Survivor’s Bias and the Nintendo Generation

Military service in the United States is not exactly a low impact, safe, employment option. There are rigorous physical demands at times, and often inconsistent levels of appropriate medical care for injury prevention and recovery.

So when I see clickbait headlines like this:

Well, it pisses me off because that is a damn good example of “survivor bias.”

What is the “normal rate” for a duty limiting injury per Soldier per Year? Well, according to the Army, across the whole military, is right at 50%. Every year you serve, you are a coin toss from being so broke you can’t fully do your job.

Source: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/discond/ptsaip/Pages/Army-Injuries-Causes-Risk-Factors-and-Prevention-Overview.aspx

So if half the military is getting sprains and stress fractures, at a rate of 50% per year, what does that tell us about initial entry training? By law, all initial military training must be no less than 12 weeks of actual training in order to be deployable, and if we add in one week for “admin” (such as showing up for reception) we can safely say that Initial Military Training is at least 25% of a year. So if 50% of Soldiers get an injury year over year, then we expect the “normal injury rate” for Initial Military Training to be right at 12.5% of Trainees get sprains, tears, stress fractures to the point where they cannot continue training.

Now…here’s the interesting part. The 50% of injuries are only the ones we know about, reported through medical channels. The actual injury rate is much higher because the military medical system isn’t designed to keep you healthy, it’s design to patch you back up only when you are so broke you can’t do your job. The good news is that it’s hard to hide a duty limiting injury in basic training, so we generally have “good data” for that. The table below was published in 2016, so relatively “Nintendo Generation” data.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5224725/

Ignoring the “overuse” category for now, the acute category looks only slightly elevated over the Army normal rate of 12.5% expected, until you get to the Cavalry numbers which are actually concerning. But, if you know anything about the combat arms, you know those poor 19Ds are doing all the Infantry and most of the Armor training tasks, so it makes sense they would have more injuries than both of those groups.

Now…these injury numbers are right in line with the Australians.

Results: Injury prevalence for ASC recruits was 17.8% and for ARC recruits 13.9%. Injury incidence for the ASC and ARC were 17.8 injuries/100 soldiers/100 days and 17.4 injuries/100 soldiers/100 days respectively. The majority of injuries for both courses were sprains and strains. https://jmvh.org/article/the-impact-of-a-lengthened-australian-army-recruit-training-course-on-recruit-injuries/

This is a pretty good indicator that US military training is in line with expectations, as far as producing injury in our volunteers.

So where does this “survivor bias” come in? Well it comes in because by the time you get to the Pentagon, you are the very definition of a “survivor” in military terms. The Pentagon is where the Majors make the coffee and the Lieutenant Colonel is the power point slide monkey… So when they see an injury rate in initial military training, it’s super easy to think, “damn kids these days with their computer games and pale skin” while forgetting that by the time they made E8 or O5, that more than HALF their cohort has left the service. Less than 1 in 5 Soldiers serves to 20 years or beyond, so we expect that as your length of service increases, your time spent “utterly broken” to decrease as well (not that it will disappear mind you, as there are old Paratroopers and young office clerks).

So without hard data, looking at actual number over actual years, a Pentagon spokesperson saying that they are concerned about the bone density of American teenagers is about as tone deaf as you can get.

Posted in defense, history | Leave a comment

277 Fury and the 270 Winchester

277 Fury does from a 16″ barrel what John O’Connor’s Winchester 70 did with a 22 inch barrel, launching a 130 grain projectile north of 3,100 fps. The 270 Winchester just did it with lower pressure and a longer barrel. The 277 Fury has to have the ‘hybrid case” with stainless steel case head in order to hold in that 80,000 psi of max pressure, as in every rifle cartridge there is a bit of “unsupported” cartridge case head that can fail, releasing lots of hot gas to push through that brass like an overfilled balloon.

In fact, the only way Sig Sauer could claim a “weight savings versus conventional cartridge equivalent” was to compare the 277 Fury to the 270 Winchester Short Magnum, which is also capable of pushing a 130 grain projectile over 3,100 fps from a 16″ barrel. That’s a bit of a “gaming the rules” for the competition that was supposed to deliver lighter ammunition than conventional, not equivalent weight for the 270-08 wildcat but with with a working pressure over that of proof loads.

The Textron/TruVelocity offering with polymer cased ammunition had to use a bullpup design to get the barrel length necessary to reach the velocity level the Army wants for defeating body armor. For whatever reason, the US Army did not want the bullpup designs for a future standard issue service rifle.

To be perfectly honest, I question any standard rifle round’s ability to penetrate modern ceramic/composite body armor regardless of muzzle velocity. Most modern ceramic/composite plates are multi hit rated, so it would take a lot of 277 Fury to effectively defeat the plate. It should take fewer trigger pulls with a 277 Fury versus 5.56×45, but still it’s only a matter of amount not a matter that one will and the other won’t.

Posted in ammo, defense, guns | Leave a comment

Sig Sauer wins next rifle and machine gun contract

The Sig Sauer 6.8×51 hybrid round duplicates the ballistics of a 270 Winchester Short Magnum, allowing Sig to claim a weight savings reduction over the equivalent cartridge by simply having a smaller cartridge. The 80,000 psi max chamber pressure is concerning, but I have to assume both Sig and the US Army evaluators are satisfied with the engineering and performance of the products.

What does this actually mean for 5.56×45 and 7.62×51? Well, nothing in the short term. In the long term we’ll likely see less and less surplus until it dries up entirely. This will put those long serving cartridges in the same category as the 30-06, 303 Enfield, 6.5×55 Swede, and 8×57 as fully retired from frontline military service but living on as sporting cartridges. Only the 7.62x54r will live on, simply due to Russian industrial inertia…

Lots of “ballistics nerds” have asked why 6.8 instead of the more commercially popular 6.5 bore, and the Army’s answer is “body armor.” My response to that is skeptical, as 5.56×45 will defeat all soft body armor, and hard ceramic armor has multiple shot resistance to even higher powered cartridges than a 270 WSM. However even wearing appropriate ceramic or steel body armor, no one wants to get hit with a full power rifle bullet.

And what does this mean for the infantry? A heavier rifle, heavier ammo, lighter machine gun. Overall the weight on an infantry squad will increase slightly.

What does this mean for the Army? It means that unexpected costs on rifle and machine gun ranges. The “surface danger zone” problem has come up before for the US Army. The first was in WWII when the National Guard ranges were determined to have insufficient impact area for the SDZ for the 30-06 M1 ball (173grain spitzer boat tail design). And so the US Army just “went ugly early” and standardized the M2 (150gr spitzer flat base) bullet, as it didn’t fly as far and recoil was lighter. Currently all the rifle training ranges are for 5.56×45 ballistics, and so additional surveys will be needed to determine which of those will be able to support the new 6.8×51 cartridge.

What does this mean for the US Marine Corps? I don’t know. The M27 IAR became standard not too long ago, although I expect the USMC will want the Next Generation Squad Weapon – Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR) to replace some M249 and some M240 machine guns. Coming in at 13lbs makes the Sig Sauer belt fed the lightest machine gun option around.

Will a future 338 Norma Magnum belt fed machine gun be right around the corner? Possibly, as it would make a lot of sense to field the Sig Sauer rifles and machine guns to units to replace the M4A1s and M249s at the same time a 338 NM Machine Gun replaces the M240Bs. As long as they are on posts where range facilities can support the training anyways. But it wouldn’t be out of character for the Army to issue all this to a unit that can’t use them until facilities are upgraded.

Posted in ammo, defense, history | Leave a comment

The pending evolution of the tank…

The performance of drones and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) has led several pundits to believe that the end of the tank as a premier land power instrument of battle is upon us. This would be similar to the point in World War Two where the pre-eminence of the aircraft carrier made it clear that the era of the battleship was at an end. However the battleships from WWII continued in service for another fifty years or so, and much of the long range firepower of the 16″ guns was replaced by vertical launch tubes sending missiles much further, and more accurately, with better effects on target, from much smaller platforms like destroyers.

So the “end of the Tank” isn’t exactly here yet, but we are definitely in an “inflection point” as far as military technology and combined arms tactics come to head to force evolution. The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war and 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine have cemented the drone and ATGM as an affordable asymmetric response to expensive, exquisite armored forces. However, it should be noted that the military use of both drones and ATGMs goes back decades, and what is really better now is powerful miniature digital cameras, high bandwidth wireless data links, and super cheap compute power at the edge. A mid-1980s drone was good for its time, but modern drones are much more effective, and much cheaper.

The next “obvious step” in the “action/reaction/counter-action” sequence of sensors and firepower against tanks is for broader adoption of “active protection systems” (APS) to augment the base armor and explosive reactive armor (ERA) that current tanks have. After all, if an APS can defeat a 35,000 dollar ATGM for 5,000 per “hard kill” or 100 dollars per “soft kill” then the asymmetric advantage swings back into the favor of the side with APS protected tanks…. And the very same advantages in technology (cheap, small and powerful optics and compute at the edge) that drones and ATGMs enjoy will drive the same advances in APS capabilities….

And active protection systems, both hard and soft kill, have been proliferating across multiple major defense contractors for years now. What remains to be seen is a “fully up armored APS tank” versus “Saint Javelin and TB2 drone enabled infantry” fight in the future. Although it largely won’t be just Infantry vs. Tank like some mockumentary eating contest on the Food Network, it will likely be more along the lines of “combined arms team A” versus “combined arms team B” and we’ll have to see which system works better. Because you can bet that the team with APS armored Tanks also has drones and ATGMs on their side.

Posted in defense, history | Leave a comment

Random factoids about Germany, the F-14, and F-35…

German’s consider the idea of “American Exceptionalism” to be propaganda for domestic consumption, at least in one textbook used for their final stage English studies according to this TikTok Video: https://www.tiktok.com/@usa.mom.in.germany/video/7079008151823027461. This is probably “true enough” for someone simply looking at how the phrase is currently used by pundits on the right, but it fails to acknowledge that “American Exceptionalism” originated in the Soviet Union: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/03/how-joseph-stalin-invented-american-exceptionalism/254534/

Due to the fact that “Maverick” is getting close to release after a three year stall…the F-14 Tomcat never lived up to it’s own reputation: https://www.historynet.com/tomcatting-why-the-grumman-f-14-never-lived-up-to-its-reputation/ but considering the only real threat flying off Soviet aircraft carriers were Yak-38s, it didn’t have to be a super weapon to be effective at fleet defense: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev-class_aircraft_carrier

Both the Germans and Canadians seem to be back on the F-35 bandwagon, despite the fact that both countries would do just fine with Super Hornets Canada: https://www.defensenews.com/air/2022/03/28/canada-picks-the-f-35-in-fighter-replacement-competition/ and Germany: https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2022/03/14/germany-to-buy-f-35-warplanes-for-nuclear-deterrence/ Just a reminder, the Super Hornet comes in the Growler electronic attack variant, which is useful in suppression of enemy air defense, however modern high power AESA radars, ELINT stations, and “passive radars” as emerging technology may be pushing Canada and Germany (as well as other nations) towards the F-35 rather than the Super Hornet. And this is despite the USAF slashing it’s intended purchase of F-35s :https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2022/03/28/air-force-confirms-it-plans-to-slash-f-35-buy-in-2023-but-cant-explain-why/?sh=229b12db74e3 For those wondering “why” the USAF can’t explain why it is cutting its F-35 buy, and going full steam with the F-15X buy, it’s because the F-35 costs so damn much to fly. The F-15 has no RAM coatings to limit speed, or require repainting after going supersonic, and the Eagle Two carries more boom. So the “right mix” of aircraft seems to be a few F-35s and a lot of F15s and F16s…. After all, rather than jamming a modern high power AESA radar, might as well throw a bunch of stealthy missiles at them and kill them that way: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Strike_Missile


Then again, maybe Germany should have consulted it’s high school English textbooks about “American propaganda” before buying the F-35….

Posted in defense | Leave a comment

The SPEAR and the tank: Integrating Capabilities for great power competition and conflict.

Gordon Richmond’s opinion piece “Sharpening The Spear: Moving SOF’s Operating Concept Beyond the GWOT” mixes history, fact, and opinion together to argue that special operations forces should be less aligned with their parent service and more aligned with some United States Special Operations Command vision. This is fundamentally a case of elitism when humility is needed, although it is well supported by the “Five SOF Truths” which remains highly influential unofficial doctrine.

The Five Special Operations Truths are (https://www.socom.mil/about/sof-truths):

Humans are more important than hardware.
Quality is better than quantity.
Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.
Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
Most special operations require non-SOF assistance.

To this I would like to add some “Historical Warfare Truths” that SOF can no longer ignore if it wants to truly be part of the joint solution and not an exquisite capability irrelevant to great power competition.

Hardware provides capabilities to the Joint Force.
Quantity has a quality all its own.
Special Operations Forces require conventional talent.
War remains a political act.
An emergency is the worst place to work together for the first time.

Hardware provides capabilities humans alone cannot deliver. The Houthi Rebels in Yemen share a border with two key US allies; Saudi Arabia and Oman. But SOF elements don’t own a single phased array air tracking radar or air defense artillery asset. The technical expertise to identify and target UAS command and control links lies with Military Intelligence and Cyber Electromagnetic Warfare units, not SF, CA, or PSYOP teams. SOF needs conventional hardware, and the people that operate hardware, to be successful in an environment where Iran uses Houthis as a proxy force to advance their regional influence.

More recently, the performance of the Javelin anti-tank missile, TB2 drone, and tacit support of western intelligence showcased Ukraine’s will to resist Russian invasion. These are not “special operations forces” but traditional light infantry responses to an armored thrust.

Quantity has a quality all its own. The Russian ground forces shifted from the Infantry and Armor centric force to a Fires centric force under Putin. There is nothing in the SOF inventory that can address that much mass. But a conventional Fires Brigade with HIMARS or MLRS can create contested battlespace in a way that a Special Forces Group cannot. By using both limited SOF assets and conventional units for mass, a Joint Task Force can contest geography against threat pacing nations. Recently the nation of Poland requested a US Armored Division be stationed in their country, not a SOF team. When NATO needed “re-assurance” it was the 1st Infantry Division, 82d Airborne Division, and other “big Army” units that got sent forward.

Special Operations Forces Require Conventional Talent. One of the first things a Special Operations Joint Task Force will do is pull in the non-SOF expertise for Intelligence, Fires, Signal, and Sustainment.  Without conventional talent Joint SOF operations cannot meet mission success, including niche capabilities like Combat Camera, Cyberspace Operations, and Public Affairs a Task Force cannot be successful competing across all domains.

The “conventional talent” currently supporting Ukraine is heavily weighted towards intelligence, information operations, and cyber. What SOCOM brings to the table is funding and authorization documents that let information operations, cyber warfare, and other “conventional” forces play within SOF operational lines of effort.

War remains a political act. In the new era of Great Power Competition a political resolution is the desired outcome of any act of competition or conflict. One of the most effective information related capabilities remains a conventional military force message by presence, posture, and activity. While SOF capabilities are necessary, they lack the ability to transmit the message of political resolve as the world has grown accustomed to persistent SOF activities in and out of declared areas of hostilities. The arrival of the 82d Airborne or 3rd Infantry Division sends a different message entirely, which is also different than the arrival of a Security Force Assistance Brigade. Being able to accurately convey the right message, using the the appropriately large stick, is critical to the Joint Force.

Russia currently threatens the world with nuclear war, which keeps politicians talking about how to respond without triggering that red line Putin drew in the sand. However, given “NATO’s Nuclear Sharing” agreement just caused Germany to go in on the F-35 to keep a nuclear capable strike fighter in their inventory….it’s not like NATO doesn’t already have plans in place for nuclear Armageddon.

An Emergency is the worst place to work together for the first time.  The maxim “relationships matter” (https://www.afsoc.af.mil/News/Commentaries/Display/Article/163618/sof-truthsrelationships-truly-matter/) is absolutely true in the SOF community, and those relationships need to be cemented with the conventional force at every opportunity.  In contrast to Gordon Richmond’s opinion, Army SOF should absolutely participate in CTCs to establish proficiency at rapidly integrating with a conventional “land owning unit” and the variety of National Guard and Reserve enablers that make up a successful CTC rotation. It isn’t as “sexy” as incorporating into a sister service SOF exercise, but it is absolutely critical to meet the current mission requirements for the Department of Defense.

In the expected “Denied, Degraded, Disrupted, Contested, Congested” information environment for future operations as SOF team forward will be closer to conventional forces than the strategic headquarters in sanctuary. SOF teams need to develop their ability to integrate with their parent service in order to maximize their own survivability and capability during the transition from “low intensity competition” to “high intensity conflict.”

Now Gordon Richmond isn’t wrong that it doesn’t always have to be an Army SOF team supporting an Army CTC rotation. I’ve gone through JMRC with a SEAL team as the SOCEUR participant, and that proved to be educational for me as a conventional Army officer. An Army SF Team participating in a USMC Brigade or Division Level Capstone Exercise could prove equally educational for future officers, however those should be “training of opportunity” not “habitual training” exercises.

There is no “special operations domain” of warfare. There are the five recognized domains, Land, Maritime, Air, Space, and Cyberspace. There are no SOF elements in Space or Cyberspace, all of the “Special” units operating there are normal Cyber Branch or Space Functional Area personnel just doing their jobs. In the land domain it makes more sense to align Army SOF with Army training, because Army SOF will always be operating in the Land domain. Sending the Ranger Regiment to participate with the Navy on an amphibious assault support does nothing but replicate what the conventional Marine Corps trains to do. We need to be smarter than that with our training time, and recognize that “special operations” really aren’t, they have always been just another form of warfare that makes up great power competition and conflict.

Posted in defense, politics | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s asymmetric response to Russian Electronic Warfare capabilities.

One of the assumptions many military planners made about the Russian invasion of Ukraine was that the Russians would use their extensive electronic warfare capability to support a ground invasion. That has not happened to anywhere near the expected level. https://www.fedscoop.com/russias-lack-of-electronic-warfare-in-ukraine-puzzling-to-experts/

If we acknowledge that synchronizing electromagnetic effects with ground maneuver isn’t any simpler than integrating artillery or close air support (two other tasks that the Russians have struggled with) we can accept that the lack of jamming is largely because the forces that should be directing effects don’t know how to effectively do so to enhance their operations. But like anything else, there’s more to this story.

And to find out the “more to this story” we need to do a quick history review….

Modern Russian Electronic Warfare capabilities and doctrine evolved from the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. Much like the US Army General Don Starry spent a lot of mental effort getting lessons learned from the Israeli side about how they fought outnumbered and survived, which eventually led to “Air Land Battle” doctrine, the Soviets spent a lot of mental effort on asking how the force with more planes, tanks, infantry, and artillery failed to achieve their strategic goals. The biggest lesson learned from the Soviet perspective was that the Arab coalition did not effectively degrade Israeli command and control, long range sensors (ground based and airborne radars), which allowed the Israelis to react faster to the ongoing tactical situation with higher quality decisions, ultimately leading to the end of the conflict on terms largely favorable to the Israelis.

The Russian officers charged with asking the same question about Ukraine in the future, “how can a force with more tanks, artillery, aircraft, and infantry fail to rapidly achieve strategic ends in Ukraine?” will likely end up coming to the conclusion that Russian warfare has been based so long on fighting NATO that they forgot their own lessons from Afghanistan and Chechnya.

Lets look at some of the fearsome Russian EW assets…

Krasukha “Belladonna” jammers. This comes in two variants, one for jamming Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and one for jamming satellites…. In this fight Ukraine has no AWACS or interesting military satellites. So we should not expect to see Krasukha jammers used in the Russian order of battle.

Maybe artillery fuse jammers, like the Russian “Tent” Jammer. This is a protective asset, and is likely deployed at strategic headquarters in Belarus and Russia, but not pushed forward with the armored columns. So we would not expect to see it in the Russian order of battle in Ukraine.

SPN-2/3/4 ground surveillance radar jammers (note, the US JSTARS capability is likely the sole real target for this system). Ukraine has no JSTARS, so we would not expect to see this in the Russian order of battle.

Rz-330 communications and cell phone jammers…there are three variants here, the R-330zh was used extensively against cellular communications in Donbass. However the Ukrainians are pretty familiar with cell phone jamming now, and it is likely that in places where internet access is available (via fiber optic cable, copper cable, or Starlink) that voice over IP applications are allowing Ukrainians to continue communicating even in the presence of very powerful jammers. Also, since the R-330s are ground based, even with tall antennas they would have to be within the “radio horizon” of the target to be effective. Much easier to do in the Donbass where the border with Russia allows Russian EW assets to operate in a politically sensitive zone to prevent Ukrainian retaliation. However I do expect the R-330 family to be in the armored columns as being able to attack Ukrainian communications is a useful thing to have in the inventory.

The Russians have other jammers, such as GPS deniers and spoofers, but as Colonel Ivan Pavlenko briefed at the Association of Old Crows (AOC) meeting in 2019, the international sanctions on EW equipment seems to be working to reduce Russia’s ability to project EW power: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/30741/ukrainian-officer-details-russian-electronic-warfare-tactics-including-radio-virus

To sum up, EW integration isn’t any easier than any other form of combined arms integration, Russia has been under sanctions for years making it difficult to get replacement parts to keep EW systems functioning. Hopefully this led to a “directed cannibalization” by the Russians as they had to prioritize a few units over lots of units.

On the Ukrainian side, not only do they have more experience than any other nation operating under Russian jamming, they’ve made a concerted effort to upgrade their tactical radios to be more capable in the face of Russian jamming. https://www.uawire.org/ukraine-will-start-producing-turkish-radio-sets-by-aselsan The Harris radios mentioned in that news blurb are very good radios, and while I expect the Turkish radio sets may not be 100% as good as Harris, given the software defined radio (SDR) technology behind them, it should be a “95% solution” to Ukraine’s tactical radio needs. https://www.aselsan.com.tr/en/capabilities/military-communication-systems/vuhf-military-radios/prc-vuhf-sdr-handheld-radios

And that is why I think that Russia isn’t doing a full court electronic warfare press at this time. Lack of parts for the last eight years had to have some impact on EW equipment readiness, combined with the difficulty of integrating effects into combined arms maneuver (one of the reasons why Russians prefer to shell static targets after the columns bog down), as well as a lack of intended targets for the EW capabilities, and the Ukrainian expertise at operating under Russian jamming.

But the biggest, most obvious reason, is that Ukraine doesn’t need a highly centralized command and control network to defend its territory. The inherently “cellular” network of resistance doesn’t require huge amounts of coordination from Kyiv or some other strategic headquarters. A small team with Javelin missiles can pick their targets, fire, then run away to fight tomorrow. A small team with Stinger missiles can wait patiently for a Russian helicopter to come into range. The entire world knows that Russia is looking to take Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Mariupol, so defending those cities is much more “local coordination” fed by “strategic logistical support” when possible than a concerted “wide area maneuver” fight which would favor large armored formations (which the Ukrainians have done in the past: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Raid_of_2014 ). And as we already covered, Russian EW doctrine and capabilities were built around fracturing centralized command and control, isolating air forces from ground forces, and trying to do that here would just be a waste of resources.

Posted in defense, history, politics, science | Leave a comment

Beer Review: “Copper Compass” amber ale from Lidl

The internet attributes “Copper Compass” beer to Central Virginia Brewing Company, of Arlington Virginia, for producing the seven dollar fifty cent six pack of amber ale for Lidl. I cannot confirm or deny this claim, but it seems to make sense. It has all the pretentions of a “craft beer” except for the price tag, although I’m not sure pretentious beer snobs are going to turn up their nose at a Lidl house brand ale….

So, on to the tasting notes.

Malty, but not sweet.
Hoppy, herby with a bitter aftertaste. No citrus or floral notes worth mentioning.
And a faint “yeasty” note that reminds me of a biology lab from my college days.

The color is a nice amber, the head fades quickly, but bubbles keep popping up from scratches on the bottom of my glass, which actually reminds me of some good German lagers I enjoyed while stationed in Bavaria.

So….it’s beer, or if you want to be pedantic about it, it’s ale. It’s a perfectly acceptable ale, and if I were going to make Texas style chili, this would honestly be a great choice for the beer to use when simmering the meat (good chili always requires 1 whole beer plus 1 tablespoon). It’s also an easy food pair with anything fried or grilled, although it wouldn’t be my choice for drinking with super spicy curries or soups.

But, is it “good”? Well that depends on how bitter you like your ale. If you despise IPAs as “pinecones soaked in cough syrup” this is probably going to taste a lot better than your average American IPA. If you like Guinness stout, then “Copper Compass” is probably going to be right up your alley. If you like American style Pilsner beer, this might feel a bit daring.

In the end, “Copper Compass” seems like a great fit for a “barbeque beer” where you may not cater to everyone’s particular tastes, but you aren’t going to offend anyone offering them this amber ale. It’s enjoyable on its own, but probably better paired with some charred meat and sunshine.

Posted in food | Leave a comment

Striking vs. Grappling

In the recent Gary Tonon vs. Than Le match, Than Le won by striking, scoring a knockout 56 seconds into the first round. This is the third fastest win of Than Le’s professional career, with 27 seconds and 40 seconds into round one being faster, however those were TKOs rather than full on KOs. In fact, in Than Le’s profession career he’s only won once by submission, the classic grappling win.

For those not tracking, Gary Tonon is a five time Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) competitor, part of the Renzo Gracie Association, and went into the match against Le with an undefeated 6-0-0 record. Now it is 6-1-0, from being knocked out by a punch to the head. Tonon’s wins include 3 submissions, two TKOs, and one decision.

I find this “interesting” information, as winning in MMA is seen as a validation of the martial art practiced by the MMA fighter. Than Le’s formative martial art was Taekwondo, taught by his father in New Orleans. However the Taekwondo community is largely silent about this win as it is obvious that Le has been seriously cross training with dedicated grapplers to be competitive in MMA. His record is winning by striking, and it seems to be working for him, and the “Moon College Taekwondo” association scratches another win into their association records.

In contrast, Tonon’s previous fights were with more evenly split striker/grappler fighters, with a lot more wins by submissions and TKOs rather than KOs. The early dominance of BJJ into the mixed martial art scene seems to be an artifact initial conditioning and not necessarily an evolutionary advantage.

Just remember, in a real fight, be like Sousuke….

Posted in hobbies | Leave a comment

Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifles

One of the dumbest comments I’ve ever seen regarding sniper rifles is “The M110 is a designated marksman rifle. Sniper rifles are bolt action.” Of course this is the internet so it was bound to happen.

But lets take a look at some of the semi-automatic sniper rifles used throughout history….

WWII. The US Army creates the M1 Garand, and of course the M1C and M1D sniper variants serve well into Vietnam. The German Army of course used the G43 with optic as their semi-auto sniper rifle in that conflict. The Soviets added PE optics to the AVS-36 semi-auto rifles and issued them as sniper rifles as well.

It must also be noted, the “T3” active infrared night vision scope enabled M1 Carbine, used in the Okinawa campaign, represented the first step for the US military in to dedicated night sniping operations. The German “Vampir” system used on the Stg44 fulfilled the same role for the Germans.

The Korean conflict was largely fought with the same sniper rifles as those from WWII.

The Vietnam era saw the rise of the first AR based sniper rifle, adding a Starlight scope and moving the max effective range for night sniping with an intermediate cartridge out beyond two football fields. The same capability existed on the M14 platform, creating a true long range sniping option (at the time the 55gr M193 ammunition and 1:12 twist for the M16 severely limited the long range performance of the platform). The Soviets debuted the Druganov sniper rifles in this conflict as well, but only with a day optic as far as I know. The M14 platform matured into the M21 sniper system, being topped with the 3-9×40 Auto Ranging Telescope, or later the 10×40 Bausch and Lomb sniper scope.

Meanwhile, back in West Germany, the engineers at Heckler and Koch decided to create the PSG1, which remained in service for many, many years. Later the Walther WA 2000 would expand on the dedicated police sniper rifle in response to the Munich Olympic tragedy, offering the first dedicated semi-auto sniper rifle in the powerful 300 Winchester Magnum.

In Israel, the Galil platform came online in 1972. The Galil Sniper Rifle shoots the capable 7.62×51 NATO cartridge, and at times was topped by various optics, including the 6×40 Nimrod scope. The Israelis even use the Ruger 10/22 (and now SR22) as a short range urban sniper system.

Fast forward to the “War on Terror” and the M14s come back out of retirement to be retrofitted with Sage stocks to become the “Enhance Battle Rifle” package, topped with Leupold optics and issued to snipers and dedicated marksman alike. The SOF community adopted the SR-25 rifle as the “Mk11” and the Army adopted the SR-25 as the “M110” semi auto sniper system. The SOF Community also adopted the Mk12 Special Purpose Rifle, and paired it with the excellent Mk262 Mod0/1 ammunition for a very respectable sniper option (see former SEAL Jack Carr’s review on the Mk11/12s through a google search).

However, the rest of the world hasn’t been stagnant either. The Soviets developed the 9×39 subsonic cartridge, and paired it with the VSS “Vintorez” for a 400 yard and under suppressed sniping option.

There are more semi-automatic sniper systems in use, including the FN SCAR Mk20, and if we include sniper rifles from Brazil, the Armalite AR-10 in 7.62×51 and Colt CAR- A3 Sporter HBAR Elite in 5.56×45. And since we can’t forget the Belgians and their FN-49 sniper rifles, as well as the FAL based sniper rifles.

In short, semi-automatic sniper rifles have been a common counterpart to bolt action rifles for military and police snipers for well over eight decades at this point. This isn’t to say that bolt action rifles are going away, that’s highly unlikely considering how rugged and accurate they are compared to other options. But the semi-auto sniper system will also likely remain with us for many, many years as a fast follow up shot at a second target (or a repeat on the first target) is very useful in tactical situations.

Posted in guns, history, sniper | Leave a comment