Monday, June 17, 2013

More bang for your buck

I just read two books about firearms by two guys who could have shared a beer, and gotten along famously, despite having very different political views.
The Gun, by C.J. Chivers isn't merely a history of the AK-47.  It's a history of Stalin's madness, Soviet bureaucracy, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution,  the Cold War, African massacres, and bureaucratic incompetence.  Even if you don't care about guns, this book is a good read.  Ostensibly, this book is a history of the AK-47, but the M-16 is discussed at length.

Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was working on American Gun when he was murdered by a friend he took out for some firearms practice.  Chris was trying to help a veteran who has not done well since he came home, and got shot for his trouble.  Although William Doyle helped Chris' widow finish the book, you can hear Chris' voice, as you read the pages.  This book is a quick romp through American history.  The technical details of American firearms are cleverly woven into casual histories of various battles and skirmishes-starting with highly accurate flintlocks called American Long Guns or Kentucky Rifles-used during the American Revolution to shoot British army officers from enormous distances.  Chris takes the reader through the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam. To his credit, he acknowledges the bravery, skill, and gunsmithing ability of America's foes over the last two centuries.
When he gets to the introduction of the M-16 in Vietnam, Chris breezes over the problems with the M-16 when it was first manufactured, and issued to front line combat troops.  Unlike Chivers-who extensively details and documents the high rate of failure and the horrific numbers of soldiers and marines whose M-16s either blew up in their face, or jammed after the first round-Chris side-skirts the extensive damage done to American troops by the general staff, and Colt's executives.  In plain English, American troops died unnecessarily and horribly.
I'm going to defend Chris on that last one, even though I'm not happy about it: when I was in, we were brainwashed into thinking that the M-16 was a technologically superior, awesome, precise, well-made piece of American technology, unlike that big, bulky, piece-of-crap AK-47.  I have no trouble believing that Chris was sold the same pile of zebra poop.  Interestingly, Chivers finishes The Gun with coverage of American troops being taught how to disassemble, clean, and re-assemble an AK-47, in an exercise titled "Just in Case". 
Thank God.
Chris Klye does, however, detail the extensive work done over the decades to update and improve the M-16-something that Chivers should have covered in more detail.  Hey, it only took the American military-industrial complex 40 years to fix the M-16.
Much to my horror, the Fed is willing to sell you an original model M-16, without the forward bolt assist.  Holy crap, are you guys kidding?
Note the forward bolt assist a.k.a. "forward assist" on the M-16A1 (lower image).  Any military firearm that comes with a button you gotta push during a fire fight, to unstick your gun, is a scary proposition.
Read both books.  They overlap and complement each other perfectly.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I was at the Quakes minor league game (we wiped the floor with San Jose, 9 to 0), and a cop was wearing a t-shirt that said, "God invented cops, so that firemen could have heroes."
Okay, well let's not get into that perennial dick waving contest.  Truth be told, they both have the hardest job in the world.  Cops have to see the worst of human behavior, like parents who beat their own little boy to death, after burning him with cigarettes, while firemen have to do CPR on homeless people who haven't had a bath in 6 months. 
Usually, my group trains the cops in anti-terrorism stuff; but this week we trained the firemen.  We helped them with urban search and rescue, by setting up a scenario where there are multiple radioactive hot spots, while they search for, and rescue people after  major disaster e.g. an earthquake.

The main point of our being there was to make them comfortable with their radiation detection equipment, and to feel comfortable in a radioactive environment, while rescuing the severely wounded. They had student firefighters (I keep saying "firemen" but there were 3 female fire cadets) who lay inside various "collapsed structures", and the urban search and rescue guys practiced using snake cameras (fiber optic scopes) and cutting through thick, hardened concrete, to get to them. 
They also have a car from one of our local train wrecks.  Scary thought for the day: I have ridden to work on the car, above.  So, we didn't put any radioactive sources inside the train, because that shouldn't happen in real life (but you could have a patient who just had a scan at the hospital, and is still radioactive.  This is what caused the embarrassment in Chicago earlier this year.)

They said we could go inside Car 623. 
I walked up to the door, and started to climb inside.  Vertigo instantly attacked, as soon as I was inside the train.  I couldn't believe it.  Apparently, the conflict between my eyeballs and my inner ear was too much.  It's really weird, and very real.  I think the 45 degree angle made it so hard.  If the car was on its side, or upside down, it would have been confusing, but not as hard as it was for us to try to walk through.  We couldn't walk the length of the car.  We had to grasp like drunkards at whatever we could, and climb back out.

Note to self: write a blog post about Japanese Americans and their public service.  Pretty amazing that after having their houses, businesses, and other property seized during World War II, Japanese Americans continued to buy into the American Dream, and serve the public.