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:

'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:

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:  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, "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 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                                                                                  

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'