Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Rifleman | Combat Shotguns of the Vietnam War

Click for article: American Rifleman | Combat Shotguns of the Vietnam War:

The above is a rerun of a 2002 article. It tells you about the guns the military bought and issued during the Vietnam conflict. The commonly used shotguns were pump guns, a mixed bag of Stevens, Winchester, Ithaca, and Remington.

The long history of US combat shotguns underscores what I have claimed all along. There is no better personal weapon than a shotgun when the shooting is at short range. Compared to the select-fire rifle its hit probability is twice as good. Compared to the submachine gun, it is very nearly half again better. To me, this means that if my first choice defensive long gun is not a repeating shotgun of some sort, I am making a mistake and selling short my chances to offer the best defense I can. Nearly all justifiable self-defense shootings are at short range or very short range. Right tool for the job, and all that. . .

"Winner and still champeen..." (NRA photo)

Friday, April 1, 2016

The good shall ever Préval

Now and then the sword collector meets up with a curious specimen that has a saber hilt paired with a narrow thrusting blade of hollow-ground triangular cross section. Such a blade, when found in such a mounting, is referred to as a Préval blade. Examples of this sword type are most often French, from the 19th century, and custom made. The examples here are from and depict the French 1822 saber, which was the model for the American 1860 pattern.

Préval variation
The original model 

The name comes from a General Préval, who liked and recommended triangular-bladed thrusting swords. His ideas were liked by some soldiers, who equipped themselves with private purchase swords of the kind. The swords were hilted to match the sabers official to the soldiers' units, thus maintaining the appearance of the official pattern. The scabbards were straight instead of curved but the authorities were willing to overlook that.

Something very obvious about Préval swords: In combat, the users would need to parry saber strokes and then reply with the point. It is a procedure that raises questions. I touched on the same problem in a previous post. Here I say more about it.

It seems to me that the best approach (chosen out of several bad possibilities) is to use the saber parries against cuts, even though you are armed with a thrusting sword. Saber parries are well calculated to stop the saber stroke, for they were developed for that very purpose. The blades meet at a steep angle, or even at right angles, making malparrying less likely than if the blades meet at a shallow angle.

There is the possibility, alleged, of interrupting any cut by using a time thrust. Perhaps I will examine that allegation in a future post. It seems rather an over-optimistic idea. The trouble with it is that it the timing must be gotten just right and the hit must prove immediately disabling. Parrying and then riposting leaves a much better margin for error.

The problem faced in parry-riposte with the saber parries is that, after you parry, your point then needs to rotate in space so as to aim at the opponent and not off into empty air. If you were replying with a cut instead of a thrust you would simply swing your sword at the other fellow. That is an immediate threat and also has the effect of closing the line with an arc of speeding steel.

It seems best to try to retain that line-closing virtue of the cutting counter-attack when making thrusts from the saber guards. That means changing the timing of your counter, compared to what it would be if you were cutting, but retaining essentially the same motion. The biggest change is that you extend much later. The blade arcs through the air as in a cut, until the point is about to come into line with the target, and only then do you extend fully. The poor alternative to doing that is to move your sword laterally while leveling it until it is in place for the thrust you wish to make, which long process seems to allow the other sword rather too much freedom.

Another difficulty is that if your opponent realizes that your sword is without an edge, he may further realize that he can grab your blade with his hand. Of course, opponents 'commanding the sword' in that way was a known problem with triangular blades, and had been for a long time. Presumably, the fellow equipping himself with an edgeless blade would be aware of it, and guard against it.

I admit that I kind of like the clear logic of Préval's sword, despite the challenges it poses in swordsmanship. If you really think the thrust is the answer and using the cut is passé, it makes sense to supply yourself with the best type of thrusting blade available, and never mind about not being able to cut with it--for you wouldn't do that anyway.

The thrust's general superiority to cutting with the edge was more a matter of prejudice than proof, but it was a fashionable idea in the 19th century. In some uses, thrust-only swords had proven highly effective, but the idea that they were superior in all uses and circumstances was innovative, even faddish. Of course, the idea was not disproven either. Ordinarily, in such matters, time will tell--but not in this case.

The era of the sword was passing away. It scarcely mattered what swords chaps carried, for battles were decided amid the racket and haze of firearms. Thus, General Préval's ideas about swords never faced the test of time, because time ran out.