USASOC’s URG-I for the M4

Thanks to SHOT Show and the good folks at Brownells, we can see what the US Army’s Special Operations Command is doing to improve their M4s. Let’s take a look. First, the product page.

Now, there are a bunch of things to note here. The upper receiver is unchanged. Still has that forward assist and that dust cover. The 14.5″ barrel is made by Daniel Defense, who have some excellent cold hammer forges for such things. The barrel has some unspecified improvements to work better with M855A1 ammunition, which has an exposed, hardened steel tip. I would expect these changes to be to the geometry of the feed ramp in the barrel extension, but I can’t confirm this yet. And I don’t know if there are other changes. The rest of the barrel is pretty boring. 1:7 twist rate, that government profile1, and a midlength gas system. The midlength gas system is a noticeable difference, being somewhat longer than the standard carbine length. A midlength gas system is somewhat softer recoiling, and probably leads to improved reliability when using a suppressor (which increases the gas pressure in the system). Note that they did not specify the medium-weight “Socom” profile barrel. Overkill for expected uses? Not proven? Weight Conscious? I’m honestly not sure.

The handguard is Geissele’s Mk 16, and is 13″ long and free floated. It has a picatinny rail at the top and Mlok slots all around2. This is a big improvement over the usual plastic handguard or the KAC RAS system, which has picatinny rails and isn’t free floated. Plus a longer rail means more room for one’s hand as well as accessories. The older handguards had room for lights and lasers or your hand, but not both. Geissele handguards are very nice, and have a well-designed attachment system.

The full length handguard means the standard triangular front sight block has to go. It’s been replaced by the Geissele Super Gas Block, which is low profile, and held in place by two setscrews and a taper pin. I like pinned gasblocks. They’re sturdier. Good choice here.

Geissele also makes the charging handle. It’s bigger, sturdier, and better suited to just grabbing or pulling at one side, like lots of modern guys do. It’s a fine choice.

The other difference in play is the muzzle device. The Brownells version (for civvies) has the Surefire S3F, which is a three-pronged flash hider that also serves as an adapter for the quick-detach mechanism used in Surefire’s silencers. The military is probably getting the S4F (with four prongs). I don’t know why the difference there. It’s still a suppressor adapter, and remember, Surefire’s silencers won the SOCOM testing.

Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty solid set of improvements, and results in a gun better than the previous PIP. I would like to see more if it were up to me, namely a better barrel profile and some bolt carrier group improvements. Both Lewis Machine and Tool and Knights Armament have some available improvements there, and I’d like to see some evaluations. Especially if suppressors are going to be used a lot.

Will I buy one? No. I don’t have much use for factory uppers these days. Building my own isn’t hard, and then I get to make all of the parts choices, and get things suited for me and my uses. And I don’t do clone builds. But it’s a solid upper if you’re in the market for one.

Finally, let’s do a quick weight comparison with the upper for a standard M4. The lower is separate, and needs no changing provided it has the safe/semi-/full-auto trigger group. Some of these weights are approximate because of what is and isn’t available on the market yet, but I wouldn’t expect them to change too much. I’ll update these as I get better numbers.

PartM4Weight (lbs)URG-IWeight (lbs)
Barrel14.5″ gov’t.1.614.5 gov’t.1.6
Upper receiverA30.6A30.6
Handguarddouble shield0.72Geissele Mk 14 (13″)0.75
Gas BlockFSB0.33Geissele sgb0.1
Gas Tubecarbine0.04midlength0.05
BCGstandard0.72standard0.72
muzzle deviceA2 Birdcage0.14SF3P0.24
charging handlestandard0.08geissele sch0.09
TOTALM44.23URG-I4.15

Notes: Upper receiver weight includes the dust cover and forward assist. Listed handguard weights include all mounting hardware. The Mk. 14 only has Mlok slots at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.

Not bad. Despite the stupid government profile barrel, a little weight was trimmed.


  1. Which I hate. A lot. It’s profoundly stupid, but that’s probably why it’s called the “government” profile. I guess we can’t expect them to fix everything at once. 
  2. “All around” being 1:30, 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, 9:00, and 10:30. Also, Mlok is lighter than picatinny rails, woo. And some study found it tougher than the rival keymod. 

The Opinionated Bastards: Nashira (Apr. 14, 3051)

Planetary Assault

traveling

The Opinionated Bastards load into actual battle DropShips this time, paid for by the Federated Commonwealth. Ordinarily, we’d mothball the mechs and get them back in order when we’re on-world, then pocket the difference in transit costs. For a planetary assault, however, we decide to leave everything in fighting trim. It helps that Nashira, our destination, is only two jumps away; travel still costs about 1.3 million C-bills.

The Draconis Combine defenders don’t oppose the landing, and the Bastards quickly set up a field base. Since this is a full-on planetary assault, we have some access to the Federated Commonwealth supply system, which means we can actually buy just about everything required to keep our mechs in factory shape.

Elsewhere in the Inner Sphere, the Clans haven’t made much further progress since last I checked. The attacks have come in waves before. Perhaps they’re consolidating for another push.

situation

Kill Board(s)

No changes to report, except that I rearranged the killboard to actually correctly order pilots by kills. (Ties are broken by mech kills. I suppose I could further break ties by weight of mech kills, but that’s a lot of work.)

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (15, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (8, 3 mechs)
  3. Private “Carcer” Ngo (6, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  6. Private Cathrine “Severe” Payne (2, 2 mechs)
  7. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  8. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  10. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (2)
  11. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  12. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  13. Private Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now April 14, 3051.

Recruitment

On the journey over, former House Kurita mechwarrior Xue-Min Que joins us. Though a seasoned veteran, she currently lacks a mech.

que

Contract Status

Heavy Lance has a battle upcoming, a breakthrough attack against two mixed lances of Draconis Combine Mustered Militia, plus a reinforcing lance of vehicles. Medium Lance joins them for extra firepower.

Finances

We now have 12,808,564 C-bills in the bank. Monthly payout on this job is 2.834 million C-bills. Note that full battle loss compensation is a pretty sweet deal—as long as pilots don’t die, we’ll be well-placed financially to replace equipment losses.

Unit Market

Speaking of, now that we have a fourteenth pilot, we should look into a mech. The following mechs and vehicles are available on the unit market.

units

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Xue-Min Que

Action Items

  • Do we want to buy a mech?

Lastly, a final note: I’m closing on a house in less than a week and moving in less than two, so this is likely going to be the last update until mid-February.

Parvusimperator Reviews the PX4C

Okay, this is Fishbreath’s gun, it’s true. And I’ve been pestering him to review it, but he hasn’t.

Fine. I’ll review it.

Don’t worry, Fishbreath. I’ll do my best to be impartial.

The PX4C (Compact) is a newish double action pistol from Beretta. Well, certainly newer than the Beretta 92, which is what you probably think of when I say “Beretta handgun”. The PX4C doesn’t have a ton of market share, partially because Beretta is bad at marketing, partially because Beretta hasn’t kept market share amongst law enforcement departments (see: Is Bad At Marketing), and partially because the PX4s came out a bit too late. The PX4s were released in 2004, when double-action triggers were going out of vogue. And there they have more or less stayed. If they came out in the 90s, back when double action triggers were Still Cool, they would have sold like crack, and you would hear lots about how nice they were.

Which brings us to an obvious point. These are double action semiautomatics. I am not a fan of these, personally. If you are not either for whatever reason, then (1) these will probably not make a convert out of you and (2) these can’t be turned into something that they aren’t: a striker-fired or single action only pistol. If you want something else, get something else.

On the other hand, if you are a fan of double action pistols, then the PX4C is a great choice, because it is about Glock 19 sized and polymer framed. The Glock 19 size (roughly) is big enough that you can easily get a good grip on the gun, but small enough that most people won’t have too much trouble concealing it with a modicum of effort. You can get good shooting smaller pistols, and you can conceal bigger pistols with a little more effort, but the Glock 19 is the sweet spot of balancing concealability and firepower. This gives you the same size package, the same fifteen round capacity, but a double action trigger. It’s also the only game in town if you like the double action trigger and want something in the Glock 19 form factor (and don’t feel like giving up a couple rounds). That’s really cool.

Oh, and polymer framed because it’s nicer to carry less weight around on your belt.

The PX4C has the Beretta-standard safety/decocker on the slide. I’m not a fan of this location, but it’s easier to reach with your strong hand than on a Beretta 92. You can convert it to a decocker-only lever with a really easy parts swap, and these parts are easy to come by.

I’ve also heard some occasional stories of issues if these pistols get dry, like in high round count classes. To the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t happened to Fishbreath, but he doesn’t do 2,000 round marathons of shooting. The PX4C might be a little needier of lubrication than, say, a Glock. I don’t know enough about this to know how big an issue it is. The occasional story comes up. I can’t confirm the cause either. The rotating barrel system is different, for better and for worse. It does make the pistol a bit softer shooting, but 9 mm isn’t all that stout to begin with. It might be more interesting to try one in .40, but I don’t have access to one.

The PX4C comes with interchangeable backstraps, which is nice. They could be grippier, but I say that about everything. This is easy to fix with some stippling or skateboard tape. Or maybe you like a smoother grip, in which case the PX4C is perfect for you as-is.

There’s actually a decent amount of Beretta parts support for these. There are low-profile safety/decocker levers, low profile slide releases, and a variety of sizes of mag catches. You can also use the mainspring from a Beretta 8000D to improve the double-action trigger pull by a significant amount. And, unfortunately, there is where the support stops. With searching you can find holsters. It is very difficult to find sight alternatives, though Trijicon does make both their standard three-dot tritium sights and their HDs for the PX4s. Stock sights are three-dot units.

So there you have it, readers. The PX4C is a great option for you if you like to carry reasonably-sized double action pistols. In which case, you owe it to yourself to give these a go. They’re pretty easy to overlook given all of the fancy Beretta 92 variants of late, but these are quite a bit easier to carry.

Also, if you’re on the fence, there’s an Ernest Langdon Custom Carry Edition, with actually good sights and all of the low profile controls added right out of the box. It also even comes with some grip tape. This is the version I would suggest you get, dear reader.

Fishbreath Flies: DCS AV-8B NA Harrier Review

Let’s talk weird, floaty planes.

Floatiness (more technically, and henceforth, V/STOL, vertical/short takeoff and landing) has long been a desired trait in warplanes. As far back as the Convair XFY Pogo, a helicopter in airplane’s clothing, designers have seen the advantages in a plane that can land nearly anywhere. The Pogo, however, served to demonstrate some flaws with the plan: namely, that a hovering plane is hard to fly1.

The idea languished for a bit. Like all useful ideas, it didn’t stay down for long. The Harrier was born from this second wave of V/STOL aircraft; it was made possible by a stonking great engine.

The stonking great engine, the Bristol-Siddeley (and later Rolls-Royce) Pegasus, is a fascinating piece of equipment but probably a topic for another day. For now, suffice it to say that the thrust vectoring is built in, the compressor stages rotate in opposite directions to reduce gyroscopic effects, and the limiting factor for power—turbine blade temperature—can be temporarily exceeded by means of a water injection system2. Some sources will tell you the Harrier’s engine is mounted in the fuselage. This is misleading. In a very real sense, the engine is the fuselage, with a little bit of plating to cover it up. Look at a Harrier from the front. You’ll see half of the fan on either side.

Over the years, variants accumulated, as they do for successful airframes. The Americans bought in, and the AV-8 and Harrier GR. number lines separated slightly, in terms of avionics and equipment. As an American and, less importantly but more pertinently, a DCS-based flight simmer, I’m most concerned with the AV-8B, and most specifically, the DCS AV-8B Night Attack variant by Razbam.

The AV-8B entered service with the US Marine Corps in 1985, and was followed quickly by the Night Attack model in 1989. Both versions feature modern glass cockpits, but the Night Attack (N/A going forward) has a few intriguing extra features. Color MFDs, for one3; a color moving map page, too. The HUD is wider, and there’s a FLIR system in the nose. That about covers the built-in night attack capability. Later, it was properly wired for the LITENING pod; the IR-capable LITENING can cue the attack systems for more range than the Mk. I Eyeball (NVGs and FLIR out the HUD) permits.

Weapons-wise, the N/A Harrier4 carries nearly every ground-attack munition in the modern American inventory; dumb bombs, rockets, Mavericks, and guided bombs of every shape, size, and guidance technique make an appearance. So also does the AGM-122 Sidearm, a sadly-out-of-production weapon which mates an anti-radar seeker to a Sidewinder body. It’s a useful self-defense system for aircraft which can’t carry the HARM (like the Harrier), or aircraft whose primary mission is not SEAD.

How is it to fly? Well, it ranges from extremely peppy (loaded light) to rather piggish (with lots of stores hanging off of the wings). One of the obvious-in-hindsight traits of a VTOL aircraft is that it must, in at least some configurations, have an engine thrust greater than their weight5. I never thought of the Harrier as a particularly good performer, but my familiarization flights have certainly changed my mind. It reaches its top speed with surprising and gratifying alacrity with the throttles forward, and maneuvers like you’d expect from what is, when you get right down to it, a very small plane. Carrying a full load—31,000 pounds—the Harrier is much less exciting. Rolls become sluggish, as do all maneuvers; then again, it isn’t hard to understand why. The Harrier’s maximum rolling takeoff weight is about two and a half times its empty weight. No small, fun aircraft can survive that kind of load.

And now for the moment of truth: is it worth buying? Razbam have done an excellent job with the flight modeling, as far as I can tell. The Harrier performs believably, and landing vertically is as much a challenge as you might expect, especially if you’re trying to hit a point on the ground. Helicopter sim experience, like I have, is helpful but not a panacea. To some extent, the Harrier takes unique skills.

As seems to be the case for DCS planes in 2017 and 2018, the Harrier is currently unfinished. The basic flight modeling is there, as are dumb weapons, Mavericks, the built-in targeting systems, and a limited targeting pod implementation, but much remains to be done. Early access aircraft are here, I’m sad to say. If that doesn’t bother you terribly much (knowing that this is DCS, legendarily buggy, whose best-working releases tend to be the most recent releases), I’d say you can’t go wrong buying it. The Harrier is one of the best planes to date.

If, on the other hand, you want a full manual and a fully implemented plane, you should wait. The price goes up at release, but not by very much. If you want a dynamic campaign, well, you’re probably just going to have to wait. Bafflingly, a campaign engine is still not on the DCS radar, despite being an obvious killer app for the platform. The DCS world is growing faster and faster nowadays; the third parties can keep up the aircraft release pace, but eventually the number of planes available is going to exceed the capacity of mission designers to make interesting things to do with them. A campaign is, going forward, a must.

But I digress. The Harrier is a good module, and well worth the purchase if you’re interested in the plane even a little. Thumbs up from me.


  1. Especially one which lands on its tail. Flying into a vertical climb, then looking over your shoulder to locate your landing spot, is not a great design. 
  2. As all engine nerds will tell you, any engine is instantly made much cooler6 when water injection is added. 
  3. For night-vision compatibility, the color is primarily green. 
  4. And its sibling, the AV-8B Plus. The Plus ditches the late-70s Dual-Mode Tracker (read: 6x TV camera and laser spot tracker) in the nose, and replaces it with an old-time F/A-18C-era radar. It can sling AMRAAMs. 
  5. The F-35B is a curious counterexample. For a direct comparison, let’s look at aircraft sans payload plus 4,000 pounds of internal fuel. We’ll use maximum rated dry thrust, with some caveats7. Late-model AV-8B Harrier IIs have an empty weight of just under 14,000 pounds, for about 18,000 pounds with our fuel requirements. (4,000 pounds is somewhat over half of the Harrier’s fuel capacity.) The empty F-35B weighs in at more than twice as much, nearly 32,500lb empty and 36,500lb with fuel. The Harrier’s engine generates 23,500 pounds of thrust, but can only do so for a very short time. Knocking ten percent off for sustained power still leaves it north of 21,000 pounds; the remaining three thousand pounds between thrust and weight easily fits a pair each of Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, or a full fuel load. The F-35B engine, on the other hand, makes only 25,000 pounds dry. The lift fan makes up the difference in vertical flight modes. 
  6. I swear I didn’t notice this pun until after I wrote it. 
  7. The Harrier can’t sustain its maximum thrust rating for very long. There are lift thrust ratings at up to 120% nominal RPM, which the engine control unit won’t allow outside of VTOL configuration. Combat power is 111% nominal RPM. 

The Opinionated Bastards: Piedmont (Mar. 19, 3051)

Homeward Bound Again

The Opinionated Bastards pack up and head home from Propus, celebrating the New Year on the way through Sichuan. We’ve all survived 3050, and the company is in better shape now than when we started. 3051 looks bright.

You may recall that Propus was a long way from Piedmont. We keep an eye out for interesting contracts on the way home, but none present themselves.

Arriving on Piedmont, the mechanics get the mechs out of mothballs, training resumes, and the minor damage which accumulated on Propus is finally fixed. Woad‘s Grasshopper has its last jump jet back, and Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot once again has a large laser.

The techs put Double-Dog‘s new Thunderbolt into the repair bay, then spend some time digging through factory plans and archives. Veteran mech tech Kepano Endo finds something interesting in the public records of the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery…

endo

Late in the Third Succession War, the Draconis Combine invaded Galtor III, led by the Bremond Draconis Mustered Militia. That unit’s commander, Mary Tallman, had a customized Thunderbolt TDR-5S, retaining the large laser but ditching all the other weapons in exchange for eight medium lasers, four in each side torso. The remaining weight and space was filled with heat sinks.

thunderbolt

This seems like just the thing for money-conscious mercenaries such as ourselves. It takes a few weeks, but soon the

Status

It is now March 19, 3051.

Finances

We have 9,559,943 C-bils in the bank. Training and other expenses run to about 145,000 C-bils per month.

Training

Among others, Rook improves her gunnery to 1+. Her piloting remains at 3+.

The green pilots have all improved somewhat over the course of the last few months. Euchre and Woad are a mere few battles away from joining the ranks of the regulars, and Wojtek is only a little behind them.

Owing to her superb performance over the contract at Propus, Carcer Ngo has been promoted to Corporal.

Organization

Current lance rosters:

  • Heavy Lance (275t)
    • Captain Drake Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q
    • Lieutenant SG Rook Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K
    • Corporal Carcer Ngo, Crab CRB-20
    • Private Woad Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H
  • Medium Lance (190t)
    • Lieutenant JG Double Dog Dare, Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sergeant Milspec Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1
    • Private Ker-Ker Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein”
    • Private Severe Payne, Locust (Custom, 3 medium lasers)
  • Cadre Lance (275t)
    • Lieutenant SG Linebuster Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Private Hanzoku Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Private Euchre Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Private Wojtek Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Private Teddy Bear Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T Custom

Spares

As far as big-ticket items go, we have two spare large lasers, one spare PPC, one two-ton gyro, and one three-ton gyro. We have a little short of 60 tons of armor; we’d probably want more going forward.

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave)
    • Pvt. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf)
  • All mechwarriors are currently claimed. As the unit grows, there will be more mechwarriors to claim.

Schedule

It turns out that I will, in fact, be buying a house (or at least, it’s overwhelmingly likely that this will be the case). As such, I’ll have limited time to spend on BattleTech, what with the packing and things. I hope to stick to one post per week, but bear with me if the schedule slips. I’m not abandoning it or anything.

Action Items

Contracts Available

Contract time! Our options are…

  • The Federated Commonwealth wants us to participate in a Planetary Assault against the Draconis Combine. Though it may seem unwise to participate in an attack against the same government which controls our homeworld, such arrangements aren’t unheard of among mercenaries. There are rules to protect us. As far as the details go, we’d be traveling two jumps to Nashira. Command rights are liaison, which I believe means we would control the allied mech detailed to keep an eye on us. Transport costs are fully covered, we would get 60% salvage rights, and, most interestingly, we’d also get 100% battle loss compensation. The contract would last five months, ending in early September, and would net us approximately 17,525,000 C-bills.
  • The Draconis Combine wants to hire us for Garrison Duty on Darius, which is facing sporadic attacks from the Free Rasalhague Republic. I’m not sure how they find the time, given their current troubles with the Clan invasion, but such is life in the Inner Sphere. Darius is six jumps away. House command rights means we’d have to deal with a friendly AI unit. Transport costs are fully covered, salvage rights are 40%. We receive no battle loss compensation, but the Combine will cover 60% of our monthly operating costs. Garrison contracts always last a long time; this one is twenty-two months, ending in March of 3053. I believe we would have the option of taking side contracts during our garrison time; we’d also have access to good repair facilities and spare parts. Estimated profit over the nearly-two-years of time under contract is 52,650,000 C-bills.

We can also elect to take no contract and try again next month.

Long-Term Goals

  • Are we interested in hiring more pilots? As Rince Wind noted, a bigger table of organization and equipment yields fatter contracts, which translates to better equipment and bigger contracts. Another lance or two would also give us better depth, allowing us to stand up to longer contracts more readily even if we run our spare parts stock down.
    • If we are interested in expanding the company, I’ll keep an eye out for good pilots on the personnel market and hire at my discretion.

On Glock Safeties

A few weeks ago, Fishbreath and I were looking at another striker-fired pistol1 being found to be not drop safe. Fishbreath commented that he’d really like to see these barrel-up-at-30-degrees drop tests done to the Glock 43 and the M&P Shield. I promptly obliged him with a video. Glocks have three safeties designed to work together to prevent firing when dropped at any angle. Let’s take a look at how they work. An understanding of the trigger mechanism and the safeties it employs is also useful when attempting to modify that trigger system.
Continue reading

SIG P365

The market for small single stack (and staggered-single stack) pistols for concealed carry is huge. In my eyes, they’ve neatly usurped the old S&W J-Frame in the small concealment weapon space. Perfect for NPEs and the backup gun role. For my money, I’d much prefer striker fired triggers to heavy double action revolver triggers. Plus, the sights on the Glock 43 and M&P Shield are easily interchanged. Sights on most J-Frames aren’t. And what comes on the gun are atrocious.

So it makes sense that SIG would try to get in on this market. Using the same sort of striker-fired action as in their P320, they’ve come out with the P365. It’s sized in between the Glock 43 and the M&P Shield, as seen below

Glock 43, P365, M&P Shield
From left to right: Glock 43, P365, M&P Shield.

What makes the P365 special is the capacity. Where the Glock 43 holds six rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad, and the Shield holds seven rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad, the P365 holds ten rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad. It’s still thin and small, so it will still conceal very well. But more bullets. More bullets is better. Otherwise, ergos are very much a slimmed down P320. I’d expect the trigger to be like the P320 as well, so short and heavy and doing its best to resemble the single action trigger of something like a P226 or P229. Eminently shootable to be sure, and way better than the trigger on a J-Frame.

This idea sounds like a winner. And it probably will be. I have my reservations, at least as of when this goes to press. First, I don’t like to buy first generation anything for firearms. I am not a beta tester. I am not a member of anyone’s QC department. And I don’t do that work for free. So I’ll wait a little, just to make sure the bugs are gone. And that goes double for anything that says SIG on the side. Between the P320 drop-safety recall and their history of QC problems with their traditional P22X guns since setting up the plant in Exeter, they get an even longer wait. I do not like the current management either.

All that said, I would like this gun to work well, because I’d love a small backup gun with more bullets.

The Opinionated Bastards: Propus Part V (Dec. 1, 3050)

And we’re back!

The Action of November 21, 3050

001-map

Today’s terrain is wooded hills, a nice large map with room to maneuver.

Heavy Lance will deploy in the northeast corner, since the Flashman and Awesome aren’t due until Rounds 2 and 3.

Round 1

Private Ngo and Double Dog deploy in that northeast corner, behind some trees from the main body of the enemy. They begin to maneuver toward the enemy, still well out of range.

Round 2

002-deployed

Rook’s Flashman takes the field. The enemies are still out of range to the southwest.

003-out-of-range

Round 3

Drake arrives in the Awesome. He’s just barely out of range with his PPCs. The enemy, having initiative, manages to stay out of Ngo’s firing arc, too. Rook and Double Dog have shots, though; Double Dog cracks off a Large Laser shot at an enemy Pegasus, while Rook opens fire on an enemy light mech, a Raven.

Everyone misses everything, except for our brave ally in the Hermes; he cracks the Raven’s center torso.

Round 4

004-drake-in-range

Drake can hit from here; he aims for a Pegasus hover tank. The remainder of Heavy Lance, taking cover behind a convenient hill, has a shot on the same tank. In the hopes of removing it from the field, we focus our fire on it.

Round 5

005-jam

The friendly Hermes is suddenly in a bit of a jam. It seems likely it’s going to die now.

Heavy Lance is solidly in engagement range now. Drake has a solid shot at a Scimitar hovertank, and takes that in preference to a less-solid shot on the Raven. The remainder of Heavy Lance has a better shot on the Raven, and all three take it.

Drake immobilizes the Scimitar, which should make it easy prey going forward.

Round 6

006-round6

The friendly Hermes is now dead.

Cadre Lance will arrive before the next round.

This round, we’ll be working on the nearby Pegasus scout tanks; they carry SRM-6s, or what past experience leads me to call ‘mech-bane’. Drake and Ngo will shoot for the nearer one, while Rook and Double Dog go for the further one.

Ngo pads her tally with a kill on the nearest Pegasus, while Rook adds to her lead with the kill on the other.

Round 7

Cadre Lance arrives, and with its high speed is already close to the fight.

007-automatic

Drake aims for the Scimitar he immobilized; at this range against a stationary target, he’s automatic, a leisurely kill.

Ngo and Rook look to kill the last Pegasus, while Double Dog aims for the Scimitar hover tank directly in front of him.

Cadre Lance fires at what they can, but they’re still largely out of range.

As expected, Drake scores with all three PPCs on the immobilized Scimitar, punching through its armor with the first, cutting deep into its internal structure with the second, and scoring the kill with the third.

Ngo immobilizes the Pegasus, but Rook, everyone’s favorite glory hog, gets the kill.

Round 8

008-reinforcements

The enemy reinforcements arrive. At this stage, we’ve already won per the battle requirements, but once again, we’re in a sufficiently good position that I decide to fight it out. Drake, hidden from enemy fire by woodland, shoots at the only enemies he has a line on, a pair of Vedette medium tanks. Rook and Double Dog team up on the Scimitar in front of them.

Cadre Lance is still mostly out of range.

Round 9

Finally, Cadre Lance is mostly close enough to shoot. They, along with Heavy Lance, mainly engage the Raven. Drake and Ngo take aim at a Vedette and the currently-immobilized Scimitar, respectively.

Ngo and Teddy Bear are the only two to hit anything; Ngo finishes off the Scimitar, while Teddy Bear inflicts light damage on the Raven.

Round 10

The battle is truly joined now; not much movement occurs.

009-raven

Drake polishes off the Raven, Rook scores on a Vedette. Wojtek lands a 15-missile volley on a Bulldog medium tank, nearly destroying it; Milspec, however, lands the killshot, delivering the largest amount of damage I’ve seen yet.

damage

Cleanup

At this point, the enemy is scattered and nearly destroyed. Double Dog finishes off a heavily-damaged Scimitar which limped away from the battle early. Rook (of course) gets the Hetzer. Lastly, Severe scores a critical hit on the enemy Wasp’s SRM ammo, knocking it out.

Salvage, Repairs, Injuries

salvage

Drake is moderately wounded, and his Awesome will need a good bit of armor. No mechs took internal damage, and no other pilots got hurt. An easy victory.

Only the Raven is available for salvage, mech-wise; we take that, because it has medium lasers and armor.

We ransom five prisoners for 60,000 C-bills, and make a few thousand more in battle loss compensation.

Kill Board(s)

Rook continues to trounce all comers.

Last Mission

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (15, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (8, 3 mechs)
  3. Private Ngo (6, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  6. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  7. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  8. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  10. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  11. Private Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)
  12. Private Cathrine “Severe” Payne (2, 2 mechs)
  13. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (2)

Status

It is now December 1, 3050.

Contract Status

After this month’s victories, the Capellan forces break and the contract is complete. Despite the general wimpiness of the Capellan armed forces, this was nevertheless a good test for the Opinionated Bastards. We fought at a very high tempo, and still managed to keep our unit in good fighting trim.

Finances

We have 11,361,817 C-bills in the bank. We’ll use a million or two to get home to Piedmont.

Unit Market

We purchased a Thunderbolt.

Organization

Woad gets his Grasshopper back, now that we have a replacement Thunderbolt for Double Dog. Lance tweaks to come.

Spares

Now that the contract is over, we arrange for the following spares from the Federated Commonwealth. (Their price is deducted from the finances note above.)

  • Three large lasers, one to replace the missing one on the Frankenstein Lancelot, and two to have in reserve.
  • One three-ton gyro.
  • One 70-ton jump jet to bring the Grasshopper up to a full complement.

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02 (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare, Grasshopper GHR-5H (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, n/a (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne, Locust Custom (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T (Knave)
  • The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. They’re listed with their current mech assignment. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
    • Pvt. Ngo, Crab CRB-20

Action Items

  • Should we refit the new Thunderbolt to remove the missile weapons, or leave it be? Note that refitting units to a non-standard configuration makes them difficult to maintain.

On the Glock 19X

Glock has released their MHS entrant to the civilian market: the Glock 19X.

It’s got all the Gen 5 improvements: no finger grooves, an improved trigger, and ambidextrous slide stop, plus the texture and replaceable backstraps from the Gen 4 models. By all accounts, the Gen 5 models are awesome. I’m most excited about the improved trigger. It’s better than previous factory models and very competitive with the aftermarket options.

Of course, there are Gen 5 options available for the Glock 19, the Glock 17, Glock 34 MOS, and Glock 26 out there already. The Glock 19X is different. It pairs the full-size frame of a Glock 17 with the compact slide and barrel of a Glock 19.

Glock made this design to fit the “box” of the MHS size specifications. It will probably do well on the civilian market, as short-slide, full-size grip 1911s, snubnosed K-Frames, and subcompact pistols with grip-extending magazines are very popular.

I’m not a fan of the 19X from a concealment perspective, because the height is more annoying to conceal than the length. If I’m going to carry a full-size grip, I might as well get the sight radius of a full-size gun. Plus, those tend to recoil a little softer. I’d be a little more interested in a Glock 19 frame with a Glock 17 slide and barrel for concealment, but that’s just me.

However, if you wanted to build an Open Glock, the Glock 19X is a great base gun. It just needs an MOS model or some milling for an optic. The shorter slide means that if you opt for a smaller compensator like the KKM or Black Rifle units, your pistol will fit in a Glock 34 holster. So you’ll be able to find a holster quickly and cheaply. With a bigger compensator like the SJC, you’ll still have a shorter overall pistol to help transitions, plus a lighter slide that improves recoil characteristics.

You also get the longer, Glock 17 grip. This is nice partially because I prefer the grip on the Glock 17. Your mileage may vary. What doesn’t vary are the magwell options. There are a wide variety of large, competition magwells available for the Glock 17 size frame. Small differences make these not viable for Glock 19s. Bigger magwells are more forgiving than small ones. Plus, there are a wide variety of materials (and therefore weights) available.

There you have it. A concept with plenty of admirers, albeit for different reasons. It’s good to see more options.

A Cruiser By Any Other Name

I’ve discussed before that the Arleigh Burke-class is the best destroyer afloat today. It’s got a good radar, plenty of missile capacity, and comes at a pretty reasonable price due to its large production run. Competitors like the Daring class cost entirely too much and deliver entirely too little. Let’s look at a a follow on. Nothing lasts forever, and something newer, with newer systems, will be fun to sketch. This will be my version of something like the Zumwalt class. Though, because I prefer things evolutionary, it will be rather less ambitious. Admiral Zumwalt would have wanted it that way, anyway.

We’re not going to compete directly with the Burkes in terms of size, because that makes it really hard to justify the changes. And we’ve already sketched smaller. In case the title didn’t give the game up, we’re going bigger.

As always, we must first define our mission. Being a large cruiser, we’d like it to focus on air defense and air control, with plenty of land attack capability (i.e. plenty of missile tubes). We’d also like reasonable antiship capability and some antisubmarine capability, though this last is negotiable. I’ll pencil in some nice, off-the-shelf sonar systems now, with the understanding that designers can make adjustments as needed for cost reasons there.

On to the sketch! First thing to do is to forget about the stealth nonsense baked into the DDG-1000 design. Some low-observability features are a good thing, but the excessive stealth optimization of the Zumwalts with their special superstructure and ridiculous tumblehome hull is silly. A more normal hull design, bow raked forward, has far better seakeeping, and that’s much more important. Not only is it a patently obvious ship if one bothers to look out their windows, but we’d expect it to be able to handle Air Defense and Air Control, which means the radars have to be on, which means it will be pumping out electrons like the Las Vegas strip. And if we don’t turn on the radars, what exactly is protecting the carriers? Accepting that not every new design has to be a ghost’s shadow will help keep costs down. We need to limit the use of new technologies in new designs so the costs don’t explode. Nobody bats 1,000 with new designs. Some will fail, and we need to be resilient about this. Also, a more conservative design means we’ll be able to reuse some things from existing designs. Or, test out some new stuff elsewhere. Like we used to.

There you have it. Some gentle angles, avoid corner reflectors, keep the nice clipper bow. As a side effect, that’s a lot prettier.

Next: radars. I really like the original, un-neutered suite planned for the Zumwalts, namely the SPY-3 and the SPY-4. The SPY-3 is an X-band AESA radar, optimized for best tracking accuracy. The SPY-4, deleted from the DDG-1000s to save costs and still fitted on the Ford-class Carriers, is an S-band AESA radar optimized for high volume search. This split of functionality mirrors what NATO testing found to be best in the late 90s. These were integrated into a dual-band array system, which is some pretty revolutionary stuff. I’m fine with that as one of the key new technologies embarked, though the emitters could also be separated. The overall concept is right though. And, of course Aegis-type integrated fire control and combat management systems.

As a bonus, from an emissions perspective, a cruiser with a dual band radar looks a lot like a carrier with a dual band radar. Or maybe that other contact is another cruiser and the carrier is somewhere else. Or has its radars off. Emissions doesn’t tell you. With the right ECM and radar signature management, your active radar won’t help you either at range. Better go look, and hope you can radio your buddies back before you eat a missile.

On to missiles, and the tubes that launch them. The Mk. 57 can handle a greater volume of exhaust gasses than the Mk. 41, but the sheer number of deployed Mk. 41 tubes means missiles will be developed for that. Also, while the Mk. 57 is a bigger tube, it’s not much bigger, and there’s no missile around that would not fit in a Mk. 41 but would fit in a Mk. 57. Plus, the Mk. 57 modules are rather bulkier than those of the Mk. 41. So Mk. 41 it is! And we’d like to pack her with missiles. To hell with 80 missiles on nearly 15,000 tons. If we can’t do better than the 128 cells of a Ticonderoga, we should go home. Ideally we’d fit four of the big 64-missile clusters off the Ticonderogas for a total of 256 missile tubes. This gives us plenty of space for SAMs, including ballistic missile defense capable ones, LRASMs, Tomahawks, and VL-ASROCs.

Now, let’s talk about the gun. DDG-1000 originally had an ambitious vertical gun with guided shells, but this was shelved. The impact of development costs remains on the final design. I am not sold at all on ambitious gun projects that aren’t railguns, and those are nowhere near ready. The best estimates on the range of the Advanced Gun System put the ships entirely too close to shore. I’m fine with 155 mm, but 155 mm without being able to share shells (and shell development projects) with the army is patently absurd. And I’m still not entirely sold on the need these days, given how many other options there are for getting firepower on the beach, and how nasty coastal defenses can be. For my design, I’m quite satisfied with the 127mm/64 LW gun from Oto Melara. 127mm is a pretty standard naval gun caliber, and there are plenty of guided shells in that caliber under development.

There’s no need for extra antiship missile launchers given plenty of VLS cells and LRASM, so we don’t need to worry about those.

Point defense duties will be handled by at least two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers, mounted, well, wherever there’s room. Possibly amidships. Possibly fore and aft, which is rather more traditional.

Since we’re not obsessing over stealth, we can throw in some remote weapons stations and pintle mounted heavy machine guns to hose down any suicide bombers. Who will have no trouble finding a stealth boat because they use their eyeballs, not radar.

For propulsion, we’re going to go for Integrated Electric Propulsion, which has also been done on the Zumwalts. And could have been tested somewhere else. There’s no reason why it should be hard. Generators are run by diesel engines and gas turbines, and electric motors drive the screws. I’d like to take some time on a demonstrator to explore steerable propulsion pods for the electric motors in a military context, specifically focusing on cost, agility, and noise.

Helicopter fit is the usual hangar for two SH-60-size birds and beartrap-equipped deck. No reason to change it. Though, given the size, we should probably expand the hangar a bit to accommodate several drones.

Antisubmarine warfare is not our focus, but we should make a bit of effort to be prepared. A nice bow sonar and variable-depth towed array will do nicely, as will the usual pair of triple 325mm torpedo tubes amidships. Something like the Thales UMS 4110 CL sonar for the bow and a Captas 4 in the towed role.