Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jul. 8, 2020)

Still busy here, hence the double delay in getting this done. Maybe when the project I’m working on at the office slows down? But then, I have several other ones lined up afterward, so maybe not. (I guess I’d rather be busy than the alternative.)

Hong Kong

  • China forced an oppressive state security law through Hong Kong’s government, laying the groundwork to fully tear down the two-systems… system.
  • UK offers British citizenship to three million Hong Kongers eligible for British National Overseas passports – We’ll take the ones who like guns, if Britain doesn’t want them.
  • I saw it said on Twitter that one distinction we in the West should be careful about is this: the sentiment in Hong Kong is more in favor of autonomy (as part of China) than it is about independence (from China). … for now, at any rate. The seed that became the United States was an argument over representation. Look where we are now.

Defense

Technology

Guns

Rule the Waves 2: To March, 1938

Before we dive in, some Soapbox news: we’ll have a double-length What We’re Reading next week.

It’s been a little while since the last one, but wars take a lot of time to write up.

Still aglow with national pride over the last victory, the fleet swings south out of Brest for the Mediterranean coast.

Or would, except I can’t move ships out of Europe because of the blockade.

July 1937

… starts by generating three battles in the Baltic Sea, within range of German land-based air and without anywhere to run. No thank you.

1850 surrendered victory points later, I come across a battle I’m willing to take a chance on: a cruiser action in the Bay of Biscay.

On the plus side, our ‘cruiser force’ is a pair of 12″, 27-knot battleships, Rouen and Nancy. Their armor is much better than that of the German cruiser force, so we may be able to sink some ships.

Also joining us are the carriers Joffre and Bearn, but the weather is cloudy, and the day begins at 5:30 p.m. It being summer, there’s enough time for one strike, once we’ve spotted the enemy.

Or there would be, if the fleets found each other. The Germans, steaming in for the west, were outside scouting range.

August 1937

001-army

With the budget they so rudely stole from us (granted, with our consent), the army does its part in the land war.

002-radar

We now have radar! We’ll get a certain number of sets each month, which will be installed on ships in approximate order of size.

That good news is somewhat tempered (by which I mean obliterated) by the greatest disaster of the war so far.

003-joffre

With the money the army returned after their successful offensive, I lay down Fratnernité, the second in the Liberté class of fleet carriers, as a replacement. (I suppose Egalité ought to have come next. Oops.)

September 1937

… starts with a carrier battle against the Germans, a fight we should probably win.

The weather is overcast, however, and we only have five and a half hours until dusk. We’ll see what comes of it.

4:18 p.m.

Scouts from Brest report a pair of German light cruisers 250 miles to the west. It’s much too far to get planes there before dusk, however, so the play here is to hover around Brest overnight, then see if we can’t tag them in the morning. (This is a carrier battle, so we get 1800 minutes—more than a full day—to get our strikes in the air.)

004-battle
Note the blue dot well out to sea to the west.

3:37 a.m.

It was a good thought, but gale-force winds and drizzle will prevent us from getting planes airborne this morning. There’s still time for the weather to change, though.

September 1937, continued

The carrier battle was a draw, but news reaches French ears of strikes and anti-war demonstrations in Germany, which can only be good news for us.

The Americans contribute some, sinking the German cruiser Cöln in a battle we aren’t a party to.

Our battleships Lyon, Suffren, and Marengo now have radar, along with the carrier Bearn and a random destroyer.

October 1937

The light cruiser Linois embarks on a raid of Austrian coastal shipping, with a screen of four destroyers.

It’s a hectic day. Thanks to air reconnaissance, we know where the Austrian patrols are, and are able to dart in and knock out a pair of merchants before the patrols can react. They do, however, catch up to us on the way back, sinking the 1920-vintage destroyer Oriflamme.

November 1937

A relatively quiet month. Land-based aircraft from Brest have a chance at getting stuck in against a German cruiser squadron, but fail to find a target in the shortened day.

December 1937

We might have a chance at taking down a German cruiser. In the Mediterranean, we have rough parity in forces with the Germans—us, because we can’t move ships out of Europe, them because their ships don’t have the range. We’re twenty miles from fifty strike planes at our airbases in Durazzo and Valona, and our lone heavy cruiser Latoche-Treville is approximately a match for the German cruisers.

Unfortunately, the German cruiser escapes despite a number of successful air attacks by our land-based forces (for once). We do bag the accompanying German light cruiser, which is enough to make it a victory.

January 1938

The Austrians invade Tunisia, of all the indignities, and there’s nothing we can do about it because the whole fleet is bottled up in Europe.

The battle of the month is a large enemy coastal raid. Opposiing it are two older French battleships, Rouen and Nancy, our 30-knot ship Magenta, and one of our 26-knot 14″ battleships Ocean. The carriers are also on the field, but the battle kicks off just as twilight is approaching, so they won’t be much use to begin with. For the moment, they anchor behind the minefields at La Rochelle.

7:53 p.m.

Nancy, equipped with a radar set, announces an unknown contact at a range of five miles. Cautiously, the fleet turns that way.

7:58 p.m.

It turns out to be a French merchant plying the coastal trade.

8:52 p.m.

Continuing what has thus far been a tense night, the destroyer Arc reports sinking a submarine.

10:40 p.m.

Guns echo off the coast near La Rochelle, and Bearn‘s radar set reports a ghostly contact.

12:27 a.m.

Requin reports the radar contact this time, 30 miles southwest from La Rochelle.

12:46 a.m.

It’s an enemy destroyer. It gets off a spread of torpedoes, one of which sinks the old light cruiser Cosmao. Another hits Ocean, but her torpedo protection system absorbs the blow.

1:09 a.m.

The fleet reports radar contacts to the northeast, at least three or four.

1:15 a.m.

006

Make that five. I don’t think the Germans have radar yet, so I’m going to poke my nose in a bit and see what they have at sea.

1:36 a.m.

The answer is, as far as I can tell, a lot.

3:00 a.m.

I was inclined to leave the Germans alone, until they started driving hard for one of my precious carriers. A knife fight ensues.

007

It ends with the fleets turning away from each other, avoiding torpedoes. Each of the fleets takes a torpedo hit or two. The French battle line drops to about 20 knots.

5:08 a.m.

That brief knife fight leads into another one, nearer the end of the night.

008

7:03 a.m.

Eager to perhaps pounce on any German stragglers, I keep the French battleships close at hand.

As dawn sweeps across the sea, it appears the Germans had the same idea: six dreadnought-type ships to our four, at close ranges where French gunnery and the French preference for heavy deck armor are rendered irrelevant by the sheer weight of broadside from the German ships.

It goes poorly.

010

10:16 a.m.

A brief moment of hope in late morning, as sixty strike planes launch from various airbases along the Channel coast, gives way to final despair. Clouds roll in low over the sea, and though the boom of German guns still echoes along the coast near La Rochelle, the pilots can’t spot their targets to make attacks.

I probably ought to have run for it earlier, but got a bit too greedy in trying to press what I perceived as an advantage. Turned out that it was not an advantage at all.

011-loss

Sadly, this more or less erases our victory against Germany earlier in the war—we’re back to a deficit in dreadnought ships, and the war score is just about even. (We’re a few thousand points in the lead.)

February 1938

Austria attacks a convoy trying to resupply Tunisia. Despite a huge inferiority in forces, I think I want to play this one out—we have a large superiority in land-based air in this part of the theater, which might work out this time, and I want to do everything I can to support the ground forces in Tunisia.

And, thanks to a change made in a recent patch whereby the AI considers local air superiority in deciding whether to accept battle, Austria declines battle.

The next option: a fleet battle against Germany near Jutland, which I think I am going to decline. I’m a bit gun-shy, for one. For another, it’s much too close to Germany’s land-based air and a bit further from mine than I’d like.

The next one is a German coastal raid, similar to the one I just lost. I think I will play this one out, although I’m going to be extremely careful with the fleet. If the weather’s not fit for air attacks, I’ll just steam away from the coast.

012-battle

This one starts at twilight in the same region as the last one, and suggests I need an airbase at either St. Nazaire or La Rochelle. The plan is to steam south overnight, and find the Germans in the morning.

There’s a stiff breeze, but the weather is otherwise clear, which bodes well for getting some carrier-striking action in. The wind is out of the north, however, which will make it difficult for my carriers to make headway to the south when there are air operations going. They have to turn into the wind to launch and recover planes.

7:28 a.m.

Oops. It’s the dawn twilight, not the dusk twilight. Well, I’ll get the strike planes loaded up, and hopefully we’ll have some bombs on some German battleships to take revenge for our losses in the previous raid.

7:51 a.m.

Enemy floatplanes buzz overhead. At about the same time, spotting reports come in, putting the enemy about 90 miles to the northwest. This spotting report is only for a few battlecruisers and cruisers, likely a scouting force ahead of the main body. Not that I’m going to complain about sinking battlecruisers instead of battleships, if it comes to that.

I launch strikes from all three light carriers, a total of 42 planes. I’m reserving Bearn‘s Sunday punch, the largest of the bunch, for a few minutes, in case a better spotting report comes in.

7:59 a.m.

013-spotting

It does. This one says there are some light carriers at sea. That’s where Bearn‘s planes will go.

8:28 a.m.

The strikers are airborne and en route. Here’s hoping they shoot straight today.

8:51 a.m.

A little concerningly, the enemy is closer than I expected, only about 40 miles away.

8:56 a.m.

The bombs start to fall: a German cruiser takes two hits from our dive bombers’ 1000lb numbers, and a ship of unknown type takes three torpedo hits.

9:02 a.m.

Bearn‘s strike arrives, hitting a destroyer with two 1000lb bombs and a battleship with three, and getting some torpedoes off to boot.

9:04 a.m.

Five torpedoes find their mark, along with another bomb.

9:24 a.m.

The first strike is on its way back. In the meantime, seven German torpedo bombers make it through the French CAP, but withering fire from the French battleships drives them off. Only Rouen comes close to taking hits.

9:46 a.m.

The first wave starts to land. It may only be February, but there’s more than enough daylight to get a second wave up, and I think we have enough of a southward sprint to make it relatively safe even with the German fleet bearing down on us.

9:59 a.m.

The last of the strike planes unspools the arrestor cables as it sets down on deck, while land-based strikes from Brest and Cherbourg approach the enemy ships.

014

They’ve come from a long way off.

10:22 a.m.

While the carrier crews, having rearmed their planes with admirable alacrity, get the second wave of strikes spotted to the deck, land-based torpedo bombers take a crack at an enemy light carrier, hitting it once.

10:33 a.m.

015

Level bombing rarely works against ships, but some flying boats out of Brest make it happen.

10:48 a.m.

The second wave of strikes is on its way up.

Our new Bloch dive bombers have very long range for the era, which is why I got this popup for planes out of Cherbourg.

016

When our Liberté-class carriers enter service, hopefully we’ll see more of this sort of thing.

10:52 a.m.

The bombers report six hits on cruisers and six on carriers. Out of 14 bombers, that’s either spectacular accuracy or awful bomb damage assessment.

11:23 a.m.

The second strike from the carriers arrives, a bit less well-coordinated than the first wave. The torpedo bombers nevertheless acquit themselves well, scoring four hits on dreadnought-size ships and one on a cruiser.

11:55 a.m.

The dive bombers, a bit tardy, now arrive on the scene, planting four bombs onto cruisers and one on a carrier.

11:59 a.m.

017

Spotting reports are now placing the enemy within the minefields at La Rochelle. As soon as we have strike planes to launch at them, I’m going to launch a third wave, which should just fit in before dusk.

12:25 p.m.

Dixmude and Arromanches, our elder light carriers, are a bit ahead of the game, and launch a strike a few minutes before Bruix and Bearn see their planes land.

12:34 p.m.

Bombers from Brest attack a German carrier heading northwest, away from the action, and score a hit or two. Perhaps they managed to sink her.

At the same time, German dive bombers approach Bearn, which is currently busily striking planes below to rearm them. Or, perhaps not—her air wing has taken heavy losses, and is down to only six effective bombers, thanks to an afternoon recon launch. Perhaps it’s time to let her pilots take a breather.

1:14 p.m.

After 45 minutes, I realize that the ‘Carrier Name has X aircraft torpedoes remaining!’ popup dialogs I saw when prepping the strikes were not advisories but exceptions. Correcting it by loading the torpedo bombers with standard bombs, I finally get the strikes moving. Because the enemy is so close, the strikes will still arrive in time to return before dusk.

1:54 p.m.

40 minutes later, the last wave of planes is airborne.

The battleships head northward, in hopes of perhaps catching a German straggler or two before nightfall.

2:23 p.m.

018

It might even pay off. The last wave spots enemies a mere 27 miles from our battle line, and goes in for the attack.

2:32 p.m.

A trio of Arromanches‘ dive bombers pull off a picture-perfect attack, rolling over one after the other, pulling into steep approaches, and planting three bombs in a row on an enemy battlecruiser.

2:36 p.m.

As the strike aircraft head back to their carriers, the light cruiser Voltaire, playing scout for the battleship line, spots an unidentified enemy ship.

019

2:46 p.m.

020

The greatest of prizes: a carrier, soon to be in range of battleship guns.

3:09 p.m.

Dive bombers from Brest attack a German light carrier, scoring a number of hits.

The carrier upon which our battleships are closing in begins to open the range. It makes sense that carrier would be faster.

3:20 p.m

Still, there are targets worth shooting at.

021

The gun action begins. Suffren lands a blow on one of two German battlecruisers at a range of more than 28,000 yards.

3:26 p.m.

The destroyer Pique identifies both of the German ships: a Derfflinger type, from 1917, and one of the modern Lützows, which would be a great feather in our cap.

3:38 p.m.

This is the first battle in which we truly see the benefit of the all-forward main armament. Our new-style battleships Marengo, Courbet, and Suffren are each bringing their full battery of eight guns to bear.

4:04 p.m.

Marengo is going to get the lion’s share of the credit for the Lützow. A long-range hit from her 16″ guns hits the German battlecruiser’s engine room. Steam boils up from her hull in a vast cloud.

4:26 p.m.

A flash fire in the Lützow‘s turret breaks her in two. Damage to the Derfflinger is beginning to tell, as well, as the hits from the French battle line, hungry for vengeance, begin to come faster.

5:01 p.m.

As twilight sweeps over the field of battle, the Derfflinger is a burning pyre, rocking in the waves, engines dead. The French fleet turns away from an incoming destroyer attack, but a moment too late—Marengo and Lyon take torpedo hits. Neither appear to be fatal, and with a victory assured, I can take the luxury of slowing down to limit flooding and turning for home.

5:48 p.m.

Nightfall. French destroyers circle the stricken Derfflinger, pouring torpedoes into her battered hull until she rolls over and sinks.

10:22 p.m.

I had intended that to be the end of this battle report, but radar yields an unexpected coda.

022

With the battle line a bit battered, I signal for the destroyers to have a go with torpedoes.

The Germans have the same idea, and in a wild nighttime battle, they get the better of us. Miraculously, even though Lyon and Rouen, older ships with poor torpedo protection already lightly damaged, take several hits each, both appear content to stay afloat.

There was a carrier with the Germans, but with our line slowed by damage, we don’t have much chance of catching it. We settle for beating the tar out of a destroyer.

12:39 a.m.

I had intended that to be the end of this battle report, but once again, radar intervenes.

A contact just south of the fleet turns out to be the German light carrier from earlier, damaged by bomb attacks earlier in the day. With the most heavily damaged battleships already on the way back to port, I’m left with four ships fit for action and capable of 23 knots. The carrier is faster, until the battleship shells find their marks.

023

It is a deeply unfair fight.

Results

And a deeply unfair result, but in our favor, so I’m not going to complain. Three German dreadnoughts are on the bottom of the Bay of Biscay now: the battleship Hannover, and the battlecruisers Hindenburg and Graf Spee. Alongside them are the heavy cruser Prinz Heinrich and the light carriers Weser and Jade, plus a pair of destroyers. French losses amount to one patrol boat and four merchants, along with varying degrees of damage to the battleship fleet.

024-win

025-map
The map is a bit confused, but you can see the battlecruiser battle at the little spur in my main force’s line, where the blue line ends.

Further rumors of mutinies and strikes in Germany and Austria reach our ears.

Plans and Intentions

Germany is still blockading us, so there’s not much war planning to do beyond ‘hope for good carrier weather and sink more battleships’. Intelligence suggests we’re winning the battle of the home front. Unrest in France is low. Unrest in Germany and Austria is believed to be high. We’re ahead 63,603 to 41,969 in war score. An airbase is currently building at La Rochelle, to improve our land-based coverage of the central Bay of Biscay.

We do, however, have some construction choices to make soon. Currently in the shipyards are Solferino (finished in one month), a 30-knot, 14″-gun battleship; Liberté (five months) and Fraternité, 90-plane fleet carriers; and four modern 2000-ton destroyers (5-6 months).

That is to say, we’ll have two budget slots for capital ships in the near future. I plan on using one to build Egalité, completing the set. With the other slot, should we build another battleship, build another carrier, build heavy cruisers, build light forces, or build submarines?

Gear Review: Double Alpha Dry-Fire Practice Mag

If you want to get better at shooting, you take the time to practice gun handling skills in dry fire. One such handling skill is reloading your pistol. It’s pretty easy to practice with the magazines that you normally use, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that you never reload your pistol with an empty magazine.

To add some more verisimilitude to your practice, you could make (or buy) some dummy rounds and load your mag with those. Or, you could get Double Alpha’s new practice magazines.

I picked some up for my open pistol, which is a 2011-type racegun. 2011 magazines aren’t cheap, so I don’t have as many of them as I’d like. The Double Alpha practice magazines fit great in my gun and my mag pouches. Even though I have a newer, convex magwell, I did not need to file or dremel on the magazines to get them to lock in place. Since the mags have a plastic body, it would be easy to file them to fit if I had to deal with tolerance stacking issues.

The Double Alpha practice mags work as advertised, serving as stand-ins for a magazine weighted down with dummy rounds. You can’t actually load any rounds into the Double Alpha practice magazines, so there’s an extra element of safety there. Being purple plastic, they also stand out from your regular magazines.

Let’s get to value. The practice mags retail for $19.95 on Double Alpha’s website. Some value question will come down to do you care about reloading with mags that ‘feel’ loaded, and how much you value your time. If you had a bunch of spare components lying around, you could make some dummy rounds, load those up in your mags, and get to work. This would work even better if you had some old magazines lying around. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for convenience, especially in platforms with expensive magazines.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 24, 2020)

Is it time to officially move Wednesday What We’re Reading to Thursday? No, but you could be forgiven for thinking so.

The ‘Rona

Defense

Science and Technology

Games

Grab Bag

Fishbreath Shoots: Ruger Super GP100 .357 review

Ruger’s been making a big push into the competition world lately, with a USPSA Single Stack-ready 1911 and a Ruger American with slide cuts for Carry Optics. First on the menu from the recently-established Ruger Custom Shop, however, was the Super GP100 in .357 Magnum, a revolver designed from the ground up for practical shooting competitions.

I’ve had this year’s competition revolver in hand for some time now, taken it to two ranges and one match, and put a fair few rounds through it generally.

So, let’s get down to business.

The Gun

The Super GP100 is a .357 Magnum revolver1 built with competition in mind. Though it bears the GP100 name, it is in fact a hybrid design. Its frame is Redhawk-size (that is, large enough for an 8-round cylinder), but its dual-spring lockwork comes from the GP100. The cylinder locks in three places for maximum durability, and is cut down quite a bit to reduce weight.

The trick about revolvers for USPSA (this is one of them) is that an 8-round cylinder is the cost of entry. Under the rules, you can fire eight shots before reloading if you’ve declared Minor power factor, and six if you’ve declared Major. The USPSA rules further say that a stage cannot require more than eight shots from a single shooting position. Fewer than eight rounds loaded, and you have to reload flat-footed. Nobody likes that.

So, although it’s a .357 revolver, I’ll be shooting .38 Special almost exclusively2.

Size, Feel, and Look

To kick things off, it is a big gun. A 5.5″ barrel at the end of a large revolver frame makes for neither a small nor a light handgun. For its purposes, though, this is fine.

It feels pretty good in my hands. I have two minor gripes, however. One, the cylinder release is a bit hard to hit with my strong hand, and is relatively small. (I understand Ruger is working on an extended part.) Two, the stocks aren’t shaped in such a way as to fully promote a hands-high grip—the natural place to put your hands, given the contour of the stocks, is a bit too far down for the proper double-action grip. That can be fixed with aftermarket parts, however, something I may investigate later in the year.

As far as its general appearance, I find it quite handsome indeed. The diagonal cuts in the barrel shroud give it a somewhat retrofuturistic air, along with the fiber-optic front sight, but otherwise, it’s a revolver with classic revolver lines. It wouldn’t look entirely out of place on the set of Firefly, which is an aesthetic I can get behind.

Disassembly and Ease of Maintenance

I do not have very many revolvers, but the Super GP100 is middle-of-the-road on ease of disassembly. Swapping springs or removing the hammer at a match would be a no-go, although the latter is only because there are hammer shims inside to deal with3.

Of course, the manual says that no disassembly is required for basic cleaning. I suspect I’ll take them at their word, and only do the detail strip now and then.

Range Notes

Before the first match, I had two range sessions to come to grips with the gun, one at an indoor range where I did quite a poor dot torture (and ended up adjusting the zero on the sights), and one at an outdoor range with a bunch of steel plates between 15 and 30 yards.

Trigger

Pretty good, out of the box. Better than the 929 Performance Center I tried out at a different local gun store. I haven’t had the chance to play with a slicked-up Smith, so I can’t draw an exact comparison, but even with only lighter springs (no polishing), parvusimperator remarked that it felt pretty good.

The trigger scale says about 7.5lb double action and 2.5lb single action. Single action is a clean break. Double action has a bit of clickiness to it at one point, but I don’t mind.

Accuracy

More accurate than me!

It’s a revolver with a 5.5″ barrel. Not only is the sight radius correspondingly huge, but when it came back from warranty service4, the factory included a copy of the target showing a sub-1″ group at 15 yards.

Given that I’m shooting it double action in a practical shooting sport, that’s plenty sufficient.

Recoil

Tame, at least with .38 Special, which is what most people will be running through it. The gun weighs 44 ounces, plenty to soak up the pop from piddling minor loads.

Reliability

Because this is a competition gun, I didn’t even bother shooting it with stock springs. That, of course, raises questions of reliability.

Unlike my CZ P-09 race gun, which has happily consumed every load I’ve ever fed it, the Super GP100 with lightened springs (a Wolff 9lb mainspring) is a little more finicky. It happily runs on Prvi Partizan .38 Special, but handloads with decade-old CCI primers, though they were reliable in single-action, failed once or twice per cylinder in double-action. Winchester primers of the same vintage worked fine5.

One frequent complaint about .38 Special in competition revolvers is that the ejector won’t fully eject empties. I can confidently say that’s not a problem here—the ejector stroke is long enough to pop empty cases fully out of the cylinder.

Match Notes

Now, we arrive at the meat of the post. The Super GP100 is a competition gun. How can I fully review it if I don’t compete with it?

First thing’s first. Here’s the match video sans commentary. Here it is with commentary, which is probably not going to be too interesting to people without USPSA knowledge ahead of time.

So, how was it in match conditions? Pretty good. Although the stocks, as I mentioned earlier, aren’t quite shaped how I’d like them to be for the grip I want, they’re perfectly acceptable. I didn’t find myself taking the wrong grip out of the holster or off of the table starts, which is a good minimum benchmark.

You might notice in the video that I struggle with reloads in a few places. This is in part due to my inexperience and choice of the wrong basic technique6, but also in part due to the combination of factory ammo without a roll crimp and Ruger’s traditionally-tight chambers. Prvi Partizan-brand .38 Special in both the factory moon clips and the SpeedBeez version binds unless it’s dropped just so7, with the gun almost exactly vertical. Because of the taper on 9mm, it wouldn’t be a problem with the 9mm version, if you’re okay with spitting on revolver tradition8.

Match accuracy is, as I indicated earlier, just fine. I missed a few small steels at long range, but that’s on me more than it is the gun. The sights do come from the factory regulated for a 6-o’clock hold, which is fine if you like it. It’s not what I’m used to, however, especially after a long run of Carry Optics, in which you put the dot on the thing and pull the trigger, so before the next match I’m going up to the range to adjust them for a dead-on hold.

Conclusions

I’ll grant you that I’m not the best person to review competition revolvers. I only have the one, and I don’t have experience with tuned Smith & Wesson guns for comparison purposes.

That said, I’ll still put my recommendation on this one. The problems (iffy reloads with factory ammo, less-than-perfectly-ideal stocks) are relatively minor, and both easily solved (by handloads and by aftermarket grips) are smaller than the benefits (match readiness is a $5 pack of Wolff springs, not a $150 trip to a gunsmith). The value proposition is there, and the performance is nothing to sneeze at either.


  1. You can get it in 9mm too, but 9mm is not a fit caliber for a revolver, no matter what the Revolver Nationals stats say. 
  2. Because of USPSA power factor rules, I’m likely to go (in the low-power direction rather than the high-power one) to more esoteric cartridges in the future, like .38 Short Colt or custom cut-down .38 Special. 
  3. To put the hammer back in, you stick one shim to it with gun grease, put the hammer pin through that shim and into the hammer, and push the opposite shim into the frame with a piece of paper. 
  4. It came with a misaligned barrel shroud assembly. Ruger was highly accommodating, and had it turned around inside a week. 
  5. I understand that primers have been getting more sensitive over the years—thus saith the Lee reloading book, along with some random forum posters. Today’s CCI primers might work. Perhaps I’ll pick up a box at the reloading-supplies counter of the friendly local gun store. 
  6. I’m writing a post on this, too, but it comes down to gross motor movements with my dominant hand against fine motor movements with my weak hand, and I should have realized that before practicing the latter a bunch. 
  7. I bought a reloading press to solve this problem. It was always an inevitability once I started shooting competitive revolver, because you get to keep all your brass, but this is a bit ahead of schedule. Anyway, a roll crimp into the SNS Casting 158-grain coated bullets’ crimp groove drops easily9
  8. I’ve come down hard on 9mm revolvers, but it’s good-natured. If you’re considering shooting a revolver at USPSA matches, pick whatever caliber you want. (And granted, 9mm has advantages.) The division needs you. 
  9. Because I bought a gun that Just Works, like parvusimperator’s Open blaster, I have to find my tinkering where I can, and that’s evidently at the reloading bench. Next year: .38 Short Colt? 

Rule the Waves 2: To July, 1937

Well, the votes are in (not that I pay especially close attention to the tallies): there is an overwhelming consensus toward a Germany-first strategy. It’s not the strategy I would have chosen, necessarily, but I can see some of the advantages.

In particular, it might break the German blockade (we can only be blockaded in Northern Europe). Should it do so, we’ll be giving up fewer victory points turn by turn. We’re also stronger in the air in the Mediterranean relative to our foes than we are in Europe, so added hulls helps.

I start off with planning an invasion of Morocco, given that this is one of our war goals. And, with that, we’re off to the races.

February 1937

The first battle of the greater war is a cruiser action off Madagascar. The Germans have airplanes in East Africa, but they lack the range to hit us here. The balance of forces is one German cruiser against a pair of French light cruisers, one of the Lavoisier class (1912) and one of the Condillac class (1922). Sfax, our older cruiser, has a broadside of 6″ guns and a speed of 27 knots. Descartes has a 28-knot speed and a broadside of 4″ guns. I’m taking this one to the battle map, because Germany has a bunch of older heavy cruisers that we might be able to sink by way of lucky torpedoes.

The wind is a strong gale, and heavy seas limit our ships to 16 knots. This is not ideal if we happen upon the Germans, but the poor visibility means if we do, we’ll be in torpedo range almost immediately.

The weather does not improve. Rain and spray off the top of whitecaps reduce sighting ranges to, at times, less than 1000 yards.

At 5:50 p.m., approaching with the dusk behind her, a German cruiser sails in from the east. She’s a 1928 Vineta class, and probably worth running from—her armament is a bit too modern for our old cruisers to take for very long. Six 11″ guns, 12 6″ guns, and 6 4″ guns will hurt us in a hurry.

Sfax takes a hit to the engine room which slows her to 11 knots, but by then, the German cruiser’s turned south to avoid torpedoes, and the French ships have turned north to run into Diego Suarez.

It’s too late, though—the two 11″ shells which hit Sfax suffice to send the old girl to the bottom. Ships bearing the Lavoisier name account for an awful lot of the losses suffered by the French fleet.

After the battle, I am alerted by dialog box that invasion of Morocco will be impossible as long as we’re under blockade, so I guess Germany First is the right plan after all. In further news, our newest battleship Magenta strikes a mine in the Channel, and will be in the dockyards for six months. Poor timing.

The Americans, however, are coming through in a big way—they now have four dreadnoughts, three fleet carriers, and three light carriers in Europe alongside the French fleet.

March 1937

In ‘battles I might have been better off declining’, two French light cruisers and a flotilla of modern destroyers encounter a squadron of new German cruisers.

The German cruiser forces do appear to be superior to our own. An attack by the destroyers gives the light cruisers enough sea room to run away, at least as a start, at the cost of only one of their number.

While the retreat is in progress, I check the air range rings. A little more readable here in the north, they tell me that French medium bombers from Dunkerque can reach the North Sea as far as the border betwen England and Scotland. Germany’s planes have much shorter range—they can’t even reach us as we sail down the middle of the Dogger Bank.

After the battle, the new torpedo bomber prototypes hit my desk for evaluation. The Loire 126 looks like the winner—its range with a torpedo is a full 100 nautical miles greater than our previous bomber, and it can haul a 500lb bomb 454 miles.

April 1937

This month’s battle: a convoy defense in the outer Bay of Biscay, within range of medium bomber strikes. The French force centers on Nancy, one of our old Rouen-class battlecruisers rebuilt as a battleship. Her 27-knot speed makes her a valuable asset for this kind of work.

Also present is Forbin, one of our newer light cruisers, which proceeds to launch a scout floatplane.

Some time after launch, Forbin‘s scout reports a relatively heavy force: two battlecruisers, two light cruisers, and nine destroyers. We’re at par on destroyers, but behind on dreadnoughts and light cruisers, so I play this one a little more coy, hanging back near the convoy for now.

001
The enemy ships are heading northwest.

Shortly thereafter, it becomes clear that the report of Forbin‘s scout was a little misleading. Enemy aircraft pass overhead, and Forbin spots an enemy ship thirteen miles to port.

It’s a light cruiser, scouting us out. Forbin opens fire with her six forward 6″ guns, and this might be a big enough battle to get into timestamps, so…

12:16

002

The red dot in the bottom right of the screen is not Forbin’s scout, but a medium bomber flying recon out of Brest. Maybe we’ll get some land-based support.

12:27

Forbin, getting a bit closer, realizes that her target is not a light cruiser but a destroyer.

12:37

Forbin finds the range, hitting the German destroyer twice in the last three minutes.

12:56

Still running south, the destroyer’s taken enough damage now to slow it down.

13:06

003

15 miles southwest of the action, a scout from Brest reports two light cruisers heading our way. That’s a good ways north of our previous spotting report from Forbin‘s floatplane.

13:12

Six minutes later, Forbin spots another ship bearing north. The unidentified ship hits from around Forbin‘s maximum range, suggesting that it’s a light cruiser.

13:18

Six minutes after that, eight floatplanes approach Nancy, coming from the west. They look to be approaching for an attack.

13:23

No bombs hit, and AA machine guns on the battleship and her escorting destroyers wing one of the scouts.

13:26

Forbin reports large ships to the southwest, so we make an about-face until we can identify them. If they’re some of Germany’s ancient battlecruisers, we might make a fight of it. Otherwise, we’ll retire to the convoy.

13:32

An enterprising destroyer captain closes a bit with the enemy light cruiser, marking it as a Medusa-class, very slightly outclassed by our Forbin.

14:00

004-battle

The enemy force is built around what we’ve identified as a Vineta-class cruiser. I do not fully buy that—the Vineta-class is an old-time armored cruiser design with six guns in two triple turrets, one fore, one aft. The target looks like an early battlecruiser, with guns in non-superfiring double turrets, one amidships. Compare and contrast:

005
006

And flipping through the almanac, I find that it looks like a 1915-era Goeben-class.

007

I only turned on the zoomed-in inset view at the start of this playthrough because I’d committed to drawing prettier ships for the purposes of the Let’s Play and wanted to see them, but wouldn’t you know it, it’s provided some valuable tactical information.

14:13

Two new unknown ships appear just southwest of the old battlecruiser. They’ve not been identified yet.

Some German level bombers had a go at me just now. I’m not sure if that’s misidentification or what—it’s an awfully long way from the German coast. Maybe there’s a seaplane carrier around.

14:24

The two German ships appear to be more modern battlecruisers, which means it’s time to beat a retreat. Given the rough weather, Nancy is nearly as fast as they are, and French gunnery is once again proving to be better than German.

14:33

008

Only one of the two pursuing battlecruisers is modern—Lützow, a rough contemporary of Nancy, and roughly her equal. The other one is the second of the two Goebens Germany built way back when.

15:32

It’s a tense situation. The Germans aren’t closing the range, because the lightly-damaged Nancy is still as fast as the enemy Goebens—if the Germans wanted to get closer, they’d have to send Lützow by her lonesome, and that’s too fair a fight. If Nancy gets slowed down by damage very much more, it could be a very sticky situation, with dusk still two hours away.

16:27

Nancy runs out of ammunition for her aft turret slightly before a shell from Lützow penetrates its roof. One hour to dusk. I send the destroyer flotillas on a quick attack. If the Germans turn away even for a few minutes, we get away easily.

16:34

009

Well done, boys! Might even hit something with a spread like that. (Update: they do not.)

Around this time, dive bombers approach our ships, which makes me wonder if the Germans have a carrier out here somewhere. If so, unfair. Where’s my carrier? With one of those, I bet I could have done some proper damage.

17:27

Dusk approaches, but our convoy is in sight ahead, and the Germans are still prowling. We’ll loom near the convoy and, perhaps, torpedo some unwary Germans.

Aftermath

It does not come to pass, but the convoy escapes unscathed into the night, for the first French victory of the war.

The rest of the month is quiet. I grant the Army some of our budget in an effort to gain some victory points on the ground. The war at sea has been tough so far.

May 1937

010

This, now. This plays into our strengths. The Austrians, realizing this, decline battle.

The other option is a cruiser battle against Germany in the western Mediterranean, in the center of a bunch of our major air bases. I can live with that, too.

011

Latouche-Treville, our cruiser, is a solid ship—fast and reasonably armored, she also carries a pair of scout planes.

The battle turns out not to include our heavy cruiser, unfortunately, but with a little luck, maybe we’ll still bag something with air support.

Quite unfairly, it looks like the Germans get an armored cruiser while we don’t. (I guess Latouche-Treville is technically on raider duty.) Still, we have planes in the air, which will hopefully score some good hits for us.

Thanks to the comical ineptitude of our land-based air support, who utterly fail to attack an enemy formation despite passing within five miles of it (granted, it’s cloudy today, so air spotting is iffy), we lose Amiral Cecile and Durandal, a light cruiser and destroyer, and hand Germany another win.

Notably, despite our intelligence saying Germany had one cruiser and four light cruisers, we found ourselves facing off against four cruisers and one light cruiser. Good old naval intelligence.

I think I’m going to stick it out against Germany for one more month, in the hopes of getting a carrier battle, and if not, I’m going to retire to the Mediterranean, where we can beat up on the Austro-Hungarians a bit. (I expect the German fleet is largely short-ranged, which means it can’t move between map zones at war.)

June 1937

Instead of winning a carrier battle, we lose a light cruiser battle—our Lalande, intercepted while attempting to break the blockade and go on a raiding cruise, loses to a German Gazelle class. Time to move the fleet to the Mediterranean.

July 1937

Just before our ships leave, a patrol in the North Sea intercepts wireless signals suggesting the German fleet is sortieing. The forecast for the day is clear weather, light wind, and good visibility. The French carrier force is itching to get stuck in. This is their chance.

The Battle of Texel

It starts at 3:10 a.m. on June 29th, twenty minutes to sunrise. The French fleet is arrayed battleships forward, steaming northeast. The wind is out of the northeast, which might make for some tricky carrier maneuvering—the carriers will have to steam toward Norway to launch and recover planes, which means they’ll have to really sprint in between strikes and recoveries to make progress south or west.

12-battle

The main body of the German fleet is significantly slower than the French fleet. Only the newest German battleships, at 26 knots, can keep up with the French line, which is limited to 25 knots by the rebuilt Requin. (If it comes to that, we’ll leave her behind.) If we engage with guns at all, we’ll be facing off primarily against the German battlecruisers. My plan, however, is to dive due south through the Channel and past Dunkerque. By doing so, we’ll get further from German land-based air and nearer our own, and depend on the striking power of 196 carrier aircraft.

If the positioning of the enemy fleet makes that maneuver implausible, we’ll instead head northwest along the English coast—a sight to behold, no doubt, for residents of Britain’s coasts.

Recon is set up, the carriers are readying strike planes, and the battleships are cleared for action. Time for the big one.

3:25 a.m.

013-twilight

Twilight reveals the German fleet steaming in columns, much as is our own, its leading elements within gun range of the heaviest French ships. I order the turn south, and the fleet goes to maximum speed.

3:30 a.m.

Arromanches and Dixmude, our two purpose-built light carriers, are the first to get aircraft spotted for launch, at 3:28 a.m. Two minutes later, a much heftier strike from the full-size carriers Bearn and Joffre is ready for launch.

An interesting difference between carrier warfare in the North Atlantic and carrier warfare in the Pacific is time. In the summer, we have a tremendous amount of daylight to work with, enough for three or four waves of strikes. In the winter, we have barely enough time for scouting and perhaps a strike or two, to say nothing of the poor odds on good carrier weather. In the Pacific, the fighting was largely in the tropics, where the day length isn’t nearly so variable, and the weather is more uniform through the year to boot.

In the meantime, a German battlecruiser tags our battleship Marengo with a heavy gun. Happily, our predilection for heavy armor means the shell fails to penetrate.

3:48 a.m.

The German battlecruisers, despite their superior gunnery, seem not to be in the mood for a running gun battle with the full French battle line. They turn away to the east, and the battleships lose sight of them.

Back at the carriers, Arromanches and Dixmude launch their strike, a total of fourteen torpedo bombers between the two of them.

3:49 a.m.

German scouts spot the carrier force. Happily, I set CAP to ‘heavy’ with just that eventuality in mind.

3:51 a.m.

Bearn‘s strikers begin to take off.

A minute later, scouting reports confirm what we already knew about the German ships’ course and location.

014

4:09 a.m.

Bruix, our ex-heavy-cruiser light carrier, launched her 14-plane strike. Joffre, our largest and most capable carrier, slings 39 planes toward the Germans.

4:41 a.m.

015

The situation is developing. The Germans still appear to be heading northeast, away from our ships. Some of our heavier strikes might miss short, unless the pilots continue out along the heading they’re flying now..

Pilots from Dixmude and Arromanches seem to have taken the latter course, as seven torpedo bombers approach an enemy ship.

4:45 a.m.

016

Those pilots do themselves proud, radioing the current location of a German battlecruiser squadron as they begin their attack runs.

4:46 a.m.

017

They do themselves even more proud, hitting two ships with torpedoes, and strikes from Joffre and Bruix are coming up right behind them.

5:05 a.m.

018

While the battle line doubles back toward the carriers to provide close-in support and share CAP, a scouting report comes in for 10 battleships, 4 battlecruisers, and 8 cruisers—the main body of the German fleet. We may be able to launch a follow-up strike at it later.

5:10 a.m.

Joffre‘s strike closes in on the enemy. At the same time, enemy aircraft approach our battle divisions, eight dive bombers out of the east-southeast. Perhaps land-based planes?

5:13 a.m.

020

The combat log is pretty busy this time around. Of particular note is the effectiveness of the extremely heavy AA fit on our new battleships—each of them carries 20 4″ dual-purpose guns with directors, except for Suffren, built 1927, which only carries 18, because of the naval treaty in effect at the time.

5:14 a.m.

The good news continues to roll in. Our machines score another two torpedo hits, then two bomb hits on a heavy cruiser.

5:17 a.m.

We score three more torpedo hits. At least some of these are probably on battleships and battlecruisers.

5:30 a.m.

A few torpedo bombers approach the French battle line, but heavy AA fire prevents them from launching accurately. Marseilles has to put her rudder hard over, but manages to dodge, which is good. She predates torpedo protection.

The enemy fleet appears to be in more or less the same places, according to scouting reports.

6:21 a.m.

Recovery of the morning strike is delayed somewhat by an air attack on our carriers. Bruix, a ship without an armored flight deck, takes the brunt of it, losing a bit of speed and catching fire.

6:27 a.m.

Bruix‘s damage control parties very quickly put the fire out. Her planes prepare to land and patch the deck sufficiently for her to continue air operations.

Back out toward the German fleet, a bomber launch from an hour or so ago (Joffre had a few more planes left, so I decided to send them out), finds targets.

6:47 a.m.

021

With the Germans evidently on the run, and German aircraft perhaps in the air headed for our fleet, I decide now is a good time to double back to the northwest. It’ll confuse their targeting, and make for a shorter trip for our second-wave strike.

Which is still going to be pretty substantial—Joffre and Bearn can scrape together 35 planes.

Were I the German admiral, knowing I have a vastly superior battleship force, I might have tried my luck at pushing hard toward the French fleet, powering past the battleships, and seeing if I could reach the carriers.

6:58 a.m.

Bruix gets into the action too.

Dixmude and Arromanches ship some of our new Bloch MB.122 dive bombers, with their long range and heavy striking power. Those planes, owing to their high speed and long range, played scout earlier in the battle, and some of them are landing now. The two sibling light carriers will hold off on a second strike until they can include some 1000lb bombs from above.

7:05 a.m.

It looks like they’ve all landed, so time to get them back in the air.

7:15 a.m.

Some dive bombers off of Dixmude which I’d forgotten about locate an enemy battleship and plant a 1000lb bomb on it. Thus ends our first wave of strikes.

7:31 a.m.

The second wave is getting in the air, due to arrive on target in the next hour to hour and a half.

7:51 a.m.

022

Strikes are on the way.

8:25 a.m.

The first of the second wave of strikes has spotted enemy ships. Unfortunately, we’re at the very edge of our old-time dive bombers’ range—the North American Dolphin can only carry a 300lb bomb 120 miles, so they won’t be doing much damage. Hopefully the torpedo bombers can repeat their superb performance from earlier in the day.

8:38 a.m.

It looks like Joffre‘s strike is going to take a crack at things next.

8:51 a.m.

As the smoke clears, Joffre‘s tally is three bomb hits and two torpedoes, all on dreadnought-type ships.

9:01 a.m.

Bruix joins the fun with three bomb hits on a light cruiser and one on a destroyer.

9:05 a.m.

Adding to her renown, a torpedo bomber from Bruix hits a battleship. Between the effectiveness of this last strike and her adroit damage control earlier in the day, Bruix might be second MVP beyond Joffre.

9:07 a.m.

023

What an enterprising pilot! Give him a medal of some kind. I don’t know my French medals well enough to say what’s appropriate. Pour some kind of le mérite. Wait, that’s a German one. L’Ordre du mérite français, pas du mérite allemand?

9:27 a.m.

That fighter pilot who decided to take a little strafing run appears to be the last action of the second wave.

It may be worth launching a third wave, even. The enemy may be heading for port, but the last few spotting reports have them heading southwest instead of southeast, and the worst that can happen is that there’s nothing to be found and the strikes just come home.

10:52 a.m.

Big time jump! Nothing happened, except planes landed. Four of our five carriers prepare a third and final wave. We’re right on the edge of our effective range, about 150 nautical miles from the last sighting of the German fleet. In particular, that means the Dolphin dive bombers are of no use, so this will be a torpedoes-only strike.

11:29 a.m.

Dixmude and Arromanches get their planes aloft first. Others follow shortly thereafter.

1:12 p.m.

After a quiet flight out skirting the Dutch coast, the first strike planes spot enemy ships.

1:16 p.m.

Bearn‘s planes torpedo a battleship three times. Shortly after, while the German AA gunners attempt to crank their turrets skyward, two 1000lb bombs hit home, and a third finds a heavy cruiser’s deck.

1:26 p.m.

Joffre joins in the fun. Her torpedo bombers nail a battlecruiser twice.

1:29 p.m.

German medium bombers tangle with the French task force’s CAP, much to their own detriment.

024

The decision to go with a heavier CAP seems to be paying dividends—German air attacks have been largely ineffective today.

1:33 p.m.

Joffre‘s bombers score six hits, a brilliant display of piloting prowess.

1:47 p.m.

Arromanches‘ dive bombers, the modern Bloch type, round out the day with three hits to a battlecruiser.

Spotting reports suggest the enemy is now entering the Ems delta, on the way to the port of Emden. There will be no fourth wave.

Aftermath

It is a glorious day for France, mes amis.

025

We sink Hessen and Schwaben, two modern German battleships of 35,000 and 38,000 tons, against a mere handful of aircraft losses. (The Germans lost more!)

Aircraft losses tell an interesting story. The Germans did better on AA than we did, but that seems to be because French naval aviation leans much more heavily on torpedo bombers than do their German counterparts. Not only are torpedo bombers inherently more vulnerable than dive bombers to AA, because they have to fly low and slow to deploy their weapons, our torpedo bombers were engaged three separate times with the larger part of the German battle line.

I suspect that the lone aircraft lost aboard a ship was one of Bruix‘s bombers, destroyed when she took the bomb hit early in the day.

Prior to this battle, we trailed in victory points 6,800 to 2,200. Now, we lead by…

21,080 to 8,071. What a turnaround! A big win like that gives us a lot more leeway to continue the war; losing little dink-and-dunk battles pales in comparison to the importance of sinking capital ships.

That said, we didn’t actually sink that many German ships. The fleet power comparison in Northern Europe is a bit less tilted in the Germans’ favor. We sank two battleships and put three more into the yards for repairs, and they’re down a battlecruiser, too. Their battleship, battlecruiser, and cruiser force still dramatically outnumbers our own.

Plans and Intentions

I didn’t make it that far into the two-year standard update this week, what with the war on, but this seems like a good place to stop for the moment, with a victory behind us.

The Battle of Texel proves that we can deal serious damage to the German fleet, provided conditions are right: fleet battles in good carrier weather. On the other hand, the Germans have been beating us across the board in smaller actions, and if the battle fleets come into direct contact, I would expect it to go badly for us.

I still think I plan to move the fleet to the Mediterranean. As I mentioned above, the German fleet is probably mostly short-ranged, which means that it punches above its weight for a given tonnage, but can’t move from its current deployment zone. The Austrian fleet is probably also short-ranged, come to think of it, but France has outclassed Austria on budget grounds for long enough that I think we can still take them in a much wider spectrum of battles than ‘pound them from 150 miles with carrier planes’.

I will, of course, listen to dissenting opinions, but that’s how I lean now. Because of the German blockade in Northern Europe, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to take Morocco by invasion without winning at least a few more major battles.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 17, 2020)

I’ve gotten stuck a day late, it seems.

USPSA

  • The first match of the year is in the books – Here’s the video with commentary, if you miss the podcast, and here’s one without.

The ‘Rona

Defense

  • France just test-fired a new SLBM
  • Indian and Chinese soldiers fight with rocks and sticks – I don’t think it’s quite what Einstein meant when he said that thing about the weapons used in the fourth world war. Fascinating nevertheless. “We can’t use guns, because it’ll start a bigger war, but we still have to fight,” is an interesting tactical position. Odds on a bigger China-India spat in, say, the next five years?
  • Canada to upgrade its CF-18s with AIM-9X, new radars – That guy with the private air force must be devastated to see that a good source of jets is not yet on the table.
  • Stryker cannon competition still healthy, Army boss says – Two of the six companies contracted to provide 30mm remote control turrets are confirmed to have dropped out. To be fair, the design contract spots you a Stryker and a 30mm cannon, but makes you provide the turret and all the control electronics, and unless you think you’ve got a good shot at winning, the $150,000 figure for the initial design contract seems a little skimpy.
  • Surprising nobody, Chinese shipyards could probably outpace American ones in replacing warship losses – In the Chinese column: a lot of indigenous shipyard capacity not currently being used for warships. In the Allies-For-Democracy column: three of the five largest civilian shipbuilders in the world. (South Korea: 1st. Japan: 3rd. Philippines: 4th.) We might also secure ‘Nam, in 5th, depending on the nature of a hypothetical war with China. Back in the Chinese column: all of those shipyards are in easy strike range of the mainland.
  • Cato: how dependent is the US on foreign supply chains, anyway? – They answer three questions: what percentage of US GDP comes from foreign trade? (A low one, relative to the world at large—only Cuba and Sudan get a lower percentage of GDP from trade.) What percentage of US manufacturing inputs are sourced from foreign suppliers? (9% from China alone, but they don’t say which 9%, exactly1, or what kind of inputs we’re talking about.) What percentage of US exports depend on foreign inputs? (9.5%.) Not as dire as I might have thought.

Science and Technology

Grab Bag


  1. I was going to use semiconductor fabs as an example, but the Wikipedia page suggests the US isn’t actually doing badly at all in that field. Intel and GlobalFoundries, of course, but also a number of smaller suppliers with good, small-process-size fabs out there. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 10, 2020)

How is it already the end of early June? April and May just sort of vanished, after March lasted eleven thousand years.

Coronavirus

Defense

Guns

Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1937

February 1935

001-treaty

Well, so much for that plan about attacking Austria, unless maybe we can rope Britain in on our side.

March 1935

Solferino, the next in the Magenta line of 30-knot battleships, goes to the yards. She’s a slightly-modified version of Magenta, with a bit more armor and a bit more main gun ammunition.

May 1935

With the big destroyer order finished, I retired some of the increasingly-elderly Harpons and put the money toward a few foreign-service light cruisers. We still have three extremely-elderly Chateaurenaults (built 1903-1905) overseas, so I figure a few newer ships are probably in order.

002-lalande

Even if we don’t actually care about much beyond the Mediterranean, it’s nice to have cruisers that we can bring home to some actual effect. Too, these cruisers have about twice the tonnage for the same maintenance, so we’ll need fewer ships overseas and can therefore retire some of the older ones. As has been traditional with overseas cruisers, she has light guns. This one’s a bit faster than preceding iterations, however, and carries a seaplane so she’s not entirely useless in fleet combat.

July 1935

Tensions with Germany are decreasing, which is good. I’m not quite sure how the alliance mechanic works between the AI countries, or whether we can knock Germany out of its alliance with Austria by diplomatic means (by which I mean the game’s random event system).

October 1935

The British finally crush an ongoing rebellion in Zanzibar. Tensions with Austria are decreasing slightly, which is not, as I see it, necessarily a bad thing.

I take the opportunity to expand our airbases in the neighborhood of our potential foes—Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary.

November 1935

003-rebels

Germany, having gotten on our bad side with this Austro-Hungarian alliance, now gets to see the error of its ways.

January 1936

I confess, I was a little concerned it wasn’t going to happen at all, but at long last—

004-dive-bombers

Dive bombers!

Time to get a native French design going. I put the word out to the aircraft manufacturers.

On the subject of French designs, Magenta will be entering service in two months, so I start on a design study for Liberté, our new 35,000-ton, 90-plane carrier.

005-liberte
Regrettably, the art does not live up to the name, but drawing carriers is hard.

February 1936

Anti-naval protests in Britain coincide with a rebellion in Malta. It would be a tremendous feather in the French cap to snag that from the British—nearly as much as taking Gibraltar would.

May 1936

Those German rebels we supported won their fight for independence.

July 1936

006-treaty

Some historical friends of France come knocking with an extremely compelling offer. Budget impact notwithstanding, I’m happy to say ‘yes’.

August 1936

We select Bloch’s dive bomber prototype, with 30 knots of speed and an extra 120 miles of range over our existing North American Dolphin, to say nothing of a vastly improved bomb load. To put it another way, the forthcoming Bloch MB.122 can carry a 1,000-lb bomb 50 miles further than the old plane could carry a 300-lb bomb.

While Bloch goes from ‘prototype’ to ‘production’, I ask the design bureaus for a new torpedo bomber—ours dates to 1932, and with wars seeming likely in the next few years, up-to-date aircraft will be a major advantage.

December 1936

The perfidious Austrians have attempted to torpedo a French ship in peacetime!

007

Or at least, that’s what we’re saying.

And, at long last, we get a war. Not exactly the war we wanted, but it’ll do. Germany and Austria-Hungary face off against France and the United States.

Our existing corvettes and corvette-like destroyers are sufficient in number to cover our trade protection requirements, so the whole of the fleet is active. I really want to get a battle in this update if I can, so I’m going to run the war for a month, fight in January (if it’s wise), and then we’ll consult on strategy.

January 1937: The Battle of Durazzo

A destroyer action against the Austro-Hungarians. Their destroyers remain slightly more advanced than our own, but this time around, we have a huge amount of air cover—100 planes within 30 miles. I’m more inclined to hold the range and fight it out.

008-aircover
The air range map is unreadable nowadays. I wonder if there’s a way to toggle friendly/enemy bases.

009-field
The battle will be fought over French Albania. Did this need a caption? Maybe not, but ‘French Albania’ is a hilarious thing to be able to write.

It’s 7:56 a.m. Cloudy weather prevails, and sunset is in a hair over eight hours.

8:10 a.m.

Recon planes take off around the Mediterranean. Hopefully we have a handle on where our enemy is soon, although the weather may make that problematic.

8:30 a.m.

It does. Gabion, a 35-knot Flamberge built in 1920, spots the enemy to the south—shortly after a recon flight passed overhead from that direction.

010

The destroyer force turns north toward Durazzo, until we have a better idea of the size of the Austrian group.

8:43 a.m.

011

The enemy flotilla is making smoke, which is causing some difficulty in identifying them and counting them, but it looks like there are about five of them, against our nine.

One of the ships is purportedly a light cruiser, but I suspect that identification might be incorrect. Even if it isn’t, the light cruiser class in question is less well-armed than our recent destroyers.

8:50 a.m.

Unhelpfully, Airbase Durazzo radios us to say that a light cruiser was spotted at 7:28 a.m.

012

Thanks, guys. Better news:

013

Airbase Valona, instead of sending untimely spotting reports, is preparing a naval strike.

9:00 a.m.

That naval strike is still probably 45 minutes away, however, and the destroyers’ guns are beginning to tell.

014

Perhaps ashamed of their poor performance the last time they faced off with their Austrian counterparts, the French destroyer gunners are keeping up an accurate fire while at a range of 9,000 yards and a speed of 34 knots.

The goal isn’t to sink the enemy with gunfire, however, so much as to keep them bottled up to the south until the air strikes arrive.

9:13 a.m.

The Armee de l’air should be on its way in the next ten or fifteen minutes. The tally of hits is nine to one in our favor, even though the Austrian destroyers each mount eight main guns.

9:48 a.m.

The Austrians have gotten a little bit more dialed in in the past half-hour, narrowing the gap slightly.

015

French gunnery remains superior, however, and the fact that our heaviest destroyers carry 5″ guns (against the Austrian preference for 4″) means that each of our hits counts for more.

10:17 a.m.

I originally said that the aim wasn’t to sink the enemy with gunfire, but so far, that’s going pretty well.

016

The five-ship Austrian flotilla is now split into four groups, as damaged ships peel off to avoid the fight. I send the supporting flotilla—five vintage Flamberge-class ships, from the early 1920s—to hound the wimpy light cruiser, while taking the lead flotilla, with some modern Epee-class ships and a semi-modern Glaive, after the retreating destroyers.

10:43 a.m.

Enemy aircraft appear on scene first, heading for the older destroyer flotilla. Notably, none of these ships have AA guns; perhaps we should rectify that oversight with some judicious refitting.

11:11 a.m.

Flamberge takes a hit to the engine room, delivered by an enemy dive bomber. She drops out of line, but doesn’t seem to be in danger of sinking. I’m beginning to wonder where the French strikes are—perhaps they launched based on the bad scouting report from earlier.

11:51 a.m.

Another wave of maddeningly-accurately-launched strike planes finds Epee, one of the modern ships in our lead group, but as a consolation, Epee hits an Austrian destroyer’s magazines and sends it to the bottom.

017

12:25 p.m.

It seems like things are quieting down now. The only enemy ship in sight is a single destroyer, which is being chased by six French ships. (The other three French destroyers are in various states of disrepair, and are heading toward port in no immediate danger of sinking. One was hit by a torpedo launched by a torpedo bomber, which is surely grounds for a court martial—how do you fail to dodge an air-launched torpedo in a destroyer?)

12:38 p.m.

It happens again! Espignole is hit by two torpedoes, and heads for the bottom.

018

Finally, some French aircraft show up on the scene—these medium bombers, and twenty torpedo bombers. One of the medium bombers scores a hit. A little later, a group of dive bombers joins in the fun, and before long, the enemy ship is slipping beneath the waves.

15:04 p.m.

With six destroyers still in reasonably good shape, I turn the flotilla back east, toward a wounded Austro-Hungarian ship being herded toward the Albanian coast by a pair of similarly-wounded French destroyers.

019

15:31 p.m.

Fanion, another obsolete destroyer, sinks due to accumulated battle damage.

16:04 p.m.

As dusk approaches, the French flotilla catches up to the damaged Austrian destroyer.

020

Shortly after, it goes under.

Aftermath

Night falls, and the French force returns to port. It goes into the books as a minor victory… and then the points are lost altogether, as Germany officially enters the war.

Anyway, the only reason the game called it a minor victory is that we were playing for table stakes. I’d call it a convincing win. Although French air power was a bit disappointing, the destroyers’ gunnery was superb. The Austrian force had 36 4″ guns, against our 22 4″ and 8 5″, and despite the deficit in guns we scored more hits by a dramatic margin.

Plans and Intentions

Now, though, we’re playing with the big boys.

Europe

In Northern Europe, facing Germany, France has eight battleships, five light cruisers, two aircraft carriers, three light carriers, and 18 destroyers. The Americans have shown up with some reinforcements: a squadron comprising one battleship, four light cruisers, two light carriers, and five destroyers. Flying top cover from land bases are 220 aircraft. Another 20 from an in-progress expansion are coming soon.

The Germans have their whole fleet here, more or less: 10 battleships, six battlecruisers, nine cruisers, 21 light cruisers, four light carriers, three seaplane carriers, 49 destroyers, and 23 corvettes, along with 420 land-based aircraft.

Now, it’s not quite as awful as it seems for France. One reason why: we may get more reinforcements from the Americans, who have a fleet even larger than the Germans do. A second reason: in the areas where the war is likely to be fought—the Bay of Biscay, the Channel, and the western North Sea—France has more airbases in range and more aircraft carriers, in particularly counting the American flotilla here in support. A final reason: the French battle line is again faster than its counterparts, thanks to refits in the late 20s and early 30s. The ships facing Germany have a minimum speed of 26 knots, which is faster than all but the enemy’s newest classes. In fast battleships/battlecruisers, the French and German fleets are near parity—eight to seven to us, with heavier armor on our side and heavier guns on the Germans’.

The Mediterranean

In the Middle Sea, we are again inferior to our opponent on paper.

France deploys two battleships, our lone heavy cruiser, six light cruisers, one seaplane carrier, 22 destroyers, seven corvettes, and 460 land-based aircraft.

Austria-Hungary has six battleships, seven heavy and three light cruisers, one light carrier, one seaplane carrier, 13 destroyers, and 30 corvettes. Germany adds a light cruiser, two destroyers, and one corvette. The Austrians have 300 land-based aircraft.

Again, there are some confounding factors. France has a lot of aircraft in the Mediterranean, along with a lot of air bases, which means we’re nearly guaranteed top cover wherever we are. Austrian air power is only dangerous near the Austrian coast and near Casablanca, where large combats may or may not happen on the regular.

Austria has some serious battleships—37,000 tons, because dictatorships get to cheat arms limitation treaties, with 12 15″ guns. Relatively light armor, though, with only a 12″ belt. Even lightly armored French battleships start at 13″.

Strategy

Broadly speaking, what’s our goal for this war? I see two. Say so if you think there are others.

  1. Survive without losing territory or large numbers of warships. Fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary together is a big ask for France.
  2. Gain Morocco.

Right now, our forces are divided between the North Sea and the Mediterranean in a way which seems to me to be unhelpful. In short: we can’t win a pitched battle against either Germany or Austria right now. So, in that spirit:

Should we concentrate the fleet to beat up on one enemy first? If so, Austria-Hungary or Germany?

Note that we’re currently being blockaded by Germany, which will slowly tick up the enemy’s war score.

Site outage scheduled for this afternoon/evening… is complete

The Many Words network is moving to a faster, cheaper server later this afternoon, once I finish all of my real-world chores for the day. It’ll probably take me a few hours to get everything moved over. I’ll have a little static page located at manywords.press which I’ll update with my progress, when the time comes.

Update: took less than two hours! Not bad. You might notice the site is a little snappier now, hopefully. Some ancillary services (OpenTafl, probably some others) aren’t back yet, but I’ll get to them.

Update 2: OpenTafl’s back!