will imitate the good solutions that innovative people come up with and discard the bad solutions, leading to progress in how we understand and deal with various problems.

The broad and general principle here, a very reliable one, is that distributed thinking is smarter than central decision making. If you have millions of people thinking about a problem you have millions of opportunities for a good call when the situation is new and offers new challenges. Get away from that and what you are left with is the best judgment of a panel of bureaucrats, and their best is often none too good.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Decline of America

America's dream of prosperity is now unsalvageable. The country will continue down the rabbit hole of economic folly. Instead of learning from Europe's mistakes we are repeating them.  The situation is unsalvageable because so many voters and politicians see our present course as a good one. When moral inversion sets in, a culture is doomed to play out the result. By moral inversion I mean calling things good that are actually bad.

The government in Washington occupies itself with everything but solving the country's central financial problem, which is parasitism by the public sector upon the private sector. There are too many takers, not enough makers. The political will to tackle that is not to be found in Washington. Too many citizens like and support the idea of a giving government. They always vote for the giveaways to continue and increase.

What we have today is, obviously, a vote buying scheme. Political support is secured by promising government largess to this group or that. Unfortunately it is the one promise that politicians always keep. Some of the groups are poor, some are rich, but all are able somehow to benefit the politicians. The trend is impossible to reverse because our politicians are not statesmen. Clawing back the benefits would be disastrous to their chances of reelection.  So it is best from Washington's point of view if the government continues to grow.

Of course the scheme will collapse of its own absurdity. When you say "to each according to his needs" you find that everyone has needs. When you say "from each according to his abilities," people's abilities flag. The imbalance between makers making and takers taking can only increase over time until the situation turns either farcical or deadly.

When the government practices folly and the people heartily approve, there really isn't anything to do but tighten your seat belt and hang on for the ride. For things to get better before they get worse would require a moral renaissance, and I don't see anything like that happening. If anything, our civic morals are going from bad to worse.

I will still be posting here, just not as often

Some other writing opportunities have presented themselves and I am following up on them. That is going to mean less gun blogging, but never fear. If you will scroll down and look over to your left you will see my blogroll, which is a selection of the very best blogs about guns, shooting, law and politics. I find it yields several good reads every day.

See ya at the range.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Larry Potterfield's S&W revolver inspection

Bookmark this blog entry if you are a Smith & Wesson revolver kinda guy. Review the video before you go shopping for a used Smith; it might save you time and money. You might also find the video useful when it is time to function check a gun you already have. I do a thorough check periodically just to make sure that things are still in good order.

And... if you need accessories, parts or tools, Mr. Potterfield will be pleased to help you out at Midway USA.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Pedro Vargas murders: roid rage?

From the Miami Herald:

Jorge Bagos, who also worked out with Vargas, told the Associated Press that Vargas had mentioned exercising as a way to release his anger. Bagos said Vargas complained of bad experiences with women, and blamed his hair loss on steroid use.
Although police said Vargas asked for his girlfriend while speaking with a hostage negotiator in his final hours, neighbors and associates never saw Vargas with a woman or heard of him having a girlfriend.
Hair loss from steroid use? Problems with anger? Fantasy indistinguishable from reality? That paints a picture, doesn't it!?

Other details about Vargas emerge in the Herald's background piece, and I encourage you to read the whole thing if you are following the case, but those who have seen guys abuse steroids and start to lose touch with planet Earth probably have the crime figured out already.

So we have, sadly, another spree shooting apparently attributable to the shooter's twisted mental state, the state in this case self induced through abuse of steroids. The matter will never be fairly tried in court, since we cannot try a corpse, and of course it is possible that the press has the story wrong. But as it looks at this point, we have another case of a crazed killer, in the literal sense of crazed, as in crazy.

With the possible exception of the crime of Major Nidal Hasan, all the recent big-headline spree shootings have been attributable in one way or another to the abnormal mental state of the actor, a difficult point as we work out the correct balance between the general right to keep and bear arms and the instance-specific limitations upon that right. We don't want people who are off their rockers walking around with guns, but on the other hand, how do you stop them without infringing on the rights of, say, the moderately eccentric? We really don't know as much as we need to about the criminally insane and their problems. We need to avoid putting ourselves in the position of burning down the house to roast the pig inside.

Bears for Bloomberg

Yet another reason why magazine capacity limits are stupid:

It took sixteen shots to drive off the the attacking bear, which later died. Fortunately the outdoorsman attacked was not a New Yorker, limited to seven round magazines, or a Coloradan, limited to fifteen.

Alaska man kills charging bear with assault rifle | Fox News:

'via Blog this'

Monday, July 29, 2013

The doubletalk of gun control advocates

The Daily Caller has a good piece about Orwellian use of language by the gun ban leftists.

Translating 10 anti-gun propaganda phrases into English | The Daily Caller:

'via Blog this'

Who is too weird to own a gun?

We have long had laws against deranged people keeping and bearing arms. That must be counted as a reasonable limitation. It may be that we do too little, sometimes, to limit the gun rights of disturbed people; recent mass shootings have their common denominator in mental health issues. But there is a fine line there, open to abuse by the authorities. They may go too far in the other direction.

I do not think the following case is an instance of abuse, for the judgment seems reasonable, but it gives us a look into a grey area. Gun rights advocates are right, I think, to be concerned about a possible future in which nearly everyone is deemed a bit too strange, or minor peculiarities are used arbitrarily to abridge the gun rights of some.

The comments below the presentation are interesting because of their variety.

The Volokh Conspiracy » The Right to Keep and Bear Arms and People Who Appear to Lack “Emotional Stability” at a Court Hearing:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On topic for a change: WWII German infantry squad tactics

The political crap storm going on these days has led me somewhat astray from my intended topic of arms and their use. Here, though, is something that I think will interest the readers who don't care about politics, but who like weapons, tactics and history. The video is brought to you by YouTube user The Digital Implosion (H/t).

On my monitor, at least, the video shows up a little bit dark. I see more detail if I punch up the brightness a notch. YMMV.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obama on "stand your ground." Things just turned really weird.

From John Lott's Website -- President Obama vs. state Senator Obama on Stand Your Ground laws:

"Illinois is one of the states that don't demand that people retreat as far as possible before defending themselves. Little did I know that Obama was one of the people who helped push for this change to become law."

Wow. I said previously that as a lawyer, Obama ought to know that he is misrepresenting the law in this matter. Turns out I was righter than I thought.

For those new to the subject, "stand your ground" is legal shorthand for no, or very limited, "duty to retreat." When you hear the one you should think of the other, for they are paired concepts. Imposing a duty to retreat whenever someone is attacked raises more problems than it solves, in rendering fair judgement later, which is why most states and federal precedent too have some or other recognition of the "stand your ground" principle. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife."

As a state senator, Obama sided with Holmes. Now... Well, that was then, this is now. I guess he evolved again. He was 'for it before he was against it.'

For the Illinois Review blog post that broke the story, go here:   http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2013/07/obama-strongly-supported-stand-your-ground-when-in-illinois-senate.html

'via Blog this'

Obama on being Trayvon and on "stand your ground" laws

"Trayvon Martin could have been me, thirty-five years ago."

Somehow I don't think so. Obama is a child of privilege, Martin was not. There is more difference between the two people than Obama credits in his remarks. Indeed, the difference is greater than any skin-deep similarity. Let's see... Obama was schooled at Punahou, Occidental and Harvard and somehow became a political insider rather quickly... The above picture is being circulated on Twitter as a photo of Obama being profiled 35 years ago.

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death is overshadowed and cheapened by using it for political grandstanding. Obama's full remarks: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/19/remarks-president-trayvon-martin

The President said some high-toned and thoughtful things, brought out some well worn and reliable platitudes about race, and even said some things that I agree with. But he slipped a poison pill in amidst the Skittles:

I know that there's been commentary about the fact that the "stand your ground" laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these "stand your ground" laws, I'd just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

There are many things  wrong with that. The President, a lawyer, knows it and said it anyway. No one, of any color, is justified in shooting only because he feels threatened. That answer is unambiguous. The test is whether one reasonably fears imminent death or severe bodily harm, the old "reasonable man" doctrine that any schoolboy knows about, let alone any lawyer.

Left dangling is a question of whether the law would be applied equally to a black. (Obama set up that dangler previously in the talk, explaining a series of factors that "...contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.") But wait, the whole problem the left is having with this case is that the trial went by the book. Anyone knocked down in the street with his assailant astride gets the benefit of the same book. The law is the law, even when there is a loud public clamor for a conviction, and backroom pressure from inside the state government, as there were in this case. Would race prejudice be a more powerful biasing factor, in present-day Florida, than those things were? It seems at least as reasonable to suppose that if Trayvon Martin had been white and the same thing had happened, no one outside of Sanford, Florida would have heard about his death.

Then there is the hypothetical, "if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed." If at that time he had a clean record and no other disqualifications, then yes, he would have the same rights as any other man to arm himself and defend himself. This is the 21st century, Florida is ethnically diverse and seeks justice equally for all--or more than equally if it is "justice for Trayvon." In that matter, it seemed that the state made extraordinary efforts to bring Martin's killer to trial, efforts without which the case would have been dropped; it is common practice to drop cases where the state, in all likelihood, cannot win. In terms of the realities of this case, Obama is not dealing squarely with the facts. He is drawing us a cartoon.

"Stand your ground," of course, concerns the "duty to retreat." It is extraneous to this case. When someone is flat on the pavement with someone atop him, he has nowhere to retreat. Problems with the "duty to retreat" are the point of "stand your ground" laws. There are many difficulties in fairly applying laws asserting that the citizen has a duty to retreat when attacked, difficulties for which "stand your ground" serves as a simplification. When has the attacked person retreated enough? If he did not retreat, was it because he could not safely do so, and how can we be sure? Was there time to retreat, or was the attack so sudden that defending one's self was a matter of "do or die?" Was it possible to retreat, or was the victim's back against a wall, literally or figuratively? Did the victim of the attack even have his wits about him well enough to think out his chances of retreat? As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked in a case of the kind, "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife."

In view of these complexities and the many opportunities to misjudge such matters after the fact, most states as well as federal precedent have some or other recognition of the "stand your ground" principle. Most people will retreat without being told they have to, and in cases where that does not happen, the exact circumstances are hard for judge and jury to sort out; it is best if they do not attempt it, but look into the other circumstances of the case. Obama caricatures what "stand your ground" says and does. He must know what he is leaving out here, or was he asleep in that class?

Embedded in his otherwise irenic remarks is a partisan push for one of the items on the Brady Campaign wish list, revisiting the self defense laws with a view to weakening them. He is playing politics, of course. When does he do anything else? He is nothing like Trayvon, the law is not as he presents it, he hands us a hypothetical situation and a leading, insinuating question about ambiguity that turns out not to be ambiguous at all...smoke and mirrors, all of it!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some are more equal than others

I have in mind, here, two contrasting news stories. The first is the IRS targeting of Obama's opponents. The second is the inexplicable matter of Holder's Justice Department dropping the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers. If you line them up side by side the contrast is clear. If you are against Obama, we'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too. If you are for Obama, you get a free pass.

Evidently, some people are more equal than others. More examples could be found where justice has been shaded by politics, the truth hidden for the sake of expediency. Allegations and denials of voting irregularities have been going on for a long time, and it is one side, not the other, that works vigorously against measures to clean things up. Makes you think. Notice, for example, this vituperative and non factual attack on voting reform: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=trueview-instream&v=FIDUFwzNZNY  If there is a good case to be made here, why make such a bad one?

Further examples? Just read the papers.

Hoodie Obama

This picture is making the rounds of the Interwebz. I find it creepy, in a Big Brother kind of way. I conjecture that it was 'shopped together to bolster the identification of Obama with Trayvon Martin, an identification Obama has fostered and encouraged, first by saying Trayvon was like his son, then by saying Trayvon could have been him 35 years ago. Oh, it bolsters all right. It is a powerful symbol. Look into Trayvon's hoodie, see the prez looking back out at you. See the U.S. Department of Justice For Trayvon single out George Zimmerman with an informant tip line of his very own. See a tragic but hardly singular event in Florida turned into the new national centerpiece for race grievance politics and a new drumbeat for gun control. See the news media's attention instantly diverted from numerous scandals surrounding the administration.

Here, of course, is the iconic photo of Trayvon that is the basis of the above Photoshop job. See the resemblance? No? Me neither. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Justice for Trayvon

"Justice for Trayvon" has been done. If you don't like the verdict, that does not mean it wasn't justice.

I waited until the verdict was in before commenting on George Zimmerman's trial for killing Trayvon Martin. I have been on a couple of juries and know that a lot goes on in a courtroom that isn't well reflected in news reporting. In this case, I further felt that left-leaning news outlets were whipping up the story, playing on racial tensions and politically correct memes, and in general being a bunch of jerks. I figured I would have a clearer picture of the case after the jury spoke. It looked to me like Zimmerman was not guilty of what he was charged with. He looked guilty of first degree stupidity maybe, not murder, but I was not sitting in the jury box.

The media circus was the least of it. I sensed, or suspected, a political overtone to the prosecution. If  the case was as insubstantial as it appeared to be, then it looked to me as if the defendant was being railroaded. That impression increased as the case progressed.  It smelled to me like a show trial; they used to have those in the USSR. They are out of place in the USA. I point to several troubling aspects:

If the above is true and as reported, and if it is as it seems, it stinks to high heaven. It smells of unequal justice and pandering.  Early indications were that the state would not bring the case to trial because the case it had was weak. But that would never do, so people got busy stirring the pot. You can find further details of the matter here and here.

I think justice was served despite it all. The jurors properly performed their civic role and duty, even if no one else did. Trayvon Martin's killer faced the law and the case failed. It looks awfully like this prosecution would not have taken place without extraordinary efforts to assure there would be a trial, which is worrisome.

The impression of a politically driven prosecution is only strengthened by events in the trial's aftermath. What seems like the whole of the political left is howling that justice was not done. There is talk at the highest levels of government about going after Zimmerman again.

A further disturbing aspect of all this is the left's willingness to whip up the emotions of the unthinking by portraying Zimmerman as a fiend. To read some accounts in the press, you would think the very vapors of hell swirl around him.

In an unusual statement for a prosecutor to make, Florida prosecutor Angela Corey has publicly called Zimmerman a murderer, this after his acquittal. That claim seems to rest on a new principle in law, that one is not presumed innocent even after being found not guilty. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's DOJ has set up an email tip line for informants, hoping to turn up something the DOJ can somehow use to charge Zimmerman with a federal hate crime.

The whole story just gets weirder the longer you follow it. Here we have high officials, together with a chorus in the press, demonizing the defendant, questioning the workings of the justice system and looking to get Zimmerman some other way, because the verdict of "not guilty" did not suit them.

"Justice for Trayvon" has been done. If you don't like the verdict, that does not mean it wasn't justice. What happened looks very bad, an unarmed black youth got shot, an event that fits in very well with an emotional narrative long held by some, and deeply felt. Tragic the event surely was, but sometimes a shooting is only a shooting and the ordinary rules of justice apply, or should.

A hopeful aspect I see in all this: The longer the witch hunt goes on, the more chance for the facts of the case to be aired to the public. The facts will not sustain the leftist narrative, which rests on emotion and past grievances. The jury really had no other option open to them, given the facts of the case and a just reading of the laws. In that most people will eventually recognize the truth even when it conflicts with what they want to think, the more airing this case gets the better.

Compromise? There is no compromise

I direct your attention to David T. Hardy's very fine article over at reason.com, "Why Gun Owners Are Right to Fight Against Gun Control." The history of the anti-gun contingent shows that compromise measures aren't really what they want. A compromise needs two sides to it.

See also my own look at what it is we are being asked to "compromise," in "What is infringement?" There really can't be dialectic around bedrock principles, unless the idea is to dig up the bedrock.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A practical lesson of the Zimmerman case

Any time you are carrying a lethal weapon you should have a less-than-lethal one as well. This whole affair would have ended much better, for everyone, if Zimmerman had successfully used a stun gun, or pepper spray, or a kubotan or what have you, instead of his pistol. He was clearly outclassed in the fistfight; when that happens and all you have is a gun, the outcome is always going to look bad, whichever outcome that is. One possible outcome is that the person beating you up takes your gun and shoots you with it. That did not happen in this case but has happened numerous times in the past. In this case the unarmed fellow got shot, and would that he had not. The incident has stirred up a storm of ill will that now even involves the highest levels of government.

I may have more to say later about the social activism aspect of the case and the political climate that permits it to go on and on after Zimmerman's acquittal. For now I thought I would point out a short lesson that all would do well to consider.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Improving upon Burton's saber method

I previously critiqued Sir Richard Francis Burton's A New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry. In that posting you can find links to his book, free online and in print for money. There is much that I do not like about Burton's system, but some parts of it stand out as meriting further attention and the honest form of flattery, imitation. I here offer what I think are improvements to the method Burton published back in 1876.

Burton wanted to scrap the old and well-proven method of teaching soldiers to use their sabers, in favor of something quite different. The sturdy old system of five parries (or a few more) did everything that was asked of it, for as long as men wore sabers, cutlasses and hanger swords. It is still in use in today's sport of saber fencing. This fine old method, which Burton sought to replace, is good because it is defensively oriented. The parries are the main things; it is then a matter of discovering practical ripostes from these very secure parries. The emphasis is on not getting cut or stabbed, which is a sensible focus for one's studies. The parries, ideally, meet the opposing blade in steep inclination, near right angles, making them secure defenses. That is the real strength of the old system. The importance of parrying in saber work was well explained by Louis Rondelle in 1892: "It is incontestably true that in the case of the sabre a good parrier always wins. Strong in parries, he never fears the adverse attack. He waits for it and even provokes it that he may have the advantage of a Time Thrust or a good Riposte, which, made within distance, will invariably count."

Burton's system is more offense-oriented, and weaker in parries. Three principal parries are gone (the ones called 1, 2 and 5 in modern saber fencing parlance). The two parries that remain (3 and 4) must pull extra duty to make up for the absence of the others. The compensating virtue is that your parry never puts your blade in a position that makes it difficult for you to counterattack. Here Burton's idea is to counterattack using rapid whiplike snap cuts. The key innovation is linking the cuts and parries together in a system of "semi-moulinets." If handling a real saber of full weight, not the Olympic "fairy wand saber," the usefulness of this linking is clear. You can quickly reverse course without undue exposure to counterattack, and after you make a cut you can swiftly follow it up with another cut or with a parry.

I became impressed with the idea while clearing some ground by the use of a machete. Burton's clever roll of the wrist, with a slight elevation of the point, made it easy to send the blade whizzing back and forth among my foes, the weeds. I could have at any moment made a parry, had they been inclined to fight back like honest foes, rather than by craven, ungentlemanly use of their thorns.

The genius in Burton's method is in arranging the parries so that the semi-moulinet is always readily available with a roll of the wrist, and if you need it, a tight-arc full moulinet is quickly accomplished by a second roll of the wrist. It all flows very consistently from limiting the parries to variations on tierce and carte.

How I would change Burton's method

1. Eliminate the reverse cuts. They are mainly an affectation. There are few situations in a military context, as distinct from sport fencing, in which they would be effective substitutes for using the true edge, because it is difficult to get much force behind such cuts. Their presence in Burton's system furthermore introduces an inconsistency of method, where both thinking and movement must reverse to proceed in a new way. Burton observed that few soldiers used the false edge, and he objected to their failure to do so, but he seemingly neglected the possibility that they had considered it and decided it was not worth the trouble.

2. Permit low parries. Burton's system is incomplete for the lack of them. He radically eliminated the hanging guards because they would not work with his system--very well. So as to maintain consistency with the scheme Burton has established, I would make the low parries as much as possible like the tierce and carte parries already in his system. The difference is that these downward-sloping parries that I propose are formed with the point of the sword below the level of the hand. Thus I would add downward tierce (a quasi-seconde without overpronation of the hand, and with the arm well extended) and downward carte, a parry of septime, but I would call it downward carte for the sake of avoiding confusion. (These point-downward positions appear, fleetingly, in performing cuts 11 and 12 of Burton's system.) They are not the best low parries I can think of; that honor must go to the saber parries called 1 and 2 in modern parlance, but the parries I propose will work with Burton's semi-moulinet technique, while 1 and 2 will not.

3. Lastly I would add a thrust to the system, just one, the opposition thrust in tierce. It is the safest of point attacks to make. That disposes of Burton's characterization of the thrust as something that needs to be learned in the fencing school because it can't be taught properly on the drill ground. The key concept in opposition work is that you thrust in such a way that the opposing sword is blocked so that it cannot move into a position to hurt you until after you have delivered your thrust. What is most needed to pull that off in tierce is well-developed intuition about when you can get away with the maneuver. That can be gained through partner practice, no fencing master required.

Beyond these few technical changes, I would alter the emphasis in training. The idea should be to give the swordsman an intuitive sense of what cuts and parries he can make immediately, beginning from whatever position his sword is in at the moment, and which are a tempo away. It could be that this sixth sense understanding is conveyed adequately by osmosis to anyone who practices Burton's method for a while, but I would make it the central emphasis, to make sure that no one fails to gain it.

I would also do something about Burton's explanation of the manchette methods. I find it none too clear as it stands. As this has nothing to do with the technical basis of the fencing system itself, that is, the cuts and parries themselves, but instead is a matter of applications of the system, perhaps I can be excused if I leave the matter for another day.


Update: See https://shootery.blogspot.com/2017/07/saber-attacks-burtons-manchette-tactics.html for my remarks on the manchette method.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Okay, this is funny

No surprise, of course, that it is. Ramirez is perhaps the most perceptive political cartoonist of this present unfortunate era.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What is infringement?

Infringement of the right to keep and bear arms I define in these categories:

1. The citizen cannot buy, in lawful commerce, weapons suitable for Second Amendment purposes. The purposes in view of the Amendment are your personal defense, defense of your home and hearth, participation in a defense force (a county posse or a state militia) when lawfully summoned to serve, and resistance warfare against a hypothetical tyranny. Weaponry includes, obviously, all the things needed to make weapons effective, such as magazines of suitable size, spare parts and effective ammunition. On the matter of magazine restrictions, of course the right to effective arms includes the right to load them, and load them in a way that is consistent with their purposes and design.

2. The citizen cannot keep suitable Second Amendment arms he lawfully obtained before, because of a confiscation or buyback order from the authorities. A 'no transfers' provision in law serves a similar purpose: He may not bequeath his weapon to another, which is slow motion confiscation. The result, and intent, is to drive suitable weapons out of private ownership.

3. Owners of suitable Second Amendment weapons are listed in government records, in such manner that confiscation of the weapons is made easy should the authorities choose to act in that manner. Note that this is a problem even if you totally trust the government. Governments sometimes are displaced. The Chinese Communists took evil advantage of gun control measures established by the former regime. The Nazis used, selectively, laws and registries established under the previous German regime. So then a registry is only as good as the intentions of the one who holds the list. For this reason, registries are suspect regardless of the reasons given for their establishment. Good people in government can be replaced by bad people, and good governments can be replaced by bad ones, so even good governments should not be trusted with certain types of information.

4. There is a further kind of infringement that is possible. We lose sight of it in current discussions of citizens'  gun rights. I mention it for completeness. It may be of importance later on, as history unfolds. This kind of infringement occurs when the proper authorities are somehow prevented by law from summoning posses or militias. Of course there are always restrictions on what officials can do in the matter, and there should be: I am talking about some insuperable bar to their exercise of the call-up power. It is important to remember that the Second Amendment names two rights not one. Though distinct they are related. The people may have weapons suitable to fight with and the proper authorities may call upon the people for armed assistance. I think of this, from the citizen's point of view, as the responsibility that matches the right to bear arms. Your right to arms is accompanied by your responsibility to use them to protect the public, in certain circumstances. Those circumstances involve being lawfully summoned by the proper authorities. The practice of temporarily recruiting the armed population is something that has fallen out of use. It is still in the law (and still in Clausewitz) but the practice of calling on citizens to be up in arms has gone so long out of use that 'up in arms' has become a catchphrase, which most people cannot today match with a literal example.

5. The citizen's right is to keep arms and also to bear them. There have always been restrictions of one kind or another on how, where and when arms may be carried with you away from home, and that must be allowed as reasonable. But when the restrictions interfere with your safety, that is, your ability to defend yourself against some reasonably anticipated threat or danger, that must count as infringement. If the arms are for your defense, but you are not allowed to have them when and where you need them, in what sense are they any protection? They cannot protect your safety or the public's if you do not have them.

That is how I understand the question of infringement. The Second Amendment has certain definite purposes in view, and where they are grossly interfered with, that is infringement.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Simplified swordsmanship: Burton's "New Exercise"

Sir Richard Burton (not the actor, the other one) was hardly the first man to discover something clever and mistake it for something profound, and surely not the last.  So then we need not blame him very much, but would be better and more charitably advised to learn from his mistakes. When closely analyzed, his "semi-moulinet" technique, which forms the heart of his saber system, consists of a clever flip of the wrist, allowing whiplike snap cuts to be made promptly from any parry, and a parry to be made at once, following any cut. There are some advantages that are worth knowing about in this scheme, but the method brings along with it some difficulties and disadvantages that Burton does not fully acknowledge.

Burton's cuts.
Cuts 1 and 2 are the same as 3 through 10, except for their height.
The  New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry,* published in 1876, radically simplifies the foundation of saber fencing, reducing it to just two guards and what amounts to, essentially, a system of carte and tierce cuts, continuously linked as per the diagram. To make this work out, Burton must eliminate the hanging guards, guards 1 and 2 in modern saber parlance. Since they cannot be made to fit in they must be disparaged; he condemns them pretty thoroughly. Stepping back is the means Burton recommends for defending against attacks upon the leg.

The clever part is that now all cuts can be linked seamlessly to either a followup cut or a speedy parry, since each cut terminates with a roll of the wrist. Your blade describes half a tight moulinet and now faces the opposite orientation. If that is not what you wanted your roll your wrist again, and the moulinet becomes a complete one, or three quarters--whatever you like. Now this is, I admit, very clever, and it allows for several fine possibilities, including the development of one's ability to make short, whiplike snap cuts,  a possibility Burton exploits. He endorses whipping attacks upon the opponent's forearm and goes into considerable detail about how to make such cuts. His advice on the matter is somewhat complicated. He admits as much, to his credit. The forearm attacks are a very valuable application of his system; while the mechanics of the system itself are commendably simple, this use of them is not so simple, a matter I shall visit in a moment.

Burton's cuts (diagonally downward and diagonally upward, from the left and from the right) can be flexibly applied, when necessary becoming horizontal cuts or nearly vertical ones. He endorses making snap cuts with the false edge, when that is more convenient and quicker than rolling the blade over to strike. Likewise the two parries, tierce and carte (3 and 4), are used flexibly, high or low. They can be be inclined to protect from attacks overhead, in a high tierce parry that serves the purpose of parry 5, and a mirror image of the same on the carte side. There is thus a good deal of versatility left in the trimmed-down body of techniques the system contains. Burton endorses the thrust but points out that it is best learned in a fencing academy, not from a military drill set down in a book. If you do thrusts by rote, it is easy to run yourself onto the other fellow's point.

Burton achieved something quite interesting by linking all his movements together by "semi-moulinets," but there is a pitfall. The tendency when fencing Burton's way is to move the blade side to side in a predictable manner, rather like someone painting a house with a paintbrush. One needs to think a bit to figure out how to be varied and deceptive. Because movements conclude with wrist and sword rolled through a "semi-moulinet," and this is ingrained as habit, it is easy to overlook further possibilities, such as a full moulinet that redoubles the attack in the same line. The mechanics of the system are simple enough that you have to remember, and remind yourself, to be clever with them.

The system specializes in attacks of short trajectory and seeks to avoid using big looping attacks that make long wind-ups before delivering. That is fine if you can generate enough power in a short movement, but some people, in some situations, may need a different approach. If the swordsman is tired and his sword is dull, or if his foe is wearing an overcoat, he may need to take a big swing. There is, of course, the problem of exposing the body when raising the sword. Concern over that problem explains Burton's emphasis on making short arcs with the blade. Burton says, "[The whip cut] is the principal Cut allowed in my system; it is capable of sufficient effect upon the opponent whilst it does not uncover the swordsman who uses it."

These swift but comparatively weak whiplike attacks need vulnerable targets. They are ideal for attacking the opponent's forearm or wrist. Such attacks are challenging to learn. Burton's system does not give its user full value unless the forearm attacks are mastered, however. Inasmuch as these subtle attacks are difficult to teach in squad drills, the method does not quite supply what a military organization needs, effective training that is at the same time straightforward to teach and to learn.

It is amusing to read the opprobrium Burton heaps upon the hanging guard.
The "Hanging guard"... is the worst that can be imagined -- a painful spectacle, a lesson of "what to avoid." The head ignobly cowers, and the eyes look up, in a forced and wearying position, when the former should be held upright, and the glance should be naturally fixed upon the opponent's eye and blade-point; the body is bent so as to lose our national advantage of height and strength, and the right fore-arm in such a position is, and ever must be, clean uncovered. Let the recruit, however strong may be his haunches, stand a few minutes in this "Hanging guard," and he will soon feel by his fatigue how strange, awkward, and strained it is.
And again:
I have already expressed my opinion concerning the Guard...popularly called the "hanging Guard." Even with the best position, the head erect and the eyes looking straight and not upwards; it is utterly faulty; it displaces the arm and the sword, and as no serious attack can be made directly from it, it necessitates a movement entailing a considerable amount of exposure. It is now chiefly confined to students' duels with the German Schläeger, wherein slitting the opposing nose, which can be done with a mere jerk upwards, is the swordsman's highest aim and ambition.
Similarly, he says this about about using hanging parries to defend the forward leg:
This limb requires no assistance of the kind: an able swordsman never exposes his head and shoulders by cutting so low, and if he does, the leg can be smartly withdrawn (parade retrograde, or en échappant), rendering the attack not only useless but dangerous to the assailant. Even in fencing, "low thrusts," that is, at the body below the wrist, are never made, for fear of the "Time" being taken, until the upper line has been closed by a feint. In our Single-stick practice the first thought seems to be to attack the advanced leg -- which may be well enough for Single-stick.

I have my doubts that pulling in the leg is always an adequate defense of the leg. If your foe were standing in a hole or behind a parapet, you would be glad to know parries that protect the lowest of low lines, likewise if you were to find yourself standing atop something and your enemy standing at ground level, or if you were above him, and he below you, on a flight of stairs.

Burton, moreover, never gives due credit to the hanging guard's virtues. It is a strong and versatile parry that protects against a wide variety of attacks, high or low. From what I can glean, many years after the fact, the hanging guard was very widely used by the soldiery, for it offers a good and simple defense. It is fatiguing and the ripostes possible from it are few and slow. These drawbacks notwithstanding, the troops liked it because it worked and was easy to get right.

The classic saber method that included hanging and upright guards, together with the overhead guard (5, or St. George), and included big swings as well as small ones, continued in use despite Burton's attempt at reforming the status quo. It was more than just the inertia of military institutions that caused this, strong as that inertia is, in any country. There is something that is questionable, at least, about giving up some of your weapon's potential for the sake of making it simpler to use. By concentrating on a specific subset of the possible techniques, Burton's method did just that. On the other hand, if you do not use your sword well because your method is unwieldy or too complex, that is not a good thing either. It is the second part of the problem that Burton tried to address. His answer was to devise a method that was simple, consistent and had an advantage, of a kind, offensively.

Burton could claim, with good justification, that his method was superior in one way to the status quo method he wished to replace with his own. His method was swifter on the counterattack. His forearm attacks, in particular, are nasty and efficient. His method also has evident drawbacks; he blustered his way past them.

Impressed or even over-impressed by its advantages, Burton took a single idea, the semi-moulinet, as far as it would go. A fully consistent, seamlessly linked system of cuts and parries, all done with minimal exposure, is impossible in the old system he sought to replace with his own; he achieved it in his. But he achieved consistency by jettisoning useful techniques. Battle experience showed the old method to be a good one. It continued to serve, in one rendition or another, for so long as fighting men still wore sabers, or cutlasses, or hangers. Across Europe, and in America, military practice had settled on essentially the same method, and that method was the very thing Burton wanted to reform and replace. Burton's manual was circulated, read and quietly shelved.

Update: If you have read this far, you might enjoy my thoughts about "Improving upon Burton's saber method."

Another update: I look at Burton's manchette tactics in "Saber attacks: Burton's manchette tactics examined."

* Where to obtain the manual, "A New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry" by Richard F. Burton, discussed in this critique or review:

Real book (a reprint)
New System of Sword Exercise on Amazon

 Page images, PDF format

HTML transcription w/ plates

Multiple formats from archive.org

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Combat handgun shooting as it is not now done: The FBI crouch

This is quaint. People used to teach and learn this method. There are good reasons why they stopped. Better methods are now available. This video teaches you all about the "FBI crouch", a pistol technique that involves violations of safety rules two and three and firing without looking at the sights. H/t to Youtube user nuclearvault for this bit of nostalgia.

There are noticeable similarities between this ex-FBI method and the Fairbairn-Sykes shooting method. While I am unaware of any formal connection between the training programs, Fairbairn's and Sykes' ideas were popular and widely known in the early post-WWII era.

My own opinion on using the sights is that I like to. At the very least, I like to see the front sight. Very fast shooting can be accomplished by holding the gun slightly lower than you would for normal aimed fire, so that the front sight is seen standing proud of the rear sight. Then you use the front sight as you would a shotgun's bead. That is the best compromise I have found between high speed and close range accuracy. The shot will strike slightly higher than it would if you aimed normally. It is easy to compensate by aiming slightly low. It is all right if your vision is focused on the target and not on the front sight, for the ranges at which you would use this technique are very short.

Monday, July 1, 2013

NSA scooping in your gun ownership info too?

Senators Ask if NSA Collected Gun Data
Potential to construct gun database, senators say | Washington Free Beacon:

Interesting story. Because no one who knows anything is forthcoming about secret projects, no one else is sure just how far this business of scooping up everyone's private data extends.

'via Blog this'

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Old TV documentary: "To Keep and Bear Arms"

Here we have "To Keep and Bear Arms," an episode of "The Big Picture," a TV documentary series that ran on ABC in the fifties and sixties. It is inconceivable that ABC would run an episode like this today. But thanks to Youtube user nuclearvault, we can watch it still. It's a pretty good basic rundown on the history and significance of the right to arms and the role of the NRA. Show it to kids if you get the chance, for they certainly do not get any such information in school these days, and see nothing of the sort on TV. It is as if one particular civil right has disappeared from the liberal lexicon, and if the NRA is portrayed on television, it is now in a bad light not a good one.

Video: Reassembling Ruger's .22 automatic pistol

Here is a well done Youtube video by one danielp59. Ruger's otherwise excellent .22 pistol has one annoying characteristic. It can be difficult to reassemble once you have taken it apart. I found this video helpful and so I am passing it along.

The .22 pistol was the first product Ruger offered and its success put the company on the map. It is an accurate gun and dependability problems almost always owe to poor quality ammunition or a dirty mechanism, rather than to any fault in the gun itself. The fiddly nature of the task of putting it back together is the only real fault it has. For about sixty years, people have been having trouble getting the hammer in the right position during reassembly. Watch this video to learn the right flick of the wrist to get things back together properly.

Penumbra? We don't need no steenking penumbras!

I got retwittered for saying

Fear the man who says, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."

This saying struck a chord with some people. Let me strum that chord for a minute. Let me parse the reasoning.

The speaker is key here: Focus upon the one who says, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."  He decides. He decides! He thinks he has a right to know your business and then to judge, after the fact, whether you had anything to hide. But what gives him any such right?

The thing spoken implies a forceful person speaking, who will take anything he is denied. That is not America. That is, indeed, what each and every word in the Bill of Rights seeks to avoid.

Legal questions of the right to privacy are somewhat complicated by prior rulings, which sometimes make things more complicated than they need to be. "Hard cases make bad law." But in principle you have, supposedly at least, the right to be left alone, absent some probable cause to bother you. It is easy to discern, today, a penumbra of privacy where it is politically convenient, but impossible otherwise.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The saber: Corbesier's manual

Thanks to the Internet Archive, this excellent little book is available for free in many digital formats at this link. It will prove of interest to hobbyist fencers and those interested in historical weapons. If you prefer a real book you can get one from Amazon.

The saber became the most common type of sword in Western military use and retained that position up until the time when swords were no longer useful in war. Its universal popularity owed to the manner of its use. A straightforward and highly logical method for saber fencing arose; no one is sure exactly where it originated. Somewhere in Eastern Europe is a good bet. With only minor regional differences, the saber fencing method became established everywhere in the Western world as the right way to do it. Military manuals show this when looked at side by side; the methods are substantially similar from one country to another, the convergence increasing over time.

A plate from Corbesier's manual

By the nineteenth century there is a thoroughly homogenized, pan-European and American understanding of how the weapon works. The saber is used in dual tempo, parry followed by riposte. Parries are made with your blade in steep inclination with respect to the opposing blade, at or near right angles, reducing the chance of malparrying.  Five characteristic parries emerge; some systems add a couple extras. The five are hanging guards (point down) to the left and right, upright guards (point up) to the right and left, and an overhead guard, the good old St. George. These are the same parries taught for sport fencing in our times.

There are many training manuals surviving from the long era in which the saber was the preferred sidearm. My favorite came along rather late, in 1872, but in its clarity and its elimination of extraneous material it is to my eye the best of the bunch. I refer to the manual prepared by Antoine Corbesier for the U.S. Navy. Corbesier was the Naval Academy's fencing master. His manual embodies excellent insights about the weapon and a clear idea of the best methods to use for teaching people what to do with it. The manual is set up around the idea of squad instruction via drills done on called out commands. Thanks to the Internet Archive, this excellent little book is available for free in many digital formats at this link. It will prove of interest to hobbyist fencers and those interested in historical weapons. If you prefer a real book you can get one from Amazon.

In theory, a straight thrusting sword is a deadlier and more efficient weapon than a saber. In practice, there is a problem with that. It is rather difficult to learn to use a thrusting sword well and it ordinarily requires long practice aided by a fencing master. Saber fencing, though, is simple enough that good results were obtained by recruits instructed out of a book, in group exercises led by sergeants. Sergeants are always plentiful, while bona fide fencing masters are few in any era and military forces do not have unlimited time to train the troops. Hence the saber's ascendency as the military weapon of choice.

There is an interesting principle here. The military is not always interested in the best weapon, but in the best attainable combination of weapon and trooper skill with his weapon. With the time and training resources that were available, soldiers could be made dangerous with the saber; the thrusting sword, though, would have taken vastly more time and higher quality instruction. A modern example that is somewhat similar: The US Army has stayed with the M16 for so long because it is matchlessly easy to shoot. Its excellent control ergonomics, straight line buttstock and trifling recoil, together with very good inherent accuracy for a military rifle, make a semi-skilled rifleman a dangerous customer. No one says it is the best fighting rifle ever, but it is something really outstanding in being easy to learn, easy to teach and easy to use.

Corbesier's little book sums up everything that is most useful to know about using a saber, cutlass or hanger. While there are many other historical manuals on the same subject, American and foreign, I can't think of any that are actually better suited to the task of taking a squad of recruits and making them passable swordsmen.