Monthly Archives: May 2012

I'm a Jerk; You Suck and I Hate You

I started blogging because I was disappointed with the content that I saw on the internet. It took me a while, but I think I’m pretty good at putting out a quality product now, whether it’s in written or video form. I think this in part because some people tell me I’m good at it (no, I’m not fishing for compliments here), and in part because other people pay me to write articles and make videos for them – these things don’t appear on my blog or on the YouTube channel, but I maintain the same standards for all of my work.

The work I do is enjoyable to me because whether I’m writing a review for my website, making a video for my blog, or getting paid to do something for someone else, I maintain the core value which which I started – to tell the truth about what I found. That is the real value of my work, aesthetics and prose aside. I may not always do so in the most kind manner, but this is quite often because I don’t have the time or the inclination to do so.

I have honestly been bothered by some of the content I have been seeing in the last six to eight months. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t pay much attention to other work once I started my own blog, but there seems to be a ton of ho-hum, halfhearted stuff out there. The excuse seems to be that their target audience is “regular people,” as if regular people don’t deserve the best content. To me, as well as a few other media folks I’ve spoken with, it seems as if that’s just a way of saying that they don’t really know how to properly test something or write a technical article. Yep – I’m a jerk.

Maybe I’ve become one of the old guard that I despised just a few short years ago. But if I put out an article on a technical subject, it’s because I’ve been studying the matter for months, if not years. If I review a piece of gear, I’ve used it in a setting that is as close to operational use as I can find in North America – and perhaps I’ve used it operationally on one or more other continents.

I’m not interested in trying something a few times at home, then at a square range, and calling it good. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most high speed guy on the planet or what a friend of mine refers to as a “warrior dentist,” that sort of review is not going to do you any favors in the long run. That piece of gear might not disappoint while it sits unused in your closet, but when you end up needing it and it fails to do what you need it to do, you will know the meaning of disappointment.

The worst thing I can do as a blogger is waste your time and your money. If I start a project with a predetermined conclusion and ignore all findings which contradict that conclusion, just so I can feel better about a purchase I’ve already made, then I’m going to end up wasting everyone’s time, and a good bit of your money as well. I was disappointed with the content I saw years ago because I wasted a good bit of money – on the order of tens of thousands of dollars – on the advice of people who were too lazy or incompetent to do things the right way, and were perfectly content to pass on gun store or internet forum “wisdom” as the gospel or their own findings.

The silver lining to that waste of money is that it was a postgraduate education of sorts; along with other experiences, it showed me how products and gear can fail and not live up to expectations. This experience makes me even more contemptuous of the fact that this same subpar content is still being generated and passed around as if it is deserving of respect.

I’ve never made it a goal to be the biggest name in this industry, and I thoroughly enjoy being a nobody at trade shows, because it gives me more of a chance to see what companies are trying to pull on consumers and members of the media. It’s of little concern to me personally that I remain a nobody while others whom I have little professional respect for gain lots of popularity.

It does bother me that somewhere out there is a guy or girl just like I was 5 or 10 years ago, trying to make decisions on what he or she thinks is the right info, when that info is just plain bad.

I Don't Like This Titanium AR Thing

So there is a titanium .308 AR out there, and the manufacturer wants an absurd amount of money for it.

I don’t like it, and here’s why.

- Titanium is lighter than steel, but a good bit heavier than aluminum. Essentially every component of the rifle that has been machined from titanium would previously have been aluminum. The net result is a needlessly heavier rifle.

- The one named steel component that has now been made from titanium is the bolt carrier, which is nonsensical. In my opinion, .308 ARs need all the reciprocating weight they can get, within the limits of the original dimensions of said reciprocating parts. They do mention a stainless steel buffer, but .308 ARs with steel carriers should have steel buffers anyway. By making the carrier out of titanium, they have needlessly sacrificed function for “cool factor.” It is, of course, possible that the carrier has been designed and machined to be the same weight as a steel carrier, but this is not specified.

- The gas system appears to be a standard AR-15 carbine length, but the barrel is 16″ inches long, and this is a .308. This is less than optimal. The selection of this gas system length (in combination with the lighter reciprocating weight) does not display a mastery of the design knowledge required to ensure flawless .308 AR platform function in all conditions.

- The handguard rails are attached with YFS screws. I’ve got nothing against the Taiwanese, but if I’m paying AMG Mercedes money for a rifle, I’d appreciate US-made hardware.

- Finally, the handguard design is not exactly what I would associate with the name “New Evolution Military Ordnance” – the attachment method is nothing unique and does not appear to be either lightweight or of the most durable and reliable known methods for securing an AR handguard to the rifle.

I appreciate the fact that they wanted to show off what they can do, but I just don’t see that this was the proper vehicle for that mission. However, as they say in the video, they made it to be a “conversation piece.” Also, it is shiny. Therefore, this “serial number one” rifle is probably going to end up on someone’s wall for all time (if it sells), so none of my criticism really matters.

Women in Combat Roles

Today I read an article which stated that women might be allowed to attend the US Army’s Ranger school. This follows closely on the announcement that the Marine Corps will allow a few good women to attend the Infantry Officers Course.

Whether or not women should be allowed in direct combat has been a matter of discussion for quite some time. Women have, of course, taken part in combat actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them have been seriously injured or killed. Quite a few have received extremely well-deserved awards for valor. Seriously, read this.

I’ve attended neither Ranger school nor the Infantry Officers Course; my hat is off to any person, man or woman, who successfully completes either one. I have, however, served in a small unit while deployed which had female Soldiers. Much like their male counterparts, there were good ones and bad ones. Although I was 19 and longed for the day when I would no longer be sleeping in close proximity to a bunch of dudes, I primarily evaluated the female Soldiers on whether or not they could do their jobs, not whether they would turn heads at the dining out when the unit redeployed, or any other factor.

All of the current signs point to an inevitable integration of females in infantry units, which, with the possible exception of special operations forces, would be the final step in the decades-long overall integration of women in the military. I thought I would voice my own opinions on the subject, which, as always, I try to keep to the practical as opposed to the emotional. The subject is, however, emotional, and I will address those common concerns first.

Emotional Arguments Against Women in Combat

Several arguments I have heard against allowing women in combat involve emotions – that women will be too emotional to participate in day-to-day combat operations, that men will grow emotionally attached to women in their units and become distraught at the sight of their serious injury or death (or vice versa), and so on.

I have never seen a seriously injured (in combat) female; I have not been present for the death (in combat) of a female. I have spoken with a fellow Corpsman who had become friendly with female Marines that were later killed in Fallujah. A very tough man, but he became very quiet when he mentioned the death of “the girls.” It was obvious that it had been troubling him, and would continue to do so for a long time.

I have also seen the reaction of Corpsmen and Marines immediately after the death of a comrade. These emotions vary from hard-faced stoicism to becoming completely distraught. The bonds that form between men in combat have been written about by others and should need no special description from me, but I cannot really imagine a greater level of emotional pain than that which I saw on the face of a line company Corpsman who had just had a Marine friend die while the Corpsman was desperately working to save him.

I was aware of relationships between men and…men while I was deployed, and they did not seem to cause any problems that could not be solved at the NCO or SNCO level. I am sure that the first (safety?) briefs on professionalism and avoiding personal relationships to an integrated infantry company will be extremely entertaining.

As to whether women are too emotional to participate in combat – I cannot provide any specific facts to counter this, but I just don’t think that a determined woman, dedicated to whatever mission was at hand, wouldn’t be able to put emotions aside and get the job done. I am also certain that there are women who couldn’t do so (as well as a number of men).

Mental Arguments Against Women in Combat

I have been told that women just cannot do the job, mentally – that they are not tough enough for it. This may not be a very different argument than the emotional one, but I thought I would address it anyway.

In my life I have been privileged to know a number of extremely tough women. I have no doubt that they would doggedly continue to fight until they could physically no longer do so, and then they would summon the strength to fight on anyway. If you have any doubts about this, read the article I linked above about the female Army sergeant who kept flying medevac missions after breaking her leg when she put her body between an injured Soldier and a tree. Naturally, she downplayed the injury.

There are also women who cannot handle the stress of such a situation. While treating an injured Marine in a non-combat situation, my only trained assistance was in the form of a female Corpsman who quite literally got up and quickly walked away from the casualty, saying something along the lines of, “I can’t handle this.” Needless to say, I was not impressed with her performance. However, I’ve known men who would have done pretty much the same thing she did. In fact, I’ve worked with men who failed in a similar fashion. The women are simply in more of a spotlight when they do so.

I have heard second and thirdhand stories of poor performance on the part of female engagement teams (FETs) in Afghanistan, and I am sure they would be mentioned by someone in some comment on this article, which is why I bring them up. However, I have not seen them firsthand and cannot say whether they are mostly true or mostly false. I do not wish for this discussion to devolve into an exchange of anecdotes, although I have brought forth many of my own so far.

Weeding out the emotionally and mentally weak is a job for instructors at various points in the training pipeline, as well as NCOs at the small unit level, who are already used to identifying those who need to pull duty instead of participating in dismounted combat patrols.

Physical Arguments Against Women in Combat

The crux of the issue for me is whether or not the job can be done. There are not many factors which have more of a bearing on completing a task in combat than whether the Soldier or Marine can physically pick up their armor and weapon and ammunition and gear and water and food and make it to where they need to go in a physical condition that allows them to fight for an undetermined period of time and then make it back to wherever they need to go.

In addition, carrying a wounded comrade to safety requires a lot of physical strength. Part of my Field Medical Service School training involved dragging and/or carrying a 180lb dummy through an obstacle course, which I quite enjoyed, and, I think, excelled at. I was disappointed to see that many of the females in my class chose to let their male teammates drag the dummy for the entire evolution – then again, my two male teammates were perfectly happy to let me drag the dummy for the entire thing, too.

To this end, the differing physical standards for men and women in the military would, quite simply, have to go. Physical standards for men shouldn’t be lessened – women should be held to the same standards that men are for their particular branch of service. In addition, it wouldn’t be fair to have different physical standards for “combat” women and “non-combat” women, for promotions are often determined by physical fitness test scores.

This would have a definite effect on the women who wanted to join the military, but not the infantry. I have certainly known women who were strong enough to wear body armor, sling a 240, and carry a ruck. They are few and far between. Those women who want to be in the infantry but could not currently meet the physical requirements would have to work hard to do so – and those women who just want to be in the military and actually want to be promoted would also need to work harder.

Practical Arguments Against Women in Combat

Some of the arguments against allowing women in combat center on the logistical requirements and additional costs that would be required in order to properly train women – for example, that separate schoolhouses would have to be built, and so on. My answer to this is simple – if men and women are to fight together, they need to train together.

I would go so far as to suggest that latrines should be integrated, if not in a garrison environment, then definitely in the field. Basic levels of privacy and respect should be maintained, but this is a responsibility for individuals.

The bottom line here is that integrating women into infantry units needs to be something that is done to enhance (or at least maintain) the fighting capabilities of the military – not weaken them.

Challenges Faced By The First Women in Infantry Units

The very first women to enter an infantry unit will have to prove themselves at a level which I would go so far as to say no group of military women has ever had to face. They will, no doubt, be carefully selected, and entirely capable of the tasks they will face. My main concern is whether or not the women to follow them will perform at the same level.

The first female carrier-based fighter pilot, LT Kara Hultgreen, was killed in a crash that was determined to be the result of pilot error. I do not have enough information to determine if she was pushed beyond her capabilities into a role which she was unable to fulfill, but I do not want any American servicemember to die as a result of a political desire to have complete equality in the uniformed services.

An Opinion from Both Sides of the Gun Store Counter

I wrote this article in February, but never published it. My good friend Caleb’s article on gun buyer habits prompted me to dust this article off and publish it.

I have spent long hours in gun stores – both as an employee and a customer. I have seen plenty of rude, inconsiderate, and unsafe behavior while I was working and shopping in gun stores, and I would struggle to provide a justification for almost any of it.

Please Sir, Take My Money In Exchange For This Firearm

The problem many customers have when they enter a gun store is that they are quite often ignored or insulted when actively trying to give a gun store employee money in exchange for a product. Tales of difficult car salesmen are legion in popular culture, but I have never encountered such a wide and consistent number of rude salespeople in any industry as I have in the retail firearm industry.

Some groups perceive this as a slight against them. Perhaps there is some merit to their thoughts – women or minorities are almost certain to be treated in a negative manner – in some gun stores, by some employees. However, I’m a white male, and I’ve been treated rudely by the same people who would or have been rude to those same women or minorities. It’s just a different kind of rude.

The problem is that there is a gun store employee groupthink that seems to cross economic, social, gender, and political boundaries. It doesn’t matter if you go into a small gun store in rural Tennessee or a high-end gun store in an upscale Arizona suburb, you’re probably going to encounter many of the same sort of people.

They might be far more interested in talking to each other in front of you, perhaps to show off how much they know about whatever topic is at hand. Or maybe a lone employee will try to chase you off with a gruff and unfriendly greeting, then remain noncommittal even after you try to tell him what you’re looking for. Other times, they’ll talk down to you, whether you’re knowledgeable or not.

Firearms bring out an attitude in a lot of people. A perception of not knowing every little detail about a weapon means a huge loss of face. Gun store employees are a group that almost certainly falls into this category – in fact, I’d say that they’re the self-perpetuating inspiration for the attitude.

Unfortunately, being around guns and gun people all day doesn’t bring a proper education or knowledge base. Most of the time, I just smile and nod while someone behind a gun store counter tells me that a Ruger P95 is better than an HK P30, or that .45 has a lot of “knockdown power,” or that the Kimber employee that takes your order on the phone then hand builds your pistol. Two kids who worked in the store with me mocked me behind my back for liking the Beretta M9. Never mind the fact that it had saved my life, they knew better because…they played video games and talked to people at a gun store?

Now, there are a lot of good people in gun stores too. They have real-world experience, they are intelligent enough to discard the tall tales they hear instead of passing them on as gospel, and they’re kind enough to be polite and helpful to customers. They’ll listen to you and help you find the firearm you need or want instead of trying to sell you their favorite toy.

Believe it or not, they’re at least as fed up with the idiots that stand with them behind the counter as you are. But even some of the good ones can become jaded after months or years of dealing with the firearm-owning public.

You Retard, Stop Pointing That Pistol At Me

Although I worked in a gun store for a short period of time compared to some folks, I encountered a lot of idiots. The training and experience of the gun store customers (and employees) one might expect to encounter on any given day runs the gamut from “I learned about firearms from Battlefield or Modern Warfare” to “I’m a world class competitive shooter.” This wouldn’t be a problem at all, if their attitude toward firearm safety didn’t also vary from careless disregard to careful respect.

I’ve had a loaded (actually loaded, not the “all guns are always loaded” BS) XD45, with the carrier’s finger on the trigger, pointed at my chest in a gun store. In fact, that person did so casually in an attempt to intimidate me into allowing him to “return” an item that had a price sticker from a competitor’s store on the packaging.

I’ve watched other employees, while dealing with obstinate and unintelligent customers, progress from gentle reminders about firearm safety to outright orders to stop pointing guns at people. We aren’t concerned if you start off ignorant of basic gun handling skills, but we need you to pay attention to the instructions we give you.

The first and most important firearm safety rule is to treat every weapon as if it were loaded. Once accepted, this rule guides all behavior around firearms. Unfortunately, it’s not always understood or respected by those who own firearms.

I really don’t care if I hand a gun across a counter and the person who takes it from me, who has never shot before, puts their finger on the trigger. They have no way of knowing that it’s a bad thing to do. However, pointing a gun at someone is just plain rude. It’s something that should be common sense, but unfortunately, common sense is often lacking.

The obstinacy of many firearm owners, and their subsequent refusal to learn to properly handle and employ the firearms they own, greatly vexes me. I don’t care if you don’t know about gun safety NOW or don’t know how to shoot NOW, but you should take an active interest in becoming proficient with firearms if you’re going to use them for home or self defense.

This might seem ironic given my comments in the first section of this article, but it’s also annoying to deal with an uninformed and argumentative person who isn’t there to buy a gun, just to talk about them. They could just as easily have been standing on the inside of the counter, telling customers that the M9 was always unreliable.

I wasn’t there to talk about guns, I was there to help people find the right one for them. I’d happily talk to someone about guns for an hour or more if it meant helping them make the right decision. I had real customers to help, so listening to some guy blather on about how cool piston ARs are when there was a young couple patiently waiting to buy a home defense gun nearby was a complete waste of everyone’s time.

I may have come across as overly harsh in this article, but I cannot express enough how my time working in a gun store colored my opinion of firearms ownership by the general public. Again, thanks to Caleb for writing a great (and more respectful) article.

Do Women Really Want Pink Guns?

It seems I can’t walk in to a gun store without encountering some sort of pink firearm. That’s not to say that they haven’t been around for years – first it was the Crickett rifle, which is small and cute, and probably makes sense in pink, because it’s not like 5 year old girls can fill out a 4473 and buy a gun. Their parents make those choices for them.

But when it comes to pink carry handguns, I start to wonder.

Are women buying these guns? Or are their husbands, boyfriends, and so on buying them a pink gun in the hopes that this will suddenly make them want to carry? I don’t know that I understand that approach. If they’re interested in shooting or self-defense, it shouldn’t take a pink gun to push them over the edge – or should it? I’m a boy, I don’t know these things.

If I was a girl and my significant other bought this gun for me, I would break up with them.

I do know that, anecdotally, I see and hear of far more interest in pink guns from men than women. Not that they are all gay dudes looking to buy them (there must be a few, after all, there is an advocacy group called the Pink Pistols), but it seems like an excuse for a male to buy a gun for a female partner more than something that truly makes the firearm appeal to a woman.

I asked about how to make firearms appeal to women a few months back and the answers I got made a lot of sense, but were not ones that I would have come up with when thinking about the subject, because again, I am not a girl. The basic theme seemed to be that firearms were empowering and helped women feel that they could stand on their own. This is a worthy idea and one I wholeheartedly support – but is making the gun pink going to help this, or just sell more guns, cause be damned?

What do my female readers think about this?

The One Thing All My Distinguished Military/LE Acquaintances Have In Common…

I’m sure that all the high speed guys I know have a lot of things in common. However, the one thing I have conversed with every one of my friends and acquaintances (that get paid or have been paid to do cool things at night) about is their abhorrence of excess and heavy gear, and/or their desire to use it only when absolutely necessary.

These men are also some of the most fit people on the planet, who do things on a regular basis that the average person could not hope to do once. Despite being physically capable of carrying more, they willingly go into the field with lightweight, minimalist, and essential gear only. They don’t take light things that don’t work and they don’t take heavy things that do work if there is a lighter alternative.

This goes for all aspects of their equipment – body armor and 782 gear, weapons, etc. As much as one piece of gear might help one aspect of their mission, arriving at their destination with as much physical stamina remaining as possible is very high on their list of priorities.

This is why I laugh when I see people (especially on the internet) making fun of those who dislike heavy gear. For the most part, they have never been anywhere or done anything. Those I’ve seen in person make such comments could certainly not run the length of a football field with their preferred heavy gear and hope to do anything useful when they made it to the end zone.

When I came to the same conclusions on my own after months of carrying too much gear in the field, I thought I was doing something wrong. As time went by and I met more and more such men, their opinions made me decide that I wasn’t exactly wrong in the loadout I had at the end of my deployment (although if any more time had passed, I probably would have ended up wearing only a kevlar groin protector and carrying only one frag grenade).

In the spirit of this post, I’ll keep its overall length “light.” I do hope, however, that the point has been made.