Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Military Technology- Mobile Command/Observation Post

Last week we saw a formidable remote observation and weapons tower. Today we up the game with a mobile, armored, retractable observation and weapons tower.
This is the IDF's Akrab (or Scorpion)
Again a repurposed turretless tank hull (this time a US M60 Patton), they are used for guarding the border with Gaza and possibly the West Bank. Able to extend the armored cherry picker up to around 10 meters, it can easily see over the Israeli Border Wall to monitor Palestinian movements on the other side. Using nightvision and thermal cameras and scopes it has the ability to operate better at night than its adversaries. If its cameras and other sensors were linked to a central command, it would make an excellent intelligence and perimeter defence system able to remotely watch an entire area.

This is an interesting idea that in many ways is perfect for urban warfare. It allows soldiers to have a very safe, although not perfectly safe, observation post. It has a remote weapons station mounted on the top with a M2 .50 caliber Heavy Machinegun, and while it is not as hidden as a sniper would like to be, being able to ignore small arms fire and shell fragments has its benefits too. I doubt if this contraption would stand up to heavy weapons however and it also wouldn't likely have the ability to get out of the way. They have fitted the tower with slat armor to give it some protection from Rocket Propelled Grenade fire, but it looks like the armor is thinner on the sides. I sure would not want to be suspended 30 feet up, hanging over a wall, getting shot at with an RPG. Unlike the Sentry Tech Tower we saw earlier, this could always be redeployed to another location. It can sit behind the wall or buildings and pop up to fire whenever it wants. Also you have to give it some points for creativity, I would surprised as hell to come around a corner and find one of these ugly things staring at me.

All this neatness comes at a price however, and like most of the very well protected IDF armored vehicles, it likely either goes really slow, uses whole lot of fuel or both. Well you can't have everything.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Less Known Weapons of the Civil War

The "Late Unpleasantness", as it is known around here, was fought at the intersection of modern and incredibly effective weapons technology and the inflexible and Napoleonic tactics. This resulted in the wholesale slaughter of thousands of soldiers in both sides trying to fight an old war with new weapons or fight a new war with old weapons. I recently visited the Museum of History in Augusta, Georgia and got to see some of the less well known weapons of the War of Northern Aggression.

Sorry about the quality of the pictures, the light was low and flash not allowed, so we will have to make do with what we have.

First off we have the Rains Grenade, designed by Confederate Colonel George Washington Rains. It is certainly not the first hand grenade, and most are familiar with the old style, iron orb black powder grenade with a fuse, although we mainly see it in cartoons.
(Damn moose and squirrel!)

There were two problems with the orb grenades. Firstly, an exposed burning fuse was not really appropriate for the task. It was unlikely to go out, but could burn too slow, allowing the enemy to get away, or worse, throw it back, or it could burn too fast, and that probably wouldn't bother you more than once. Secondly, the orb grenades were pretty close to the size and heft of a shot put, and consequently, were difficult to throw very far. This meant you had to get well within the range of other weapons to use it in an attack and you were pretty close to the blast radius of the grenade itself. Something better was needed.

The Rains Grenade was equipped with a pressure fuse, which caused the grenade to explode on contact when primed and thrown. Also, the stick that the explosive was attached to allowed a soldier to really get a good throw, increasing the chance of hitting the enemy and surviving to tell the tale. This idea was also used in the famous "potato masher" grenades of Germany in WWI and WWII. While the smaller grenade did not have as large a blast radius, their light weight allowed more to be carried and them to be thrown a longer distance.
These weapons were more useful in a defense situation, as the user would likely be behind cover and/or higher up than the attacker, giving the defender a big advantage.

There were large shortages of appropriate weapons on both sides in the first months of the war. Confederate authorities ordered a large number of polearms, pikes and halberds and such produced as a stop gap measure. They were as cheap and easy to produce as they were next to useless. A generation or two before, many soldiers could probably only fire 2 rounds a minute and would have difficulty hitting a man sized target from 100 yards away. But the technology of war is never idle, and by the beginning of the war, range and rate of fire were much improved, making pikemen and bayonet charges into suicidal jobs.

Here we have on the left a Clover Leaf pike, (which to me is a Partisan or Ranseur, but hey) and on the right, a rather neat, if pointless, retractable pike. Why a pike would need to retract, I'm not really sure. But the mechanism was pretty interesting. Other than guarding prisoners, there would be no use whatsoever for these weapons and after the Summer of 1861, they were quickly discarded. Today they are pretty rare.

The middle gun is a Burnside Carbine, designed in 1856 by Union General Ambrose Burnside. I've always liked ol' Ambrose, even though he is a Yankee, because I used to wear big sideburns and it is said we get the term from him. Google him if you want, he had some pretty impressive facial hair.

Anyway, the Burnside Carbine was a breech loading .54 caliber rifle. Breech loading is infinitely easier and faster than muzzle loading a weapon. The main innovation of the Burnside is that the cartridge and breech block eliminated the problem of hot gasses escaping the chamber during firing. This is an uncomfortable and distracting problem at best, and anyone who has gotten gas in the eye knows it is no fun.

Less well known than the Spencer (the rifle on the bottom) and Sharps Carbines, about 55,000 of the Burnside Carbine were produced, and many were captured and used by Confederate Cavalry units. The Burnside Carbine suffered from complaints that the specially designed and strange, cone-shaped brass cartridge would get stuck in the chamber after firing. The Burnside propelled the bullet at about 950 feet per second and had a range of at least 200 yards. Like its better known cousins, its short length and light weight made it a popular weapon for the cavalry of the day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sentry Tech Tower

This is an IDF remotely operated Sentry-Tech Tower along the Gaza Strip. They are used to control a larger swath of land with a smaller force. The system on the top of the tower is a Rafael Mini-Samson weapon station. It has a M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun which is linked to day/night cameras and likely either a powerful spotlight or IR light. The tower and weapon system are managed from a control center, mainly operated by female soldiers, who can operate multiple towers, engaging enemies with one or more as the need arises. The weapons are almost always controlled through the remote station, although the weapon can be operated manually if needed. The "observers" need not be limited to the .50 or a 7.62mm machine gun though, they can also mount and fire precision guided weapons like the Lahrat laser guided rocket and the Spike Long Range optically guided missile.

I would think that this system is not quite as formidable as it might seem at first glance. For one thing, a tower of this nature is not going anywhere and the forces on the defensive lose some advantage if your enemy can always pinpoint your location. That gives them the option to go around. (the Maginot Line lesson) A tower like this becomes less of a defensive weapon and more of an area denial one, like a mine field, except Princess Diana wouldn't be quite as upset.
Secondly, the situational awareness of a soldier using a system like this would be limited by the quality and range of their optics. Also, security companies have discovered that people sitting in a dark room watching nothing happen on a bank of screens tend to become about as effective as having the cat watch it after about 20 minutes. I imagine that the system does have a thermal scope integrated and that is extremely useful, as they can often see people who would be obscured even in daylight. Now, if they add some motion detectors, radar, etc. That would make it really something.

All that being said, I will be surrounding my house with these. I will just hook them straight up to the Xbox. Damn squirrels will leave my peaches alone this spring.

Medal of Honor- HM3 Robert R. Ingram, US Navy

Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Ngai Province Republic of Vietnam on 28 March 1966.

Petty Officer Ingram accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched an outpost of an NVA battalion. The momentum of the attack rolled off a ridge line down a tree covered slope to a small paddy and a village beyond. Suddenly, the village tree line exploded with an intense hail of automatic rifle fire from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. In mere moments, the platoon ranks were decimated. Oblivious to the danger, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a downed Marine. As he administered aid, a bullet went through the palm of his hand. Calls for "CORPSMAN" echoed across the ridge. Bleeding, he edged across the fire swept landscape, collecting ammunition from the dead and administering aid to the wounded. Receiving two more wounds before realizing the third wound was life-threatening, he looked for a way off the face of the ridge, but again he heard the call for corpsman and again, he resolutely answered. Though severely wounded three times, he rendered aid to those incapable until he finally reached the right flank of the platoon. While dressing the head wound of another corpsman, he sustained his fourth bullet wound. From sixteen hundred hours until just prior to sunset, Petty Officer Ingram pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines. Enduring the pain from his many wounds and disregarding the probability of his demise, Petty Officer Ingram's intrepid actions saved many lives that day. By his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative, and unfaltering dedications to duty, Petty Officer Ingram reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

UAVs- MQ-8 Fire Scout

By now, most everyone in the world has some knowledge of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs). They are talked about on the news, especially the news dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan and the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban going on there. The UAV that is most well known is the Predator, a fixed wing, propeller driven, remote control airplane on steroids. What some people have yet to realize is the fielding of large numbers of different types of UAVs has fundamentally changed the way wars are and will be fought. The UAV revolution will be just as important as the advent of combat aviation in WWI or the massive changes in tactics and strategy of helicopter warfare in the Vietnam War.

On to today's subject, the Northop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV. While the Department of Defense has been using unmanned vehicles for quite some time, most were used as aerial targets or close (ish) range reconnaissance, target acquisition, and battle damage assessments. With the technology boom of the 1990's UAVs began to change from what some might call expensive and marginally useful toys to weapons of war in their own right. The Fire Scout is being developed to function as a multi-role UAV, capable of performing reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support. This includes mounting weapons on the stub wings such as the Hellfire missile, which has been used to a great effect from helicopters and Predator UAVs, the Viper Strike laser guided weapons, and the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) which is an updated, laser-guided version of the 70 mm folding-fin rocket, which many in the Army feel is very well suited to modern combat, especially in built up areas. The MQ-8 also has a very capable sensor suite, with options to have some or all of the following: a day/night scope with laser target designator, a mine field detection system, a synthetic aperture radar with the ability to track moving targets, and more. The Fire Scout was designed to be controlled over a data link derived from RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, operating over a line of sight to a distance of 172 miles. The control system was to be fitted onto a ship, or could be carried on a Humvee vehicle for U.S. Marine and Army service.

Fire Scout, as a rotor winged vehicle, brings some new capabilities that UAVs have not had in the past. The ability to take off and land virtually anywhere is an amazing leap forward. Older fixed wing UAVs were often caught in giant nets suspended off the side of a ship. Obviously, this is probably not the easiest or most efficient way to do things and sometimes caused the vehicles to be damaged or lost. The Fire Scout has already demonstrated its ability to land on the deck of a moving ship, the USS Nashville, which was a first for the US Navy, and probably the world. Mobility and maneuver are some of the most important facets of war, one of the only things more important is timely intelligence. The Fire Scout will increase them all.

As the technology of UAVs has continued to evolve, military scientists, strategists, and planners have found new roles for the UAV to explore. Modern war, especially in an urban area, is very high tempo and for the soldier or Marine on the ground, that can often mean a lot of firing. Resupply in years past was a Jeep or truck with some crates on the back, driving from the rear up to the front lines. As the US Military has shrunk in size considerably in the last 50 years and conflicts have become more unconventional, supply lines are increasingly under attack. And if you can't go through it, over it is an option as well. One possible function of the Fire Scout is that of a emergency resupply vehicle. Now it will be much easier to support small units, operating far from friendly areas and supply dumps. It can take a load of up to 200 pounds of supplies, which is a significant amount of bullets and beans. Fire Scout is expected to have a range of at least 125 miles and to be able to operate up to 20,000 feet. Imagine this, a small detachment of soldiers are occupying a vital mountain peak in Afghanistan, providing intelligence. The enemy wants them out of there and launches an assault on their position. How long can they stay up there? Well, they certainly won't last long without help. The Fire Scout could fly in, drop a package with ammunition, medical supplies and water and food, all without risking a single life. A flight of three could come in and two could provide cover from the air for the third. This is a game changer, folks. The MQ-8 has been undergoing the normal testing and evaluation for a few years now and is expected to be fielded by the Navy aboard the USS McInerney in 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rare Weapons - LSAT -Lightweight Small Arms Technologies

I'm not sure if this really counts as a rare weapon as it has yet to enter full production, but hey, right now there are not many of them, so they are rare.

The Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) is a venture of AAI and Ares, Inc., ATK, St. Marks Powder, Battelle Science and Technology Group, and Omega Training Group with the goal of producing a weapon and ammunition that retains the power, range, and accuracy of current systems while dramatically reducing the weight of both the weapon and the ammunition.

The problem is this, in US service (for now) the Squad Automatic Rifleman carries the M249 SAW and a basic load of 600 rounds. This weighs about 38 pounds. Combined with armor and helmet, water, and whatever else gear is needed and suddenly, it is not going to be easy to jump a fence or run a couple of miles up a mountain. The LSAT seeks to reduce the weight of the SAW and ammo by 38% to 23 pounds. This would greatly reduce the strain on soldiers, and Marines, especially in hot environments or difficult terrain.

The ammunition type has yet to be decided and there are two main types. Caseless and Plastic cased telescoped. Most likely the weapon will be eventually paired up solely with the plastic telescoped cased ammunition because it is a less risky option, although it is heavier than the caseless ammo.

Plastic cased telescoped ammunition (CT)

Caseless telescoped ammunition (CL)

If all this talk of caseless and polymer cased ammunition is sounding familiar, well, that's because it is. The US Army experimented with a caseless weapon system, the HK G11, in the early 80's. It was eventually abandoned, mostly because the caseless ammunition had not reached an acceptable level of technological maturity. There were concerns about its resistance to the elements and its shelf life. Another reason given was lack of a demonstrable lethality increase from the systems in use at the time. The committee also had concerns about cook off (when a round is fired unintentionally due to excessive heat in the chamber) and they felt that the G11 did not have a sufficient way to get rid of possible misfired rounds as it was designed without a need to eject spent cases. Also ,I believe that the cost of the system was also noted as being too high.

Back to the present and polymer cased ammo is not entirely new either. The problem with it is that the chamber of a firearm, especially a light machinegun, is a very hot place and it has tended to melt or burn the polymer of the case, causing failures to feed, eject, or fire. The current thinking is the AAI and friends have found a way to produce a plastic capable of withstanding the high temperatures and pressure of the firing chamber. Smarty-pants-types have stated that the polymer case will actually cut down the risk of a cook off, because the polymer is a much better insulator than the traditional brass cartridge which transfers the heat quickly and well, which can cause the round to go off. Seems like it makes sense to me. Also, as anyone who has gotten ejected brass down their shirt can attest, that shit is HOT. And while that is bad when you can't untuck your shirt fast enough, it serves the function of taking some of that heat and energy out of the weapon. Without that, the interior of the weapon will need some other way to deal with the excess heat.

We will have to wait to see if AAI and their partners have made the next essential technology for small arms or if this is just another dead end. So while this weapon is rare for now, it is entirely likely that it may be issued by the thousands in a couple of years.

LSAT rifle, they should sexy it up some, Paint it multicam or something. That will get them a contract.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lost Army of Persia

In 525 B.C., a massive and well equipped Persian army 50,000 strong set off across a remote Egyptian desert. They had supplies ,weapons and soldiers. They were led by King Cambyses II, son of the powerful Cyrus the Great.

They were never seen again.

Photo by Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni

Until now that is.
Italian archaeologists Alfredo and Angelo Castiglioni have discovered their fate after more than 2000 years. The most famed and wide reaching of ancient historians, Herodotus, mentions the army in his Histories. He states that they were beset by a terrible sandstorm and utterly lost. For years some historians have postulated that the incident never took place, as no evidence could be found.

Many historians and archaeologists have searched for the lost army and have never found any trace of them because, like Belloq and the Nazis, they were digging in the wrong place. It has long been assumed that the army took the established caravan route from Thebes to the desert Oasis of Siwa, on a mission to destroy the Temple of Amun there and kill the priests who rejected his claim of kingship over Egypt. The cause of death for these soldiers was the Egyptian khamsin -- a hot, strong, unpredictable southeasterly wind that blows from the Sahara desert over Egypt. It was capable of rendering any navigation impossible and distorting landmarks. When it gets to its worse point it could scour skin and suck the moisture from the very air.

The Castiglioni brothers have uncovered bronze Achaemenid Persian weaponry, jewelry, and a horse bit that matches relief carvings from the time in the Persian capital of Persepolis. These and other finds go a long way in positively identifying the remains as those of the army of Cambyses II. Pottery sherds recovered from the site have been dated to 2,500 years ago, which is the period of Cambyses. The remains and artifacts were found near a large stone outcropping that would have been a perfect place to try to find shelter from a sandstorm. Archaeology is a slow moving science and we may have to wait even longer for the full and final confirmation that this is, in fact the lost army.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Armored Vehicles: Centurion Tank

In 1943, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence began a survey and evaluation of the tanks that had been in use during the war. They ultimately decided that the types being used were deficient in many respects, most notably armor and the firepower of the main gun.
A new design would be needed to ensure that the proper balance of firepower, mobility, and protection. Simply put, a tank must meet a basic level on each of these characteristics to be able to survive and be effective on the battlefield. One of the major considerations that designers faced was the German 88mm gun. It was one of the most effective weapons used in the first half of the 20th Century, and was able to easily knock out most Allied tanks throughout the war. The new tank had to be able to withstand a direct hit from the 88mm.

Centurion Mark 3

Manufacture of the Centurion began in 1945 and they were delivered just after the end of combat in the European Theater. Upgrades were immediately implemented, including heavier armor on the Mk 2 and a stabilized gun on the Mk 3 which allowed it to fire accurately on the move, which most tanks of this era could not do, and greatly increased the lethality and effective protection of the crews. By the introduction of the Centurion 5/2 in 1959, the gun had been upgraded to the excellent L7 105mm rifled cannon, which became the standard tank gun for most of NATO and the West for many years and is still in use in the US Army's Stryker Mobile Gun System. Many different types of equipment has been mounted on the Centurion, from IR scopes to laser rangefinders, to anti-tank missiles and

British AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) with 165 mm demolition gun and a dozer blade

The Centurion has seen more combat in the latter half of the 20th Century than any other tank type. Simply put, throughout the heyday of the Centurion, it was faster and more mobile than most Western tanks, more survivable than most Soviet tanks of the era, while having a similar weapons load to both. Centurions have been used or served in combat on 6 continents in the hands of at least 20 nations. Heavily modified specialist versions are still in use today. It is the longest serving tank design in history, serving in both the British and Australian Armies from the Korean War to Desert Storm. Its heavy armor and chassis have been the basis for all this use. Many other types of tanks have been heavily modified like the Centurion, but no vehicle of its type, designed for WWII is still with us giving good service today.

Centurion 11 with IR equipment and ranging gun

One of the greatest strengths of the Centurion is its easy adaptability. It has been used as a main battle tank, armored personnel carrier, combat engineer's vehicle, self propelled artillery gun and even as an bridge layer. This attests to the sound design of the chassis more than anything else. It has been as basis for an entire line of armored vehicles in Israel like the Nagmachon, which was featured on an earlier post.

Centurion 5
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Crew:4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Loader/Operator)
Length:32 feet 3 inches
Width:11 feet 11 inches
Height:9 feet 7 inches
Weight:111, 966 lb.
Engine:Rolls Royce Meteor 12 cylinder, gasoline
Maximum Speed:21.5 mph
Range:62.5 miles (road)
Armament:20-pounder (84mm) mounted in turret / 2 x .30cal Browning MGs

Israeli Sho't Kal Alef

In an interesting side note, a particular Australian Army Centurion, number 168041, was used as a "target" for a nuclear test at Emu Field in Australia in 1953. Later nicknamed The Atomic Tank, later saw combat in Vietnam. Although other tanks were subjected to nuclear tests, 169041 is the only tank known to have withstood atomic tests and subsequently gone on for another 23 years of service, including 15 months on operational deployment in a war zone. Now if that is not tough, I just don't know what is.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

C-27J Spartan

Now transport and supply aircraft may not be all that sexy to you, but most of us (including myself) have not had one drop off ammunition to us when we were running low either.
The Air Force is in the process of acquiring a new aircraft known as the C-27J Spartan. The Spartan is described as a Hercules-light, referencing the C-130 Hercules, which is one of the best aircraft to ever fly and almost certainly the most versatile aircraft in the inventory.

The Spartan has about half the load capability of the Herc, with 3.5 pallet positions to the Herc's 6 to 8. It will bring much needed capabilities to the Air Force, though. The Spartan was designed from the outset to be very rugged and tough. This translates to higher readiness rates, easier and cheaper maintenance schedules, and (hopefully) better resistance to enemy fire. One of the main capabilities of the Spartan is its ability to use smaller or unprepared airstrips. It was envisioned as being a plane capable of operating easily in very austere and unforgiving environments.

The C-27 could conceivably be able to fill many different roles, from direct support to medevac with up to 36 stretchers, and even perhaps one day, combat as a mini gunship. It is used in Canadian service as a Search and Rescue aircraft and could be used for this as well in US hands. As a platform for paratroopers and Special Forces, the Spartan brings higher doors, room for 46 troopers in seats, and a smaller radar cross section, all of which would be appreciated. Also, there is less prop wash for jumpers because the engines are placed further out on the wing.

The smaller size of the C-27J can actually be a positive in many instances. Not every supply run needs dozens of tons of munitions and food, and by using a more appropriately sized aircraft for one mission frees up larger aircraft like the C-130 to perform other missions. Also the Spartan is said to have a higher power to weight ratio than the Hercules, which is certainly not a bad thing. The C-27 can climb and turn very fast, which is extremely useful especially in terrain like that of Afghanistan. It is rated up to 3 Gs on turns and can climb to 10,000 feet in 3 minutes. Combine that with a range of 1000 nautical miles with a payload of 10,000 kilograms and you have a very useful aircraft.

It remains to be seen if the Department of Defense and the Air Force will produce a gunship variant like they have with the current AC-130 and AC-47 of Vietnam. It seems to me that although the C-27 would certainly field fewer weapons than the AC-130, most likely leaving out the 105mm, it could still be extremely effective with a 25mm Gatling gun and a 40mm Bofors cannon. The Spartan can make pretty tight turns, has very good low speed maneuverability, good crew visibility and a potential for a long loiter time . All of these would be valued assets for a gunship, especially in the remote and difficult terrain of Afghanistan and the myriad difficulties of counter insurgency warfare. And if I was getting shot at on the side of a mountain somewhere, I would be very happy indeed to hear 1 small plane instead of 0 big ones.


Length 22.7m
Height 4.8m
Tail Height 9.6m
Wing Span 28.7m
Tail Span 12.4m
Cabin Height 2.6m
Cabin Floor Width 2.45m
Cabin Diameter 3.33m
Cabin Cross Section 6.96m2
Cabin Length 11.43m (including ramp)
Cabin Floor Area 23.23m2 (excluding ramp)
Cabin Volume 69.5m2 (excluding ramp)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mossberg 590 12 gauge Pump Shotgun

Since it was the joint winner of the first Homemade Defense poll, I figured I would give a little information and gun pr0n for all you out there. I love the Mossberg, and I think it is the best pump shotgun on the market and I recommend every one buy one (or a Model 500). They have a 3"chamber and unlike most other firearms, there is a vast variety of munitions for the 12 gauge. Everything from slugs to buckshot, birdshot to bean bags and rubber rockets, flechettes to flame rounds, and now, even grenades. Versatility is a wonderful virtue, especially if you don't have a lot of guns.

Some reasons I believe the Mossberg is the best pump action shotgun around:
  • It has dual action bars for increased reliability,
  • it can be stripped down to clean without tools
  • it has a 8 round tube mag
  • it comes with a heat shield
  • many versions come with a Speedfeed stock
  • it is tough
  • it doesn't malfunction
  • it is the main shotgun of the USMC
  • it is great for zombies.
Lastly, they are very affordable, much more so than any other gun in its class. I also believe that they are in quality and durability, unmatched.


Weight 3.3 kg empty

Barrel length 14 to 30 inches
(20" standard)

Caliber 12 gauge,
also in 20 gauge, .410 bore
Action pump-action

Feed system 5 to 8 rounds; internal tube magazine

Shorty version called the Cruiser with a pistol grip, 5 round tube and 14 inch barrel

Iconic Guns - Part 4- Colt Python .357 Magnum

Screw Smith and Wesson and their X frame 500 magnum and 460 magnum. This is the ultimate revolver. It is balanced, it is just the right amount of power (as long as you are not shooting at a Grizzly Bear) and it is beautiful. No other modern wheel gun comes anywhere close to it in my humble opinion. From the full underluged barrel, to the wide hammer, down to the square butt, I believe it is the greatest revolver there is. When the revolver is at full cock, just as the trigger is pressed, the cylinder locks up for the duration of the hammer strike. Some other revolvers might have some looseness at full-cock. The gap between the cylinder and forcing cone is very tight, further aiding accuracy and increasing velocity somewhat. The Python was the first mass production revolver to be laser boresighted at the factory.

The Python was made from 1956 to 1996, far too short a time, for now it will be even more difficult and expensive for me to acquire one. The Colt Custom shop made them up to 2005, but now, even this has ceased and the Python may never again be made. 6 shots, chambered in the versatile and powerful .357 Magnum cartridge, the Python could be had with 5 different barrel lengths, from 2.5 to 8 inches. Pythons have a reputation for accuracy, smooth trigger pull and a tight cylinder lock-up. The ventilated rib along the barrel and frame, along with the under lug, give the weapon a unique appearance and the appropriate weight and balance.

Black Tom Island

This topic was suggested by loyal reader Dalek, and I confess I had not even heard of it.

In 1916, Black Tom Island, in the Jersey Harbor, was a munitions depot. Prior to the British Naval blockade in 1915, American-made munitions were sold to both sides of WWI, but after that, the American markets were closed to the Germans and they decided to strike at those munitions.
On the night of July 30, 1916, there was estimated to be two million pounds of ammunition in freight cars on the island, and also 100,000 pounds of TNT aboard the Johnson Barge No. 17, which was tied up to the pier to avoid a $25.00 towing charge. Shortly after Midnight, fires were spotted on the island near the pier. Attempts were made by some to put out the fires before an explosion occurred, but around 2 AM, a massive explosion occurred. The explosion was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter Scale. The blast was felt as far away as Philadelphia. The clocktower of the Jersey Journal, over a mile away, was hit and stopped at 2:12AM. Windows were broken for miles around, as far as 25 miles, and people all over the region thought that an earthquake had struck. Buildings were cracked and items fell from shelves. Property damage from the attack was estimated at $20 million ($ 390 million in 2009 dollars)

Black Tom pier just after the blast

Hundreds of people were injured and as many as seven may have died.

The attack also did considerable damage to the Statue of Liberty, located a few thousand feet away. The damage amounted to somewhere around $100,000, but that is nearly 2 million in 2009 dollars. Shrapnel pierced the arm and the skirt and the torch has been off limit to visitors ever since.

A view of Liberty Island from the site of the explosion

Today, the Black Tom Island incident is considered to be an act of terrorism against the United States, and like many of the actions undertaken by the Germans in the 20th Century, probably did them more harm than good. It led directly to the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917, and also like the unrestricted submarine warfare, did much to enrage the people of America and cast Germany and the Central Powers in an evil light.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the true nature of the attack was hidden from the people by President Woodrow Wilson. He did this because it did not suit his political ends and would cause the American people to rightly reject his anti-war and isolationist policies. He was in the midst of a reelection campaign and instigated a massive cover up to hide the truth.

Now, I am neither a truther nor a birther, and I only enjoy conspiracy theories in a social and recreational way, but seeing what has happened in the past does make me wonder...
What if we had been lied to about another terrorist attack?
Are there other "accidents" that it has been convenient to explain away?
I don't know whether to put on my Kevlar helmet or my tin foil one.