Friday, October 16, 2009

Lights of Being

It is easy to mis-manage priorities, when it comes to preparing for emergencies.  Certainly, if someone is kicking in your door, a firearm could come in handy, and if you're trapped in a car by your seat-belt, you might be very happy to have a pocket knife to cut yourself free.  However, even during the course of normal life, lights are just handy.  During emergencies, they often become vital.  In this day of relatively inexpensive, high quality lights, there is no reason not to have a really good small light and a backup keychain light on your person every damn day.  

SureFire has been probably the most recognized name in small "tactical" lights for years.  SureFire lights are bright and sturdy.  Unfortunately, they are also pricy and only use 123 cells.  123s are powerful and compact, but expensive.  In the last few years, especially as LED technology has improved, many small, bright lights have been produced.  Some of these use the less expensive, easily found AA batteries.  One of my favorite of these is the Fenix line.  Though they have expanded to include AAA and 123-sized lights, Fenix made its niche initially by making high quality lights that were less expensive than SureFire, but used AA cells.  Couple a good 2 AA Fenix with some rechargeable AA lights, and you have a good daily carry light that's bright enough for emergencies, but inexpensive enough to buy for yourself and your loved ones.

Another option is rechargeable 123 cells.  I have been carrying the LumaPower LM33 for some months now.  This is a small single 123-battery light.  Unlike some 123-powered lights (cough, SureFire, cough!), the LM33 can take rechargeable 123-sized batteries.  Mine is currently running on 3.6V 880MAH Ultrafires that I charge with my tiny NanoCharger.  For "tactical" use, a momentary press switch is preferred.  The LM33 has a "reverse clicky" switch.  The light comes on as the button pops back up.  This is one of only two flaws I find with my LM33.  The other is that its lower-powered mode is first.  Fortunately, even the lower-powered mode is bright enough to use as a shooting light at close range.

At about twice the overall size of a tube of lip balm, the LM33 fits easily into a pocket.  It has a luminescent ring at the top of the bezel, so after the light has been used, it can still be found for a while in the dark by the glowing ring.  The LM33 also comes with an a luminescent clicky switch, if the user prefers that to the installed safety orange one.  The LM33 comes with a small nylon holster and a lanyard that works for everyday use, but which will not stand up to truly hard duty.

At less than $30 shipped from Battery Junction, the LM33 is a small, useful light that can easily be accessorized with rechargeable batteries and a charger for about another $11.  If you can live with the reverse clickly switch, I believe you will be very satisfied.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Botnet Threat



The internet is a network of linked
computing systems. A botnet is a linked network of hijacked computers that can be used to attack networks or even entities as large as an entire country’s network, making it a type of mini-internet within the net.

How: The huge number of computers that comprise the botnet allow it to execute brute force attacks, overwhelming defenses through Directed Denial of Service (DDoS) or through massive spam flooding. Malicious code is spread through attachments sent in email: this code forces the subverted computer to perform automated tasks on command. Other infection methods have included a subverted Republican Party website and exploiting YouTube and Yahoo applications.

Where: Due to its distributed nature, there is no known primary location for the largest botnets.

Numbers: The Storm botnet has been variously
estimated at between 160,000 and 50 million slaved computers. Nugache is a more recently identified botnet.


Some botnets have responded with apparently automated defensive attacks directed towards researchers and anti-spam software vendors. Recoding its viral code twice an hour has been one propagation technique that has allowed botnet code to infect despite antiviral/malware protections on some

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pistol Match AAR

Saturday I shot an IDPA-style pistol match with Johnny and Matt. Because of the Texas heat, the typical cover garment requirement was waived. Wanting to train as we (would) fight, the three of us all used cover garments, anyway.

I work to be honest, but let me be clear: I have fired handguns in the last year only when on my week-long hunting trip in late December. (I do practice presentation/drawing usually a few times a week.) In the previous year, I believe I also only went to the shooting range once. This is not something I suggest to anyone who is serious about his weaponcraft- who uses a firearm- but I want to describe the situation. I told Matt I would probably be the slowest shooter out there, but that I would be safe, and I would be accurate. I succeeded in one of those goals.

My rig for the match was a Glock 19, firing full power handloads with 124-grain Remington hollow points. I had a double magazine pouch on my left side. As the match began, I felt incredibly slow, like I was trapped in molasses. I also found that I was not hitting every target, at least to the standard required in the match (I DID hit every target, except for one "dropper" that briefly swung sideways as it fell). I also found I had an unfortunate tendency, due to the course layout, to slay virtually everything in front of me. Fortunately, in the real world, I'm unlikely to have to engage a line of hostiles evenly spaced with hostages, while shooting one-handed!

Towards the end of the match, one of the other shooters gave me some advice.
"Hey, slow down. You're fast- look at this." He showed me a very respectable time for my first split, or double shots on target. I had drawn and fired two shots onto my first target in 1.3 seconds. "That is FAST. Now, what you need to do, is just take an extra second, and you'll be a lot more accurate."

I thanked him sincerely. I repeated what I'd been told to Matt, and he showed me the video he'd taken of me. Holy cow. I'd had no idea. I'd felt like I was moving in slow motion.

Johnny was the man I wanted to be during the match. Shooting a 3" Model 10, he just...didn't miss.

Matt was extremely accurate and surprisingly fast with a Model 37 at close range, but had slow going reloading his 5 shooter, and had trouble hitting distant targets.

Lessons learned:

o Duty-sized guns are more accurate at distance, faster overall, and quicker to reload than smaller pieces.
o Fast is good, and accurate is better, but fast and accurate beats both.
o Practice, practice, practice.
o Don't be a hostage.

(S&W model number edited.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Glock Rock

If you have to use them, firearms with stocks are better than firearms without stocks. Two of the best reasons for this are accuracy and speed. Another reason is power, but the last is not true of Pistol Caliber Carbines. PCCs don't have much power advantage over handguns in the same caliber, but they are still more accurate and faster in use than handguns. PCCs can also reduce ammunition supply challenges, since shooters can use the same ammunition for their sidearms. When using a magazine-fed automatic pistol, some PCCs can be loaded using the same magazines.

A few handguns in the past have been convertible to carbines, usually by means of attaching a stock to the back of the handgun. The Mauser 96 is one of the best-known in this category.

Glock handguns have taken over the lion's share of law enforcement sales in the United States since establishment of an office in Georgia in 1985. Glock handguns were sturdy, lightweight, simple to maintain, had a very high ammunition capacity, and reasonably priced. As law enforcement bought the new handguns, citizens did, as well. Some consumers, impressed with the sturdy and simple Glock, wanted a carbine with the same advantages. Despite occasional rumors, no Glock carbine has been forthcoming, though firearms company Kel-Tec has offered their Sub-2000 folding carbine in versions that take Glock magazines. Company Mech-Tech has been offering a conversion from handgun to carbine for a while, but their version looks rather jury-rigged. But a new product is on the scene.

Hera Arms has built what is apparently a "drop in" Carbine Conversion unit for Glock 9x19mm, .40, and .357 Sig full and compact models.

It would appear that this was at least suggested by the Magpul FMG-9 prototype. The FMG-9 looks more elegant, but definitely more complicated. And, so far, it's vaporware.

The Hera GCC definitely has all kinds of eye appeal over the Mec-Tech, but U.S. owners also face the frivolous restrictions regarding Short Barreled Rifles. Rifles meant to be fired from the shoulder must be at least 26" long, and have a barrel at least 16" long. The GCC does not meet these standards, since the base model apparently just uses the barrel already in the Glock in question.

So: looks cool, but be prepared to pay another $200, on top of the $500 base price, plus the price of a Glock if you don't already own one. As long as you live in a state that allows ownership of SBRs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Transportable SPATG

Any military vehicle is some compromise of armor, firepower, and agility. On the one end of the military land vehicle spectrum are super fast and agile but unarmored vehicles like the fast attack vehicle. On the other end of the spectrum are extremely armored vehicles like the German Sturmtiger, which was usually only able to be stopped by bombing or heavy artillery attack. Or running out of fuel.

One attempt to give U.S. forces a rapidly transportable vehicle capable of disabling enemy tanks was the M56 Scorpion. This small tracked self-propelled gun was meant to be a tank destroyer. The M56 is 2.57 meters wide, and 4.55 meters long. Fully loaded, it weighs a little under 8 tons.

The first M56s were made in 1953. Production stopped in 1959. The Scorpion was used by the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and saw use in Vietnam. Because of the scarcity of tanks confronting U.S. forces, the Scorpion was most frequently used as an assault gun, using its 90mm M54 cannon to provide fire support. Like many tank destroyers, insufficient armor was mounted on the Scorpion to make it an effective fighter against close-range threats- in fact, the only armor was on the shield mounted towards the base of the 90mm gun.

A novel tank destroyer built using the running gear of the Scorpion, the M50 Ontos was at one point considered for purchase in extremely large quantities. The Ontos had a light turret on which six M40 "106mm" recoilless rifles were mounted. Four of the rifles were fitted with .50 caliber spotting rifles with ammunition that mimicked the recoilless rounds' flight performance. The M40 has a maximum effective range of about 7300 meters. A .30 caliber M1919A4 was also mounted for close-range antipersonnel use.

The Ontos was approximately the same dimensions as the Scorpion, except for height. Its limited-traverse turret and light armor made the Ontos about a ton heavier than the Scorpion. Tank destroyers are typically much cheaper than tanks, usually due to simpler turrets and lighter armor. The possibility of buying an Ontos for about $30,000 instead of an M47 tank for $240,000 was an enticing idea, but the unconventionality of the Ontos approach (the six recoilless rifles could only be loaded from outside the vehicle) ultimately led to the Army's decision not to purchase the system. The Marines needed anti-tank vehicles, though, and so bought 297 Ontos, which were built between 1955 and 1957.

As with the Scorpion, the Ontos would be used primarily in a fire support role instead of as the tank destroyer originally envisioned. It did have several drawbacks in use, including vulnerability to mines and RPGs. However, its 105mm (M40 ammunition was only called 106 to avoid confusion with earlier M27 105mm ammunition) guns proved very effective on both structures and when used against personnel. The Ontos' light weight also enabled it to go places heavier U.S. vehicles could not.

The Scorpions were replaced by the M551 Sheridan "Armored Airborne Reconnaissance Assault Vehicle" (so called because the U.S. had gone to a "main battle tank" system and therefore could not admit to accepting a light tank). The Sheridan had a real turret and better armor, with a resulting weight increase, putting it slightly over 15 tons. This was still light enough to be airlifted by some platforms.

Well before the late 1960s, tank armor had increased to the point that mounting an effective main gun on a light tank was a frustrating exercise. Armor can be penetrated through one of two mechanisms: high velocity or explosive power. The Sheridan went with the latter, using a low velocity 152mm gun. To enable hits at longer ranges, an anti-tank missile was developed that launched from the gun bore. A 7.6x51mm coaxial and 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun was mounted.

Production of the Sheridan began in 1966, and continued until 1970. 1662 Sheridans were built, and Sheridans fought for about three years in Vietnam. Reviews were mixed.

Despite increased armor compared to the M50 and M56, the M551 still had light armor that was vulnerable to mines and RPGs. Recoil of the 152mm M81 gun in the light vehicle was vicious. Without tank targets, the expensive Shillelagh missiles were removed from Vietnam tanks. Eccentricities of the ammunition for the M81 made the Sheridan very vulnerable to fire, and gave it a very slow rate of fire compared to the M48 tank. Like the previous platforms, in Vietnam the Sheridan was mostly used to provide fire support.

Even without a real replacement, the Army began to phase out the Sheridan in 1978, though it was retained by the 82nd Airborne until 1996. The Sheridan played minor roles in Panama and Desert Storm, and was most recently used at the National Training Center to simulate Communist Block-built vehicles

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Udaloy I Class

A "mini task force" of a tanker, a salvage tugboat, and the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev sailed from Vladivostock in late March, according to the Russian News & Information Agency. The mission was anti-piracy around the Horn of Africa.

The Admiral Panteleyev is an Udaloy I class destroyer. Known as Project 1155 to the Russian Navy, Udaloys are equipped with a dual main 100mm gun, SS-N-14 antisub/antisurface missiles, SA-N-9 anti-air missiles, and 2 SA-N-11 AAM/30mm cannon close-in air defense systems. Udaloys also mount 8 21-inch torpedo tubes and 2 RBU-6000 anti-submarine systems.

On 29 April, the Admiral Panteleyev captured an apparent pirate vessel 15 miles from the Somali coast. 7 Kalashnikov automatic weapons, handguns, and a ladder were seized, along with 29 suspected pirates.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Alvis Saladin

Armored land vehicles can be tracked or wheeled (or some combination, such as half-tracks or the convertible Christie tank). Wheeled armor is cheaper to make, lighter, and faster. Tracks have considerably more mobility over rough ground, and are less vulnerable to obstacles and enemy fire.

The Alvis Saladin FV 601 is a British armored car designed in the late 1950s. It has six wheels, a 76mm main gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns, one coaxial and one AA. The Saladin had a 72 kph top speed, and was powered by an eight-cylinder gasoline engine that produced 170 hp. It shared a chassis with other Alvis vehicles: the FV 603 Saracen personnel carrier, Salamander crash tender, and the FV 620 Stalwart amphibious truck. About 1200 Saladins were built, and they were used by a variety of nations, most especially in Africa and Asia.

The Saladin weighs a little over 11.5 tons, and is suitable for the armed reconnaissance mission the U.S. describes as Calvary Scout (and for which has recently used Bradley tracked vehicles, Stryker IAV, or HMMWVs). Army propaganda follows:


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