Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 20

In this first show of the official summer, we go back to our normal show. We talk about a 2000-era PC game near and dear to us both, the most likely democracy-vs-autocracy throwdown of the early 21st century, and the best Marvel movie we’ve seen lately.

Further reading
Korean artillery: this one is complicated. Check the footnote1.
Airplanes, Crimson Skies style
Crimson Skies on Amazon (Crimson Skies on Win10 guide still to come)
NATO vs. our Asian allies, in Polandball form

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Sling Use

The sling is a massively useful piece of equipment. A long gun without a sling is like a pistol without a holster. You’re just not serious. Let’s talk about a few ways to use a sling, and what kind of slings you should (and shouldn’t) consider.

We’re going to focus on tactical use, because I’m a tactical kind of guy. I’ll touch on slings for high-power-type marksmanship competitions later.

What kind of sling should you get? You should get a quick-adjust two-point sling, unless you have a big reason to get something else. If your job is doorkicking, and you’re one of the first guys in the stack, you may find a one point sling is better for you. Everybody else should stick with the modern, quick-adjust sling. There are many out there. I happen to prefer the VTAC one. The Vickers one is good too.

The problem with the one-point sling is that it doesn’t stabilize the weapon on its own. Your carbine will swing, probably between your legs, whacking you in the knees and groin as you move. Fun. So you’ll need to put a hand on the gun to keep it stable. Hopefully you don’t need both hands for stuff.

Properly mounted, a quick-adjust two-point can be lengthened to facilitate transitions. Or it can be tightened to secure the gun and keep it out of the way. Given the two points of attachment, it will stabilize the gun fine on its own, letting you do other things with both your hands. It will also comfortably support the weapon, but let you get the gun into action quickly.

Let’s note that a quick-adjust sling requires a quick-adjust mechanism. A nylon strap is not a quick adjust sling. That’s good for carrying a rifle on your back and looking bored and not ready. Fresh out of the 70s. Have a c-ration with that, cheapskate.

I should also tell you that three point slings are stupid. I don’t know anyone who uses these anymore, probably because it isn’t the 90s. Just say no. Three point slings are a great way to strangle yourself. Or trip yourself.

Now that you have your sling, you need to figure out how to mount it. Some of this will depend on carbine setup, and some of this will depend on you. As a general rule, the further apart your attachment points are, the more support you’ll have. The closer the attachment points are, the easier it will be to manipulate the carbine in transitions. It’s up to you which you value more. QD sockets will help you adjust and figure out what works right.

For the forward attachment point, if you have a modern handguard with rails, keymod, or m-lok, you can get a QD sling socket that attaches to it, and you can move it around until you find what works. Problem solved. Don’t forget to loctite it down once you found what you like.

Further aft, you can get a receiver end plate with a QD socket. Most not-craptastic stocks come with a QD socket on either side. Again, the end plate socket will work better for transitions, and the socket on the stock will stabilize the rifle better. If you opt for the stock, remember to attach the socket on your strong hand side. I.e. if you are right handed, use the socket on the right side. Having the swivel on the outboard side will feel weird at first, but it will allow you to switch shoulders without the sling choking you.

If you’re shooting high power or similar competitions, you want a sling that’s going to help lock the rifle in place. These slings are loop slings, and they connect your support arm bicep to the rifle. The mounting swivel is adjustable so you can get your support hand in behind it. This will significantly increase the stability of the rifle once you master it. The sling should be tight, and is taking your muscles out of the problem of supporting the rifle.

On Airbase Hardening

Conventional wisdom might say that airbase hardening was demonstrated to be foolhardy in the 1991 Gulf War. USAF precision guided weapons demolished Saddam’s hardened aircraft shelters. But is it really still so foolhardy? Let’s set aside a convenient mountain to hide your planes under, and think about the traditional Hardened Aircraft Shelter: a small hangar covered with a good deal of reinforced concrete and other armoring materials.

Let’s also suppose, of course, that we’re in an operating environment where the question has some merit. That is, we’re in an area where there are reasonably proximate threats. The mental calculus is different in the middle of Nebraska or Siberia than for most parts of Western Europe. Fortunately, that is where Borgundy is.

We know that with sufficient application of firepower, any target can be destroyed. Emphasis on the word application–only hits count. This is where the precision comes in. Precision guidance kits have massively increased the hit probability. If we can see it, we can hit it. And if we can hit it, we can kill it. And aircraft shelters, hardened or not, are pretty easy to spot.

The Iraqi experience in 1991 bears this out. Shelters didn’t last. The Iraqis were unable (or unwilling) to contest the coalition airstrikes, so coalition airpower hit targets at will. Tougher shelters might have taken multiple hits, but precision guided munitions made this easy.

All of this is true. But note that the bombs used in Desert Storm were big. 2,000-5,000 lbs big. And the coalition air forces were able to operate with impunity. Suppose we have a more aggressive, competitive air force, and a more useful air defense system. In other words, suppose a peer opponent. Unless your ‘peer’ is the United States, your opponent will not have a near-limitless supply of precision guided munitions.

You will not be able to harden your shelters against everything, of course, but you can harden them against a strike or two from 1,000 lbs class penetrator warheads. Why 1,000 lbs? Because those bombs are easy to carry in quantity on tactical fighters, and that’s the size warhead you can fit on a Tomahawk cruise missile. And the Tomahawk is widely emulated. That’s a pretty standard size for a large cruise missile. Long range, 1,000 lbs warhead. Smaller cruise missiles have tend to have significantly shorter range and similar warhead sizes.

Cruise missiles are cheap, accurate, and effective. They’re hard to stop, being significantly smaller than a fighter aircraft and flying low and fast. And if they are downed by a high-end air defense system, there are now POWs or friendly casualties to see on the evening news.

So the goal is to remove some low-risk, low cost means of attacking your hard targets. Force them to increase missile count and bombs, meaning more sorties.

Now all I need is some cost estimates for a bunch of bunkers.

Movie Guns: Indy’s Revolvers

I’m lumping a couple guns together with this one. Indiana Jones primarily used a Smith and Wesson Second Model Hand Ejector in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Colt Official Police in Temple of Doom, and a Webley-Government (sometimes referred to as a Webley Green) in The Last Crusade. The Hand Ejector and the Webley were chambered in .455 Webley, and the Official Police was chambered in .38 Special. I’m going to focus on the better movies. Indy barely uses the .38 in Temple of Doom anyway.

Recall that Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936 and The Last Crusade is set in 1938, so choices of sidearms are limited accordingly.

The S&W Second Model Hand Ejector is a double-action revolver where the cylinder swings out to the left side of the gun. Pretty typical for the day. The example here, being a gun for the parts filmed in England, is chambered in .455 Webley. Also note that this is the pistol used to famously and simply dispatch the swordsman in Cairo, so it should have a place in the heart of pistoleros everywhere.

The Webley Government was a popular service revolver often purchased privately by British Officers and used as their sidearm. It’s a top-break double-action revolver, and it’s chambered in .455 Webley.

The .455 Webley is an interesting old cartridge. Interestingly, it’s one of three service pistol cartridges to get an endorsement from Col. Cooper as having ‘acceptable stopping power’.1 It’s rather lower pressure than .45 ACP, but comes from the same sort of ‘heavy and slow’ school of thought. It’s also more closely descended from black-powder loads. In an all-steel service revolver like the Webley Government, the .455 will provide quite tame recoil.

Overall, the .455 Webley gave good ‘man-stopping’ service in British hands in two world wars and a number of colonial actions. It also provided the origin of the term ‘dumdum’. The British had a large stockpile of early hollow point rounds at an arsenal in Dumdum, India around the time when they signed the 1899 Hague Convention outlawing the use of such rounds.

Double action revolvers were generally seen as the police sidearm of choice in the 1930s, though a good bit of this may be due to Depression-era finances and following the lead of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, who thought that semiautomatic pistols were tools of ‘criminals’ and not fit for law enforcement personnel.2 In military service, they tended to stick around due to post-Great War budget cuts not leaving room for new sidearms.

Revolvers do provide the advantage of letting you quickly deal with a bad cartridge by pulling the trigger again, rather than having to clear a jam. For this reason, they were commonly seen as the ‘more reliable’ option, despite having intricate, clockworklike internals. They also lack a magazine to go wrong. However, when they do go wrong, it tends to be a real bother to fix.

The biggest difference between the two revolvers is that the Smith has a swing-out cylinder, which you’re probably familiar with from more recent revolvers, whilst the Webley has a top-break design. With a low-pressure cartridge like the .455 Webley, the design choice really doesn’t matter all that much. As more powerful cartridges were developed, the ease of making a sturdy frame with a swing-out cylinder meant that design became the standard. There might be a small reload margin in favor of the Webley, since it automatically ejects spent cartridges, but that’s a minor one. The particular hand ejector used in the film had a shortened barrel, which might be a little handier.

As for the choice of firearms, they’re both pretty reasonable. They are duty pistols in a good caliber, and you could certainly do a lot worse. Of course, my preference during the era would be for an M1911A1. No surprise there. I’m quite fond of Old Slabsides. Despite the capacity disadvantage, I much prefer the handling characteristics, trigger characteristics, and lack of magazine safety of the 1911 when compared to the Browning Hi-Power. Also, being limited to 1930s ammo (i.e. ball ammo), I’d prefer to shoot .45.

  1. The other two rounds are the .45 ACP and the 10 mm Auto. 
  2. Though, of course, plenty of such semiautomatic pistols were used by G-Men, especially in the early days when equipment was less standardized. 

TTPs: The Scan and Assess

One of the most oft-derided things to come out of tactical training is the scan and assess. It’s also a great illustrator of why watching a bunch of tactical videos on youtube is a bad idea. Taken out of context, both good and bad ideas all seem stupid. Or brilliant. Or both. With proper context and explanation, one can determine if something is actually good or if it’s dumb. And let’s face it, the scan and assess is really easy to mock.

But let’s talk about it, because it’s got a lot of value if done correctly.

Everyone says they ought to have Situational Awareness (TM). And, everyone claims to have great Situational Awareness. Like driving, most people suck at situational awareness. It’s not something you can quickly switch on, or something that’s easy to teach. It’s the kind of thing that you have to practice, usually with drills.

When you’re shooting, you get focused on the target (and your front sight). That’s what you’re oriented on. And it’s really easy, especially under some stress or when the goal is speed to focus on the drill too much. Maybe run things by rote. Supposing we’re thinking about training for something defensive, this tunnel vision will get a bit counterproductive.

The idea of the scan is to look around and break out of the tunnel vision. Notice I said look. Not shake your head around with a neck spasm. Look. See things. That bad guy you shot. Is he out of the fight? Does he need more shooting? What about around you? Does he have some friends? What about you? Are you hit? Does your gun need some ammo management?

It’s really easy to cheat the scan, flip the head around a few times, call it good, and then get back to growing that tactical beard. You’re missing the point. Like reholstering, there’s no prizes for doing this fast.

It’s a lot more fun to do this with a friend. Have a friend stand behind you. Maybe have that friend hold up some fingers. Or hold them out at his sides. And then check if you actually saw those fingers. Do you know how many he held up? Did he have something in his hands? Was it car keys? Are you looking?

Looking around slowly and breathing is a great way to start to bring those stress levels down. If you’re training hard, you’ll sometimes need a breather. Make it work for you.

Is there anyone in the parking lot? Maybe your buddy’s coming to test his new blaster. Maybe some sketchy guy is looking to score a free gun. Are you looking?

In addition to your surroundings, you might need some minding. You might have been hit and not know it. Your weapon has less ammo than when you started. Maybe you should see to that. Especially in classes, or if you’re working timed drills, executing the drill as written is important. If the drill doesn’t require a reload, and you haven’t been doing it with a reload, then a reload is going to throw off your times.

Someone is going to be along to quote the importance of a reload to me. Fine. Nevermind that actual CCW permitholder gunfights and the vast majority of Officer Involved Shootings don’t involve a reload. You’re going to have to reload, so you should learn to do it right. And there are plenty of drills that call for a reload, just so you can practice it. But if you’re doing some Mozambique drills, and you’re looking at by the book par times, those don’t count a reload. So keep your gun prepped. It’s a good thing to do in class too, if you’re not drilling reloads, for the same reason. Keeping that gun topped off lets you execute the drills as instructed. Are you looking?


I’ve complained before about the lack of modern American antiship missile options. Finally, the rebuilding Chinese Navy has gotten Lockheed Martin to answer the call. Building upon their excellent AGM-158 JASSM air-launched cruise missile, Lockheed has made a new antiship missile that checks pretty much all of the boxes I might have and then some.

The LRASM (Long Range AntiShip Missile) is based on the AGM-158B JASSM-ER. It’s low-observable for both infrared and radar sensors, and comes with a nice 1,000 lb. penetrating blast fragmentation warhead. It flies at a medium altitude towards the target, then dives for a sea-skimming terminal attack. While it has good range, estimated at about 350 nautical miles, this is rather less than the 500 nautical miles or so that the AGM-158B can manage, and most of that is due to the fancy new multimode seeker system.

LRASM comes with a fancy multimode imaging infrared and active radar homing seeker system, to help it find ships and not be spoofed by decoys. It also includes a datalink for external targeting information, and the inertial/GPS navigation system that you’d expect to find on a cruise missile. While the launch platform can designate targets for it, the LRASM is also capable of searching for targets autonomously. It can also pull targeting data from its radar warning receivers and passive RF sensors. This formidable sensor suite gives LRASM excellent targeting capability, and a wide variety of attack options for the commander.

Since JASSM and JASSM-ER are both air-launched platforms, the US Navy originally envisioned LRASM, and will initially deploy it, as an air-launched weapon. It’s being integrated onto F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and B-1B Lancers. The Lancers are noteworthy for being able to carry 24 AGM-158Cs, and give a long-range land-based naval attack capability to the United States for the first time in a while. However, testing showed that by adding the booster used on Lockheed Martin’s RUM-139 VL-ASROC, LRASM could be launched from Mk. 41 VLS tubes. This would give Mk 41 equipped ships the ability to easily be configured to have a formidable surface attack capability, and would remove the need for supplemental harpoon launchers.

LRASM is a modified land-attack cruise missile, and it has been tested against land targets in addition to ships. Its targeting systems work just as well against land targets. Right now, its range is less than ideal as a land-attack missile, but there are proposals to trade some warhead weight for more fuel to increase the range. Having one missile type for surface vessel attack and land attack would considerably simplify supply for the US Navy ships.

What do we think? It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Low observability and an excellent targeting system are excellent features. Few current antiship missiles (from any country) actually take advantage of low-observability features. Plus, it’s great that it can be used from both aircraft and standard Mk. 41 VLS tubes. We’d buy lots as soon as they get put on the market.