Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts

Friday, September 4, 2015

Another Look at the EU Refugee Narrative

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pocket Pistol Ammo, The Arctic, GEN Petraeus on Iraq and Other Stuff

Meister linked to a cool new .380 round by Lehigh Defense. Up till now you have had two options for .380 ammo. JHP ammo, including some good stuff like 90 grain Speer Gold Dots that arguably fails to penetrate sufficiently for some tastes. The other option is .380 FMJ which penetrates but leaves a hole many consider less than impressive. Buffalo Bore makes a 100 grain semi jacketed lead flat nose which looks promising but it is a BB load so it's as heavy and fast as possible; as such it's probably better suited to a (relatively) larger and sturdier pistol like Walther PPK, Bersa or Glock 42 than the ultra small/ light pocket rockets.

This new Lehigh round penetrates like an FMJ with better temporary and permanent wound cavities.

It bears serious consideration. Once I've done a little more research and have some jingle in my pocket I'll probably buy a couple boxes.

This chart of Russia's Military presence in the Arctic is interesting. Looks like they are setting conditions to dominate a future resource grab up there. 

GEN (RET) Petraeus talks the Islamic State, Iraq and Iran. Considering he is the jedi master of COIN and (as much as any one person possibly could) our success, if only temporary, in Iraq can be attributed to him I listen when the man talks.

Larry Vickers breaking down the famous Collateral 'briefcase scene'. That has been one of my favorite movie gun fight scenes for awhile. Larry's breakdown of the scene is worth watching.

Friday, December 19, 2014

From Around The Web

Bayou Renaissance Man talks budget AR sights/ optics. Ryan's take Plinkers and sporting/ recreational rifles are fine with just a scope. Fighting rifles need iron sights and if you so desire (the only downside is $$$) an optic. Unless you plan on running a long and or free floating rail there is little reason not to stick with the standard front sight post. They are darn stout. For rear sights a fixed sight is the most robust but can get in the way of some optics, particularly magnified ones. In that case a folding sight is the way to go.

As to optics. For red dot/ holographic I recommend Aimpoint or Eotech. Both are quite stout. I have seeen Eotech's, the weaker of the two, that went through multiple combat deployments to Iraq and were still functional.Aimpoints are even stouter. Cost is $400 and up though you can find some deals bringing them closer to the $350 range.

I am not a fan of budget optics on fighting rifles. Historically budget (in particular red dot/ holo) sights either fail to function at the most basic level or do not hold a zero. Generally speaking I would suggest you rock iron sights until a quality optic is within your price range. That being said as technology matures it is worthwhile to question old wisdom.

As to magnified optics. There are a lot of low (1/2 to 4/6) power variable scopes with illuminated reticles on the market. I ended up with a Burris MTAC. For a general purpose rifle the option to have magnification at distance yet near 1x up close is darn handy. Sure if you built an AR pistol as a house gun or were specifically concerned with CQB a red dot/ holo has some advantages but otherwise I like magnification.

There are lots of great scopes in the $300-500 range.

John Mosby talks the OODA Loop.

A Few Thoughts on the M16A4. Personally for most applications I prefer the handiness of a 14.5in barrel and a collapsible stock. The exception would be a longer range concept of use either due to more open terrain or some sort of SDM concept. While not the preferred long range precision rifle (for anything except punching paper) they can be quite effective in the right hands; as proven by Travis Haley in the Battle of Najaf.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obligatory 9/11 Post

I am still angry. Not so much angry about the attack on 9/11 anymore. We pretty much squared that up by killing Osama Bin Laden, numerous Al Qaeda leaders and more foot soldiers than we could shake a stick at. We also invaded Afghanistan the divided chaotic country that harbored this network. Along the way we  got drunk then stomped some annoying but unrelated individual in a bar liberated Iraq.

Where does the world stand now? Some bad people are dead but in reality new bad people came up in the ranks to largely replace them. Iraq is a moderately functional psuedo democracy that could in time grow into a fairly functional one albeit by local standards; or degenerate into a Shia dictatorship maybe with a civil war. Afghanistan is still playing out but I suspect this history's rhyme will replay itself. Lots of Americans and people from various other countries have died. Billions or trillions of dollars were borrowed and spent. However I'm not angry about any of that.

I am angry because we did not learn the fundamental lesson of 9/11 which is that ignoring legitimate threats until they successfully attack us is foolish. Far better to do something to disrupt enemy networks before they hurt you than after. We have not learned this lesson. I fear the same sort of lawless terrorist chaos is happening in Yemen and a large part of northern Africa plus of course the whole Pastunistan problem has yet to be solved (if it can be). Even worse we may be aiding slightly better spoken front men to control nation states. The saying 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me' comes to mind here.

How are you feeling today?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Death Squads, What Collapse Looks Like and Things To Do Now

Well it looks like the friendly (snark) local Aryan Brotherhood offed that DA and his wife, as well as the Colorado prison department guy in Colorado and probably the ADA from Texas. As AM noted recently Assistant Attorney Jay Hileman stepped down from prosecuting an Aryan Brotherhood case. Part of me says the dude should man up and do the job Texas is paying him to but on the other hand I can see his perspective. The guy took the job to bridge into something else and now all of a sudden some crazy honkeys are killing folks in the exact situation he was in. As AM noted this is bad.

I do not know what will happen. It is worth noting this is how death squads come to be. Some group either Criminal or Revolutionary in nature (yes there could be others but lets keep it simple)  decides to start hitting back at the cops and or soldiers (for the sake of flow I will just say cops from here on). The cops decide that it sucks when they are being attacked and killed. In small to medium sized groups they decide to do something about it. Given that they are the cops who have significant discretion about which cases to pursue and where to pursue them, especially with politically marginalized people, the odds of getting caught are about zero. Cops know who the bad guys are, who their friends are and where they hang out. Maybe they go all Vick Mackey and bend some rules, slap some folks around for info or whatever; or they might go strait to 'black sight prisons, torture and summary executions and shallow graves. In the big picture it doesn't really matter because it is bad.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Actions by angry groups of armed men are typically violent. Once the pro regime death squads get going the anti regime (criminal or revolutionary) death squads are sure to follow, if they do not exist already. The tit for tat spiral goes into full effect. The end result is Iraq from 2006-2010ish, the dirty wars in South America or Mexico right now. For those who are not up on their current history that means very bad. Tons of people getting killed or just vanishing. Some are legit players in the conflict but many, of not most, are normal folks ratted out for personal reasons or just at the wrong place during the wrong time.

This is the kind of thing that happens with the mob in Italy or tribal groups in Iraq during the bad years. It leads to a paralyzed system in the short term due to turnover. Eventually folks get into these positions who are not inclined to prosecute these cases unless it's a slam dunk (like caught on live TV and the guy says his name out loud) or maybe even not at all. It would be difficult to overstate the impact this sort of thing has on rule of law.

Along other lines (well except mooching off AM for material;) we need to know that collapses do not typically happen in a day. Rome wasn't going great then all of a sudden those pesky Germanic Hordes showed up. One could make a legitimate argument that right now is what collapse looks like.

What can we do? Long term shelf stable food and dehydrated emergency food are good options. Ammo and precious metals are always good ideas.  A quality water filter is essential. All old hat.

Today I had a couple of cavities filled. Not so long ago I went to the eye doctor to get a couple extra sets of glasses. Wifey has done or is about to do these things. We make sure the kids stay current on all their stuff too. Typically these are things that get put off or delayed when money gets tight, which it is now for about everybody. Best case you still have a job but magical price increases that are clearly not  inflation are decreasing purchasing power.

I urge you to take care of this stuff ASAP. A tooth that you've been putting off getting fixed would be a real problem if things go all Argentina on us. Ditto for needing a spare set of spectacles. If your family need medicine it would be prudent to stock some. Yes it costs money, sometimes a lot of money. However I can't see medical/ dental/ optometry care getting cheaper, more available or better in the next couple years. Quite frankly I suspect the opposite is going to happen. In other words that filling or new pair of glasses you are putting off now will be even less affordable in a year. They may just plain be out of the reach of many folks who are currently in the middle class.

Along the health and fitness effort line work on getting into shape. Also slowly work to make your addictions into luxuries. In other words decrease frequency and consumption such that if you need to stop using them it is not a big deal. Do this a bit at a time and it doesn't suck that bad. I'm down to 2 cups of coffee a day and more days without beer than with so it can be done. It's not fun but sure beats needing to quit these things because you do not have and can not get them during an already stressful situation.

 That covered a lot of ground but hopefully everyone got something out of it.Get moving and do something.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thermal Crossover

Definition: (DOD) The natural phenomenon which normally occurs twice daily when temperature conditions are such that there is a loss of contrast between two adjacent objects on infrared imagery.

In Laymens terms twice a day the optical technology gap between guys with iron sighted AK's and dudes with ten grand in cool technology is leveled. Folks who figured out when that time was and took advantage could take advantage of that situation. Some guys I know were regularly mortared at just the right time (thermal crossover) in Iraq. They never really figured out a good way to deal with it.

Figured that little tidbit might just interest a few of you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Countries I Have Been In: Brigid is to Blame

visited 17 states (7.55%)

Brigid definitely has me beat though but I am doing OK in the grand scheme of things. Still a lot of traveling to do. We are probably going to take another trip while over here and will go to Mexico when we are down that way soon enough. However broadly speaking once we are back in the states travel will stop for awhile. One toddler is hard to travel with and adding a baby would be a bridge too far. For awhile we will go camping, to the beach and home to visit.

I will bet $50 that inside of 7 years I will go to Africa for work.  The aftermath of Arab spring has yet to sort itself out and there is a wicked mess brewing in Syria. Odds are there are some more paid travel opportunities to dirty places with terrible weather where people try to kill me coming in the future.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deployments and Survival Scenarios

I was asked about mentally dealing with deployments recently. That is a pretty broad question so I will do my best to cover it. Also I hope that through comparison and examples some insight can be gained to dealing with various survival scenarios an average citizen might find themselves in.

For background I am currently deployed to Afghanistan and have previously deployed to Iraq. Also every deployment is different.  Some deployments are very kinetic (read lots of fighting and violence) and others are not, most are somewhere in the middle. Even for those involved in little to no violence the whole deployment thing is a pretty weird phenomenon of totalitarian control, social depravation, strange geography and weather. Whatever experiences people have pass through the filter of their personality (a sum of their background, skills, experiences, religion, etc) and there is an output. The end result is that people are affected in profoundly different ways, even by the same experiences.

In my experience if actual war was a video game nobody would buy it. The ratio of time spent doing monotonous tasks or boring repetitive duties (guard shifts, patrols, etc) vastly outweighs the time spent engaging or being engaged in combat. I would say this is true pretty much everywhere; it is just a question of what the ratio is. I believe this was true in previous wars though it manifested itself in a different way. In the current operating environment there are no front lines but contact is sporadic. A base or organization will keep doing the same thing and occasionally take contact. What people don’t see from the headlines is that for most people, in most places the average day is pretty quiet. When you hear some BN Commander on the news or in an article saying they are taking contact every day what doesn’t get mentioned is that all it means is that one of their numerous patrols got shot at, IED’ed or whatever. You can safely figure on at least 3 line companies and an HHC per BN. In each of the line companies there are probably 3 platoons and an HQ section. That is a lot of different pieces of a large organization. In short PVT Snuffy is not getting in a gunfight every single day. Now previous wars (specifically pre ‘Nam) had more clear cut front lines with more activity but units rotated in and out. The end result was probably somewhat comparable or at least within the same range.
Somebody once described war as long periods of complete boredom with random short periods of terror. I think that is half accurate. In my personal experience things happen so fast that you don’t have time to get scared. All the BS aside our training is pretty darn good and we know the right thing to do. We react to a given event quickly and with little thought. You are just acting and reacting until it is over. Later on the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if not for’s’ can haunt you if you let them. Dealing with the aftermath is far more difficult than the actual events. Like we talked about earlier, different people handle things differently and some profoundly worse than others. I don’t see a lot of reason to stress or worry. I do everything I can to be ready and to make the best decisions possible and if something happens, well that is that. I’m not fatalistic or anything like that but I don’t find much usefulness in stressing things I can’t control. You can the baddest dude alive and if you are in the shower and a rocket lands on it your race is run.

Now we will go onto the topic of staying sane over here. Finding ways to fill your time and mentally escape in a healthy way is essential. Lots of folks work out, pumping iron, running or whatever suits them. Some play lots of video games or read. A few take collect classes if their schedule and internet connectivity allow. Most have a laptop and an external hard drive full of TV and movies.

I find that human beings are far more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. We can get used to just about anything. As for staying sane personally I work out a lot, watch tv and movies, talk to wifey as much as I can and do some reading.  As with most things in life having a healthy perspective helps a lot.
Relationships are a hard one. There are all sorts of stressors that mercilessly seek out dysfunctional relationships. Shallow marriages and relationships typically based solely on sex fall apart. Women cheat at home and men find ‘love’ over social networking sights. Deployments do a good job of weeding out the dysfunctional  (of which there are many but that is a whole nother post) military marriages. To be fair the added stress and distance also destroys some that would have probably been fine otherwise.
Adapting your expectations down is important. Everything here pretty much sucks but the least sucky things are by default pretty nice. I think finding the happiness in little things here is so important. A good cup of coffee or a hot shower, maybe a nice sunset or view now and then. Some of the best times are when you actually forget that you are here. The other day I was eating some chex mix and watching the Soprano’s on my computer and it could have easily been a random Weds night at home. Today I was in a great spontaneous political/ current affairs conversation with a group of guys. I looked at my watch and 3 hours had gone by. I couple have easily been in a restaurant or a quiet bar on a lazy afternoon. If you can’t find some things that make you at least relatively happy you are in serious trouble because there will definitely be plenty of things that stress you out.

There are of course endless negative things people can do here. The usual spectrum of derelict/ criminal behavior is present. Some folks turn to drugs or alcohol (also huffing canned air is a random and dangerous trend) to escape. Some folks stop caring or let their emotions get the best of them and get into all sorts of trouble. Folks get complacent and start doing stupid things. Others get into all sort of dysfunctional situations trying to get some kind of emotional closeness or just strait up looking to get laid. Some folks for whatever reason just can’t seem to deal with it.

How does this all relate to survival scenarios?  I think they relate pretty directly. I think there will be a variety of different situations for individuals but most won’t be the absolute worst or a piece of cake. I think different people in the same relative situation will deal with it very differently. That is just the start. Also I think survival scenarios are going to have the same, if not a lower ratio of boring to violent events, very low. Especially in common events such as natural disasters, storms and power outages where you won’t all of a sudden start a huge garden or need to cut a winter’s worth of firewood boredom is a big factor. This is where a stash of cards, board games and books, to include light easy reading type stuff is so important.

There will be a lot of boring routine work and every day challenges for every significant event. One thing about deployments is that there is a definite (if floating) light at the end of the tunnel. I know that at roughly next winter we will redeploy and I will go back to a better place. Most survival situations, except the really dark ones, will have that same benefit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thoughts on Insurgencies Four

Thoughts on Insurgencies # Something
1) Occupiers or liberators (depending on which side you are on) can only have limited success when they willingly ceede terrain to the freedom fighters/ guerillas. If the Cong or Taliban are able to come into the village at night the occupiers will never be able to keep the populace safe or deny access to them to the guerillas.
2) If you are a guerilla or a partisan or really have picked any kind of side then keep it to yourself for a long time. In WWII parts of Europe (Holland and most of Russia come to mind) changed hands repeatedly. It would be very bad to have been loudly bragging about all the Germans you killed and how much stuff you broke to then have the tanks roll back in. If I was in a situation where some partisan shenannigans seemed appropriate I would certainly conduct them alone or in a very small group of people I trust deepy and would probably take them to my grave.
3) If you are anything except an occupier or a strait up hiding in the woods Red Dawn style partisan then be as grey as you can be. Grey will keep you alive.
4) American forces and to a lesser degree our allies that have been involved in the GWOT have learned some interesting skills. They have gotten really good at searching houses and structures. They are also using some very interesting technology in terms of biometrics. Getting a big enough database makes population and resource control very easy.
5) UAV's are suprisingly ineffective in weather that is less than ideal. In particular low level cloud cover and wind are issues for them.
Well that is all for now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Insurgencies (3?): Myths, Night Letters and Cost to Benefit Ratio

I have enjoyed writing this series (1, 2) and hope you have gotten something out of it. I was quite proud of the overwhelmingly positive response the first chapter got. I hope to keep a bit of that spark in every chapter. Anyway it is time for another chapter. I imagine it will continue periodically for the foreseeable future.

The first thing I am going to talk about today is what I think is the biggest myth about insurgents/ guerillas/ partisans in certain preparedness/ liberterian and pro gun circles. For lack of a better word lets call this myth the noble insurgent. In America the term Noble Patriot would fit better. The idea is that these noble insurgents are operating within an acceptable moral framework and level of violence against a clearly targeting a definite enemy and moving towards pure and worthy goals. This myth is so presumptuous and morally superior I cannot find the words to accurately describe it. It is to many men with an assault rifle and a copy of the Constitution what the nice college girl trying to earn her degree is to a guy in a strip club.

Lets disect it real quick. The Noble Patriot is absolutely sure that a) his cause is riteous or possibly holy, b) that the violence he commits against c) whomever is an evil supporter of tyranny (or otherwise disagrees with him) is just and noble for the end cause. We will go point by point.

A) My real concern here is that typically the crazier someone and their cause are the more riteous and possibly holy they believe it to be. Just because an individual or a group believe in a cause doesn't make it just. Also for heavens sake please don't find 3 pieces of scripture that, taken completely out of context, seem to support your cause and say it has sacred underpinnings. I am not going to say that all true believers are crazy. Some are decent sane folks who just believe really strongly about this or that. However some are completely off their rocker. There is nothing scarier than a true believer.

B) I don't have a real issue with this one. When you start hurting or killing folks I just can't see morally, ethically or otherwise how it matters much how you do it. To say that shooting them is OK but stabbing then is wrong, dropping mortars on them is OK but an IED is wrong, etc doesn't have much standing with me. Maybe a certain way is slow or cruel but at the end of the day the only person to whom that matters is the one it is inflicted upon. I don't think God differentiates between dudes you just shot in the face vs dudes you killed in another manner.

C) This is where the whole Noble Insurgent thing really breaks down. The Noble Insurgent ideal works only if we think in absolutes. People are absolutely good in the context of whatever your value system is or against it an absolutely bad. Anybody with experience in a chaotic area suffering a serious breakdown of law and order, let alone an insurgency or civil war can say that absolutes are a hard thing to find. Most people have some good elements and some bad elements. We are talking about a whole lot of shades of grey between a little bit of black and white on the perimiters. A and C come together to create some real issues.

I get reminded of a quote from The Goodfellas. "For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal." Another notable quote is "when the only tool you have is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail." Basically once you get into the habit of killing folks to solve problems it is disturbingly easy to start killing all sorts of folks to solve all sorts of problems.

The honest truth is that despite the purity of their goals insurgents/ whatever are going to have to do a lot of bad things. More significantly they are inevitably going to have to intimidate/ coherce/ conscript (at least in a limited way for limited tasks) and steal. The last Matthew Bracken book had a good portrayal of this. It is fine and dandy to think about killing enemy soldiers or traitors but what about a shop keeper, small business owner or average joe trying to get by in a crazy situation? This is where those shades of grey continue to be problematic. Sure capping a dude who you estimate to be 90% evil is an easy decision but what if you think he is  52% evil?

The blunt and honest situation, if you look at accurate real life examples, is that insurgents are eventually going to have to force some sort of goods, services or information out of people who are not willing to give it. It is truly unavoidable. The 'cause' is going to bump into some decent normal people who just want to live their lives. Shooting enemy soldiers is pretty clear cut but what about some average joe so you can get some food or fuel?

Before flaming this please realize that I am not saying all insurgents or insurgencies or 'patriots' are inherantly bad. Nor am I saying that some causes they could stand for are not entirely just. Personally I can say there are some situations where I would start collecting information, sabotaging and destroying infrastructure and killing enemy personnel. It would be like a more boring but also more effective Red Dawn. I am a pragmatist and thus believe that the ends can justify the means. My main point is that folks need to get off of a high, morally superior horse and come to terms with the fact that being a successful insurgen is going to mean doing some bad things. It is also going to mean doing some bad things to people who probably don't really deserve it.

Maybe it is easy for Americans to have a nice sanitized 60's Western PG view of this sort of thing because our Revolution was a really long time ago and our civil war is also beyond real authentic memory. We can say that in America these things are fine, clean and noble. We can also use cultural, ethnic and racial steriotypes to think that revolutions and civil war's in other parts of the world are not dirty, nasty and violent because of their inherant nature but because these people are somehow inferior to us. Anyway onto the next point.

Insurgents are successful largely (or at least in part) because they can effectively intimidate the populace. To burst your bubble even further they don't intimidate people because they are tough, virtuous and have neato rifles; but instead because they prove very willing to cripple, main or kill those who do not bend to their will. Night letters are a great example of the power insurgents can have. A night letter is just a letter, posted at night and attributed to a given group that gives a warning/ threat. For example lets talk about Afghanistan. Here is a story that isn't exactly true but is very like a lot of true stories. Those crazy Americans think it would be nice to teach girls (oh their wacky western ideas) to read, do basic math and stuff like that. Lets say they go to months of effort and great expense to build and set up a nice school for these girls to learn some stuff. They hire a teacher and all that too. The night before the scheduled big opening of the school the teacher gets a letter stuck to his door. It says "If you teach those girls, we will cut your head off" and is signed by the local insurgent group. No way the teacher is going to deal with that. He may or may not do a lot of things the next day but sure as hell isn't going to that school! The reason this letter is effective is not because the insurgents are pure of heart or have nice rifles; but because the insurgents have a track record of cutting people's heads off. They have probably cut the head off of a  couple people from the teachers village for whatever reason.

While I am diametrically opposed to the Taliban's perspective on educating young girls I cannot say their methods aren't awesomely effective. An insurgent in another place, provided they were willing to do what it takes to establish the kind of credibility required to get this sort of reputation, could accomplish a lot of things with night letters. Maybe the evil occupiers have a base in your area. On that base they have toilets and since they are exceeding the capacity of that system they have plumbing issues. They hire a plumber who then gets a night letter. Either the insurgents have already earned through blood some credibility and he quits or it takes till plumber #3 for them to get that credit. Night letters flow well into my next point.

Insurgents are never on an even playing field with the government/ occupiers. If they go life for life and dollar for dollar they will quickly lose. However if they can find a way to negate or otherwise tie up a significant amount of personnel, energy and money for a modest investment they are in business. Back to that night letter I talked about before. Lets say the occupiers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as lots of time and energy on a project and that project can be nullified by the insurgents posting a single letter. Even a force with lots of men, money and resources can quickly be worn down when the their large investments are countered by the 25 cents it costs to write a letter.

IED's are another great example. A fairly smart Iraqi bomb maker (specialized insurgent skill) with some electrical skills and a flair for creativity makes a new type of bomb. It costs $500 in components and a couple days of his time. Call it $750 just to have a number. That bomb blows up, messes up a vehicle and kills a few people. The Americans send numerous experienced specialists to study this bomb. Then the Army Center for Lessons Learned, EOD and numerous other groups and contractors spend a ton of money figuring out how to defeat this new threat. Millions of dollars are spent which then creates a new system or product. That product is created and fielded to as many groups as possible as quickly as possible. It costs tens of millions of dollars on the low end. So for an investment of $750 the insurgents killed 3 guys, wrecked a truck, tied up countless thousands of man hours and MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Insurgents can do well with this sort of techniques. Not flashy like direct action missions and that stuff but far more useful. Even if the enemy is 20x stronger and 20x better funded by using techniques that tie up vastly disproportionate amounts of their money and time they can be worn down into defeat.

I guess in closing being an insurgent is not a nice business. They do really bad things, sometimes to pretty decent people. If you don't believe that the ends justify the means then I suggest another hobby. If you do choose to be an insurgent then use the fear your group envokes to your full advantage. Also plan and conduct operations that will tie up disproportionate amounts of the enemies time, money and resources.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EOTech/ Aimpoint vs Magnification, Long Range Engagements, 5.56 in Afghanistan

In an email our friend and advertiser Idaho Preps asked the following questions. "So, let me ask you this.  In your experience and in the way that is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic?  What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc?  I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics. I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot.  When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG?  I know you're busy with the little guy, and there are a lot of questions in there, so whatever you have time for would be appreciated."

TOR here: That covers a lot of ground and I will try to answer as much as I can.  It is however worth first noting a couple things. First I am just one guy and obviously can only speak for myself as an individual not the Army or anything like that. Secondly there are somewhat diverse opinions within our ranks on most things including optics. Now that you have been properly disclaimed I am going to make with the answers.

"In your experience and in the way that is training you 4x works out to be a good all around optic?" The simple answer is yes. Especially in a platform with very forgiving eye relief and a wide objective/ view such as the ACOG it has a big up side and a minimal downside when compared to just rocking iron sights or the Aimpoint (or I imagine EOTech which I have very minimal personal experience with). At real close ranges of say point blank to 50 meters they are a tiny bit slower then the Aimpoint but probably comparable to iron sights. I think it is at most a very small issue. Also most significantly the up side that pretty much everyone shoots better past 100 meters (certainly 200m) with a good magnified optic more than balances it out.

As an all around optic I really like the ACOG. As I've gotten more experienced and comfortable with the ACOG I prefer it over the Aimpoint. They are easy for most people to shoot well. Magnification aids with identifying and engaging targets at distance, as well as at even fairly close ranges. Some experienced folks feel equally strong about Aimpoints or EOTech's for the same role. I hesitate to say there is a right answer to this one. At the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference. 

What is the current thinking on average engagement ranges, etc? By context I will talk about Afghanistan. I hesitate to use the term average because it implies a level of tracking and statistical analysis which I do not believe is present. However it would be accurate to say that in Afghanistan engagements tend to be further out than in Iraq. A few hundred meter contacts are at least relatively common. Not surprising seeing as Afghanistan is relatively short on built up urban areas and also very open with lots of hills and mountains. Also these far ambushes are a lot easier for insurgents to safely break contact from. There is the worst case scenario of complex heavy weapons ambushes from several hundred meters. However popping off a couple mags or part of a belt of machine gun ammo then fading away is probably a lot more common.

As this applies to the reader as a private citizen. It sorta goes without saying that the longer line of sight is in your AO the further away people could potentially exchange gunfire. You can see a long way in lots of the midwest if you get above all the corn. In Montana and Wyoming you can usually see as far as your eyes or optics are able. If long range is the rule magnification is your friend.

The second half of this question is  "I have read quite a bit on the 500 yard engagement issues we are currently having in Afghanistan, but the point usually made is that the round is underpowered for the distance (5.56), not too much info on optics." Interestingly enough I wrote about this some time ago, Increasing Small Arms Lethality In Afghanistan-Taking Back The Infantry Half Kilometer. To rehash quickly it breaks down like this. First and foremost is training. It doesn't matter what kind of distance a weapon is capable of if you can't effectively employ it. It doesn't matter what a bullet will do if it doesn't hit flesh and bone. In terms of the caliber discussion. There are some very effective rounds for the 5.56 (most notably Black Hills MK262 MOD1 but really 70+ grain JHP/open tip match grade stuff in general) but unfortunately they are not issued widely enough to make a difference. Of course some people will always believe that anything less than 7.62x51 is useless but lets not go there.

[Though I cannot help but note that in WWI and WWII when everybody used .30 cal rifles there wasn't close to a 100% mortality rate for GSW. Furthermore in Korea where our troops were periodically overrun by hordes of Chinese they were carrying the 30.06. The same 30.06 which is bigger and more powerful than the mighty 7.62x51. Every man they shot didn't die. Chinamen didn't flee towards home en mass because they were so afraid of the BATTLE RIFLES waiting for them. Somehow that big heavy .30 caliber BATTLE RIFLE made of good American steel and wood didn't do a very great job as a magical talisman.]

Specifically as to optics. It goes without saying that when stuff is hundreds of meters away magnification makes it easier to see and thus easier to shoot. This is where Aimpoint's and EOTech's are especially wanting in comparison to magnified optics. Their relatively large dots and lack of magnification turn what could be precision fire into area fire.

"I've always thought that something like the Millett DMS makes a lot of sense it's 1-4x with an illuminated dot."

I am not sure about variable power magnification for an all around optic. I have some concern that they are more complex and thus fragile than fixed power models. For all around use I think it is just hard to beat a good 3-4x optic.

There have been what could be called a "have your cake and eat it too" ideas when it comes to optics for some time in various shooting arena's. Ever seen the scope rings which let you still see the iron sights? I've heard of folks talking about mounting some sort of a small red dot IN ADDITION to a magnified optic. They need to be offset somehow and that is inevitably awkward. Trijicon offers an ACOG with what could (generously) be called back up iron sights on top of the scope which isn't a bad idea. I imagine it would be good for CQB. They even have one with a tiny red dot site on top of the scope. I have no experience with that but it seems like a bit much to me. [The ACOG has a cool system called the Bindon Aiming Concept (BAC): The highly advanced Bindon Aiming Concept is an optical breakthrough that combines traditional long-stand-off marksmanship capability with the ultimate in close-combat transitional aiming. Using the two-eye aiming method, when the weapon is being moved, the perceived image is unmagnified, permitting extremely rapid target acquisition. As soon as the weapon movement is stopped and the shooter is close to the proper aim on target, the targeted image "zooms" into magnification, permitting greater shooting accuracy with higher hit ratios. This is especially useful for moving targets or for targets in dense cover.]
I do not have personal experience with the Millet DMS scope but did some research. At least enough to talk semi intelligently about it. They got some decent man in forum reviews. Don't seem like too bad of an optic for the money. I don't like the reticule but that is sort of a personal thing. Also they lack a BDC or turrets which makes precision distance shooting difficult. Most likely that would only be an issue around 300 meters or so varying by the ballistics of the cartridge. Depending on what you want it for that may or may not be important.

[One thing that has always sort of confused me is when people buy a rifle and then immediately go get the cheapest big variable power scope Walmart sells. This makes even less sense when folks mount a cheap scope on an expensive rifle. Personally if I am going to scope a rifle I save up and do it at least decently right. Spend at least a few hundred bucks and get a quality name brand scope with comparable rings or mount. This isn't the place to go cheap. Not necessarily saying the Millet DMS does or doesn't fall into this category; I just don't have the experience with them to say. This trend is just something I felt like rambling about ]

 When/why would you go with a EOTech or Aimpoint (by this I'm asking from the .mil's point of view, I know when I would use one) vs an ACOG? There isn't, at least that I know of, any sort of doctrine or best practices on this. Units (aside from maybe SOF folks) use whatever they have on inventory. If they have a bunch of Aimpoints they use them, same for EOTech's or ACOG's. There is at least a general consensus that magnified optics are good for the open terrain in Afghanistan. As for individuals this is definitely a personal preference thing.

Personally I would be inclined to go with an EOTech or Aimpoint when for some reason or another the range I would use it at was really limited. I'm talking CQB to maybe 100 meters. If I was building a rifle for defense inside of my home (versus the traditional shotgun) and wanted an optic it would be some kind of EOTech/ Aimpoint. For some of the shooting sport stuff where you use rifles but only at close distances an EOTech/ Aimpoint is what I would use.  For a more all around scenario which could require longer distance shooting I like magnification.

Well I hope that answers the questions. Maybe we will get some interesting discussion out of it.

Also I would be negligent if I failed to mention that Idaho Preps sells EOTech, Aimpoint and Trijicon products including ACOG's at very competitive prices.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

End of Combat Operations in Iraq?

The last "combat" brigade left Iraq today. I wouldn't say this means our efforts in Iraq are over but it is sure a significant milestone. As for what will happen now, time will tell. I do think it is very important that we practice expectation management. If we expect Iraq to be a nice calm place with totally functional, completely democratic and honest institutions and great infrastructure like say Israel (the only example I could think of in the middle east) we will be disappointed. However if we expect sporadic bombings and localized violence, semi corrupt elections along party lines and haphazard infrastructure we might be on the mark.  I say that for a couple reasons.

It is important to remember that early American history didn't go so smoothly. There were small localized uprisings, the government went broke and stayed there more or less and our first government failed entirely. We had some real problems with pirates robbing our ships. Around 20 years after our nation was established the British stomped us pretty badly and burned down our capitol. (Would it be ridiculous and war hawkish to suggest we burn down Buckingham Palace to get even? Better late than never right?) A couple generations later we fought a massive civil war. For some reason we Americans have a short memory and an even shorter attention span. We would like to make Iraq into a wonderful place over the course of a few short years. If we manage our expectations and take a longer view the situation can be seen more realistically.

What does this mean? Well hopefully we as a nation can finally borrow a little bit less money to keep things going. Also we will have fewer brave young Americans at risk which is always a good thing. Getting out of Iraq will allow us to increase dwell time for soldiers. This will almost certainly help with some of the problems (prescription drugs and suicide are notable) we are currently facing. More focused training time at home station will allow for the retrofitting and replacement of equipment as well as training which are good things. Also this will let our nation focus almost exclusively on Afghanistan which is something that has needed to happen for a long time. I don't know what will happen there but it would be a darn shame if we let a lack of adequate amounts of men, weapons and equipment be the deciding factor.

These are sure interesting times we live in.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Oh The Stuff That Pops Into My Head

"I'm in it to win it like Yzerman. Can drink about 15 Heinekins"
- General Petrayus didn't quite say that but it would have been a lot cooler if he did.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

quote of the day

"I wish that I was being overly vague because I’m not allowed to write about time lines for redeployment. In reality, they haven’t told me anything."
-A Military Guy I know.

There is one thing I can add to his quote. With time and observation/ experience I gain on "The Dark Side" I am beginning to realize that it isn't so much that the people at the top don't share plans with their subordinates; more that there is no plan or the plan fell apart and they are just figuring it out the best they can right then.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Maybe true, maybe not, but that is how it should be!

Conversation  overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency  121.5 MHz while flying from Europe  to Dubai . It's too good not to pass  along...

The  conversation went like  this...
Iranian Air Defense  Radar: 'Unknown  aircraft you are in Iranian airspace. Identify  yourself.'
Aircraft: 'This  is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi  airspace.'
Air Defense  Radar: 'You  are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart  our airspace we will launch interceptor  aircraft!'
Aircraft: 'This  is a United States Marine Corps FA-18 fighter.  Send 'em up, I'll wait!'
Air Defense  Radar: (no  response .... total silence)

God  bless our troops.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts On Insurgencies....

Last week I got to talking with a co worker about insurgencies. Also I prioritized watching and really enjoyed a recent episode of FRONTLINE where a reporter spent 10 days with the Taliban. Based on these two things I have some thoughts on insurgencies in Iraq (more a couple years ago than now) and Afghanistan as well as elsewhere.

-First insurgents need to blend in with the population be it in a rural or urban setting. Of course their neighbors know what is up but they will not tell the occupiers. Insurgents out in a non typical for the area heavily armed compound never have a happy ending. However just another house or farm which has the normal comings and goings (versus say 30 military aged males) is not going to get noticed.

-Secondly insurgents have the ability to choose where and when they fight. To be blunt if they are on the defensive as anything but a delaying action before retreating from superior forces they get massacred. However if they choose a time and place that suits their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses they can do some real damage with a rifle and 4 mags a piece. Considering that US Infantry are likely carrying close to half their weight in stuff it isn't suprising that they can't catch the Taliban when they retreat. (There is a very interesting article called Bring Back The Light Infantry Projecting Combat Power More Effectively that you may get something out of ) .

While I do have a stark differences with the Taliban and their Al Queda friends (I want to kill them and they want to kill me) I can honestly say that they are very effective Light Infantry. They are very physically fit, highly motivated and adept at fighting in their environment. They know how to use their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They attack at times of their choosing with IED's and complex heavy weapons ambushes from outside of the engagement range of most of our organic platoon weapons. I hate pretty much everything they stand for but darn it I can't say they are not very good Infantrymen.

-I think a modern insurgency needs the ability to get at least a mobility kill against moving armored tracked vehicles. Without this the other side is able to move with impunity which is not a good thing for said insurgents. If the insurgents can't find an answer to this issue it is going to just massacre them. Insurgents can't win in stand up fights so if they also can't engage mobile forces they are pretty much done for. The way they are successful is by making the cost of conducting everyday operations (movement, log pacs, transport, combat ops, etc) high and eventually outlasting them.

Being able to (at least mobility) kill an armored vehicle means more than punching a hole in the side of it with a .50 cal. It requires anti tank mines, some sort of heavy IED's or genuine modern anti tank weapons. Usually manufacturing IED's is the most practical option as all it takes is some decent explosives and a bit of ingenuity. A reasonably motivated fellow with a bit of initiative and access to some sort of explosives could make an IED but making a home made Javaline missile is at best a difficult prospect.

- Insurgents have a hard time with communication. Particularly when facing a major modern military their attempts at any form of discrete radio or electric or electronic communication are futile. A modern highly skilled force that has almost limitless (at least relative to the insurgents) resources can break any form of electronic or radio communication insurgents are capable of fielding widely enough to be tactically useful. A few authors and bloggers talk about how various forms of COMSEC (namely digital encryption) which can be downloaded for free and used by anyone with half a brain can easily defeat group of dozens of PHD holding geniuses who have nothing but time and the most powerful computers in the world. If you didn't pick it up from the last sentence; to be very blunt I do not think the kind of COMSEC available to average normal citizens is good for much but keeping Barney Fife from the local PD from knowing what you are doing.

One technique which has been used with moderate success is pre paid anonymous cell phones. In some places they are really the only kind available anyway. The theory is that if someone on one anonymous cell phone calls someone on another one it is totally discrete. Easy wireless secure communications for prices any insurgent can afford.

Here is reality. People are lazy and stupid and modern methods of tracking/ snooping on cell phones are very good. This is how laziness and modern snooping collide. Lets say a dozen insurgents all have anonymous pre paid cell phones. Someones gets lazy and uses theirs to call their Moms house or their buddy at the local Mosque to ask what time the potluck is. Being as the people who are looking for them have done a good job in targeting they were snooping on Momma and the Mosques phone lines. They electronically snoop on the pre paid cell  phone now, really recording and searching for key words (bomb, Allah, US, soldier, rifle, Israel, whatever). Pretty darn quickly they realize this phone is of interest. Lazy Insurgent calls one of his co conspirators to talk about the big soccer game or planting some IED's. Now they got Co Conspirators number from Lazy Insurgent. Of course being smart they wait awhile and Co Conspirator calls a couple more Insurgent buddies and so does Lazy Insurgent. More likely than not the whole network gets taken down.

Insurgents have realized this to a certain degree. They realize that if nothing else due to sheer dumb luck (it is hard to track all the cell phone conversations in a decent sized town but they will sure listen to some)  that sooner or later their network is going to get infiltrated. Their answer to this is that it is easy enough to just toss a cheap anonymous cell phone and get another one. Seriously for $20 or so even your average small farmer/ insurgent can afford a new one, particularly with some help from their Saudi friend at the Mosque. However they can never seem to all ditch them at the same time. As we noted above with the way that these phones are tracked it does no good for one person to ditch theirs unless everyone they call and everyone who calls them does also, at the exact same time. Insurgents have a real hard time with this one for some reason.

The answer that Al Qaeda and the Taliban eventually came to is based on admitting that they will never be able to reliably use modern communication (radio, the internet, phones, etc all) securely. They went stone age simple and primarily rely on runners. The most sophisticated surveillance can't tell you what a scrap of paper in some guys pocket says or what the message he memorized means. This stone age method of communication combined with a a structure of cells which means the capture of any one person doesn't take everyone down is pretty effective.

Insurgents by and large just can't come up with a way to cancel out the problem of their enemy controlling the air. Not even Hamas has an air force. Without lots of money and great (from this perspective) connections getting your hands on decent man portable surface to air weapons is not realistic. The large occupying force controls the skies. Insurgents can mitigate this by blending into the population and doing things to not obviously look like insurgents. Having someone who watches the airfield the helicopters operate out of that tells them when they take off and in which direction would help a lot also. Drone aircraft are an interesting development but they don't fundamentally change the situation. Large well funded forces always controlled the skies.

Finally to close the biggest thing that benefits insurgents is taking a long view. As the Taliban say "you've got the watches but we have the time." Sort of like George Washington (a real old school insurgent;) and the Continental Army they do not have to win any battles, they just have to not get totally wiped out. Most insurgencies do not develop into full scale conflict where insurgents openly battle occupiers. If insurgents were capable of openly battling the occupiers and winning they would not be insurgents, it would be a conventional fight. It is more realistic that insurgents annoy the heck out of (yeah it is far more than annoying if it is your patrol/ convoy that gets shot to pieces but we are looking at the big strategic picture here) the occupiers until they decide the cost isn't worth it and leave. Insurgents want to make the cost of occupying their area higher than the occupiers are willing to bear.

I hope you found this somewhat informative and maybe even interesting as I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mortars and Money: My Day and End The Fed IPR

I have all sorts of stuff in my head but am tired, hungry, thirsty, in the middle of an awkward freezing/ thawing cycle and scatter brained. Also I made a sort of promise to myself to write every day if possible, I didn't say anything about it being organized or good.

Today I got to shoot mortars a bunch which was pretty awesome. We had 60's and 81's and rounds a plenty. First we layed the section in, registered it and all the normal adjust fire stuff but we also did hip shoot and direct lay. I particularly enjoyed shooting the 60mm mortar hand held.

One of our instructors said this is the only way they shot mortars in Iraq. It is by far the least accurate way to shoot a mortar since you are just pointing the tube at the target. The apparatus on the top of the trigger allows you to measure distance which is essential as the lobbing trajectors would be just about impossible to Kentucky windage unless all you did was handheld firing of mortars. The reason hand held is so widely used is that it is by far the lightest configuration with just the tube, a tiny base plate and rounds versus the tube, a big base plate and the bipod legs. Also maybe more importantly it is very very fast. No FO and FDC or adjustments or leveling bubbles. You put the mortar tube onto the ground, put a round with the right charge in it, point it at the target, get the right range and shoot. One could easily be driving around, take fire and be putting rounds downrange in well under a minute. The limitations are that you have to be able to see the target, the target has to be pretty close (probably under 1k) and it is not particularly accurate.

If in addition to the section sized PSD element I have on request I could get a section of mortars with an FO to be on call to fire an FPF and a couple priority targets that would be great. 

I have worked most of the way through End The Fed. I am enjoying it a lot and learning significant amounts about hard money and getting an intro to The Austrian School of Economics. The book is a tad repetitive but I am learning enough stuff and hearing various amusing Ron Paul stories that it is enjoyable. This book is much more technical and complicated than The Revolution. Partly because of this and partly because I have been busy and it is harder to free up a few hours in one shot to read a somewhat technical and such than one which is easier to digest.

If I had to sum up End The Fed in a sentence that wasn't "Ron Paul really wants to abolish the Federal Reserve." it would be that "Ron Paul believes the Federal Reserve coupled with fiat currency have caused most of not all of the financial problems the US has."
If I had to sum up the theme of this book (aside from the obvious stated above) it would be connectivity. Fiat currency is related to banking practices which are related to the FDIC which is related to moral hazard which is related to the Federal Reserve which causes Inflation which leads to other stuff which affects the previously mentioned stuff. To be honest I really don't see the connections between some of the stuff Ron Paul attempts to connect in the book but I sure see a lot of them.

I would say more but I have to save some for the final Review. 

I am going to eat a big dinner, drink a gallon of water and go to bed early.
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