Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 23, 2019)

This week, the ‘approximately Fishbreath’s birthday’ edition.


  • Given that it’s me, my birthday presents were primarily books.
  • Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, courtesy Parvusimperator: widely regarded as the best of the bunch when it comes to golf books, or at the very least, the one everyone who plays that game should read.
  • Castles of Steel, courtesy my in-laws: I’ve read this before via the War College Library, but I’m delighted to have my own copy and to read it again, just as soon as I finish Dreadnought.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, also courtesy my in-laws: I enjoyed the TV series and like the worldbuilding that seems to have gone into it. The book should be a delight.
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, courtesy my wife: making bread is a hobby of mine, but I’m not very good at it right now. This will help with that.


Science and Technology


  • The curious case of Joseph Roh – Who got off with a super-light sentence for running an 80%-lower-finishing operation because his lawyers convincingly argued that an AR-15 lower isn’t a firearm by the ATF’s own definition.

Grab Bag

  1. Something along the lines of, it was closer than the dark-matter-free paper authors thought, so it wasn’t strange at all. 

Open Gear Retrospective: Year One

I’ve been having a blast in Open, and thought I’d take a bit to talk through some of my gear and the small changes I’ve made. My gun has been running great, and I’m super happy about that. Let’s look at some of the other stuff, and one gun part swap.

1) Holster: Double Alpha Alpha-X vs. Everglades Magnetic Race Holster
I started with a purchase of a ‘belt kit’ from Double Alpha, which included their Alpha-X race holster. This holster requires inserts to fit the trigger guard of your firearm. Since I’m using the relatively new Lone Star Innovations Outlaw grip on my race gun, which doesn’t have an insert explicitly made for it, I guessed and got the insert for the Phoenix Trinity Evo grip.

Was this module the right choice?
Yes. Or, at least, it was retained correctly and drew (mostly) fine.

Why did I switch?
Sometimes I found that I could get my gun to snag a little on the draw. I also wanted something with a bit more positioning change options, so I gave the Everglades Magnetic Race Holster (MRH) a try.

Is the MRH better?
Yes. Much smoother draw, nicer adjustment range for holster position, and the adjustments actually stay in place without a bunch of loctite. It also has a much bigger lever for the lock to keep the gun retained when moving, which is easier to sweep off on the draw. The only downside to the MRH is that its only for hi-cap 1911 platforms.

Which should you buy?
If you’re shooting a hi-cap 1911/2011 type platform, get the MRH. It’s just better.

2) Mag Pouches: Double Alpha Racemaster vs. Alpha-X
I opted to go for the Racemaster mag pouches in my belt kit.

Why did I switch?
I decided to give the Alpha-X a try since forum reviews indicated they had a superior mounting system design and I found that my mags could drag a little when drawing from the aluminum-bodied Racemasters. The Alpha-X pouches have plastic liners to try to correct this.

Which is better?
The Alpha-Xs are better. The belt attachment is a lot more secure, and only requires you to tweak/torque/loctite one screw instead of two. The plastic liner really does allow you to get a clean, slick mag draw even after you’ve messed around with tension. Plus, if you like to run your pouches bullets-out like me, the Alpha-Xs are way easier to set up that way. I’ll slowly switch out the Racemasters for Alpha-Xs, but being an open shooter, extra mag pouches are a seldom-used item anyway.

3) Magwell: Dawson ICE vs. Limcat V2
My awesome open gun came with a nice, big Dawson ICE magwell on it. This is a pretty typical choice and it’s been around for a while. It’s got an aluminum top with a replaceable plastic liner, so when you gouge it up after practicing reloads, you can just replace the liner rather than the whole magwell.

Why did I switch?
I noticed sometimes during reload practice that there was a way I could actually get my mag stuck in the grip if I didn’t rotate it correctly to align it with the grip. Some googling showed me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and Limcat made a magwell to try to fix it. The Limcat V2 magwell has an aluminum top and a hardened steel liner, which isn’t easily replaceable, but it should be resistant to getting all gouged up by reloads as you try to get faster.

Which is better?
The Limcat by far, even if I had to spend some time fitting it with a file. It’s got a shape that helps push your hand up higher on the grip, and the magwell’s narrower mouth and convex shape really does mean that you can’t get the mag to jam up. If you don’t miss the magwell, your reload is gonna happen. It’s a fantastic magwell design, which is probably why everyone is trying to copy it. And the hardened steel liner is, in fact, resistant to gouges.

4) Which helped more, minor kit tweaks or consistent practice?
Consistent Practice. Duh.

5) Do I want to try any other minor changes?
Of course. In no particular order, I’m considering trying the following:

  • Some kind of thumb rest, mostly because this is open and I can have one.
  • The Atlas ‘Ape Hanger’ racker, because it looks cool and it won’t smash your thumb if you flag it (old habits die hard).
  • The Limcat Heavy Brass V2 magwell, because I kinda like my current heavy gun, so why not try more weight low in it?
  • Possibly the SIG Romeo 3XL red dot, but that’s a lot more expensive than everything else on that list, so I might wait.

But really, the big thing is just get more practice.

DISCLAIMER: I paid my own money for all of the above parts and received $0.00 in compensation from any of the manufacturers listed here.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 16, 2019)

After the raging kegger we threw to celebrate the 50th WWRW, we needed a week off.

Actually, it was a busy week at work and I just forgot. Enjoy this special double edition.

Long Reads

Quiz of the Week



Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Spoiler for Guesses

My guess: A, on the grounds that on a (successful) offensive, you’d expect to see disrupted subordinate commands swept up by advancing superiors.
Parvusimperator: A, and is this the Civil War?
Spoiler for Answers

Here you go. Parvusimperator and I were both correct, but I was right for the wrong reason and Parvusimperator was right but wrong about the war.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 2, 2019)

It’s the 50th anniversary edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading, in which we… don’t really do anything out of the ordinary.


Science and Technology

Nerd Culture

Grab Bag

  1. Let’s see. Raimi’s trilogy is good, great, meh, and gets sad-sack Peter Parker right but doesn’t give him much time to be wisecracking Spider-Man. The Andrew Garfield movies are meh, I-didn’t-see-it, and make Peter Parker too cool. Spider-Verse is one of the best comic book movies of any kind ever. I didn’t see Venom. That’s maybe half good? Two-thirds? Anyway, the two MCU Spidey movies have been superb and great, respectively, because a) Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is still a dorky kid, and b) Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is properly confident. Some complaints about how Far From Home took him too far from home aside, Marvel Studios has a better record so far. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 25, 2019)

Alphabetic shorthand report: still slower than ordinary English handwriting, because thinking about letters takes a long time.

I have a short day and a full day’s amount of work to do in it, so less commentary than usual today.


Science and Technology


Guns and Competition Shooting

Grab Bag

  1. I think the only one remaining is ‘fear of flying’. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 18, 2019)

Cor, it’s Wednesday already?

I spent my morning coffee time working on learning one of the simple alphabetic shorthands, so this one’s a bit later than they’ve been.


Science and Technology


Grab Bag

  1. Another municipality in the vicinity of Pittsburgh 

LAND 400 Downselect

Australia has announced the downselect results for the LAND 400 IFV competition. They chose Rheinmetall’s KF41 Lynx and Hanwha’s AS21 Redback to proceed to the next phase of competition. This means of course that the General Dynamics ASCOD 2/Ajax derivative and BAE’s CV90 are out.

This means that the two proposals derived from vehicles that are in service somewhere are out. While the LAND 400 requirements wanted something relatively ‘low risk’ it seems that new designs that share components with in service vehicles suffices. It also helps that the Lynx and the Redback were both designed with what the Australian army actually wanted in mind. Funny how that works. I’m glad they prioritized capabilities.

I’m not surprised the CV90 didn’t make the cut, since that’s an older design and it wasn’t very cutting edge when new. The ASCOD 2/Ajax proposal rejection was a little more surprising, as the Australians tend to have a lot of commonality with the UK. Anyway, it should be good to see how the two newer designs shake out.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Sep. 11, 2019)

18 years on, the world is very different than it was on September 10, 2001. I don’t have a memorial to link; contemplate quietly in your own way.



Other Science and Technology Stories

  • Are insect populations actually declining? – A followup to a previously-shared story. In Puerto Rico, the answer appears to be ‘no, and if they were, it wouldn’t be because of temperature change, because there hasn’t actually been any’.
  • Bad ideas in computing: PingFS – It stores your files in the contents of ping packets to a remote server of your choice. It doesn’t work on LANs because the latency is too low.
  • Aluminum hydride, known primarily as a rocket fuel additive, makes a superb fuel cell fuel – At the top end, the aluminum hydride fuel cell system has better energy density than JP8 and a power unit, both by mass and volume. Being a solid powder, it also doesn’t take any compressive storage. Also, it contains 148 grams of hydrogen per liter of volume, twice the density of liquid hydrogen, to say nothing of compressed hydrogen gas. The only obstacle to widespread adoption is scale of production. A Bay Area company called Ardica Technologies is working on that, but they’re at kilogram-scale right now, and DoD is putting out feelers for more than 40,000 metric tons per year3.

Global Politics

  • One mechanism by which the Chinese economy might collapse – “It is needed to build more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways and bridges so that more ships can be built to carry more iron ore to more ports and thence along more rails and bridges to more steel mills so as to build more shipyards, ports, railways …”
  • UK Parliament denies Boris Johnson’s second bid for an election – How it sounds to an outsider: “The Brexit fight is absolutely crucial to Britain’s survival as a democracy, which is why we mustn’t under any circumstances permit the people to weigh in.” I’m nearing the end of Massey’s Dreadnought, which covers a tumultuous time in British history during which political figures used snap election after snap election as referenda on the issues of the moment. Apparently that changed not merely this century, but also this decade.

Grab Bag

  1. This is sarcasm, although granted, I don’t recall offhand what kind of parachute schemes the US has used. Weigh in in the comments. 
  2. And sometimes even used to mean a successful landing rather than a crash, to my surprise. The Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover (that is, Spirit and Opportunity) both used airbag-assisted lithobraking. 
  3. Things I’m always saying: if you’re pro-renewable-energy-economy, you need to find a way to turn electricity into high-density fuel for applications where batteries aren’t gonna cut it. Maybe this one? 

Parvusimperator Reviews: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Remaking movies is a terrible, terrible idea. Remaking video games can be a great idea, and Resident Evil 2 is a good example of a remake done right. The original was made in 1998 on the original playstation, featuring PSX graphics, fixed perspective cameras, and the sort of “tank controls”1 that only die hard purists and masochists enjoy.

Modernizing the game was done with the help of the engine from Resident Evil 7, giving modern controls and excellent modern graphics. Interestingly, and unlike Resident Evil 7, the remake of Resident Evil 2 has a third-person perspective. It’s a well done third person, and I’m ok with that.

Some of the structure of Resident Evil 2 remains intact. You can choose between one of two characters, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield for your playthrough of the story, and then you can opt to play as the other character for a complimentary story. Leon and Claire have some different boss fights, different weapons, different collectibles, go through different areas, and even work with different NPC helpers. There’s plenty of replay value to be had here.

There’s more fun to be had in the extra modes. There’s The 4th Survivor, which changes the formula by giving you an inventory full of weapons and healing items, but has nothing for you to pick up to restock with. Then there are some DLC scenarios which add some new zombie types, lootable backpacks, explosive backpacks, and vending machines. The vending machines are a neat twist, with each one featuring three items, but you can only pick one of them.

If you’re a fan of survival horror, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.

  1. Amusingly, while I love tanks almost as much as the Stavka, I do not enjoy classic Resident Evil “tank controls” at all. 

MGL Thinking

Let’s spend a little bit of time thinking about multishot grenade launchers (MGLs) Specifically, I’m thinking about the Milkor M32A1 that SOCOM and the USMC bought recently. I’m on record as liking them, and I stand by that, but I haven’t been able to slot them in anywhere. Let’s fix that.

It’s pretty typical for a fire team to have one grenadier and squads to have one or two. These grenadiers have an M320 or M203 or similar launcher, which may be attached to their carbine or carried in a standalone configuration. I prefer the standalone configuration, since it generally gives a more effective grenade launcher, and reinforces the concept that the grenade launcher should be the primary weapon for the grenadier. It’s also easier to get good sights on the grenade launcher. So let’s try the simple thing. What if we replace the standalone one-shot grenade launcher with the M32A1?

There are some obvious gains we can see immediately. We gain up to five follow-up shots, which make it a lot easier to quickly correct for aim or put more fire on the target. There’s also a well-designed stock, a launcher design that can comfortably handle medium velocity (40x53mm) grenades, a spin drift compensating optical sight, and plenty of picatinny rails for night-fighting accessories and the like. The obvious downside is, of course, weight. The M32A1, equipped with M2A1 sight, weighs 15.8 lbs.

Let’s start playing with some weight numbers. First, we need some sort of benchmark. We’ll look at a current squad member with another weighty weapon: the SAW gunner. An M249 SAW weighs 17 lbs unloaded. The gunner’s basic load of ammo is 1,000 rounds, carried in five 200-round belts. For simplicity, I’ll assume these are all carried in the standard plastic boxes. Each boxed belt weighs about 7 lbs, so the basic load is 35 lbs. Add in the usual sight, the much-maligned Elcan M1451 (1.5 lbs) and we get an all-up weight of 53.5 lbs. That’s pretty heavy, and we almost certainly shouldn’t go heavier than that for our grenadier load.

Some digging around the internet puts the grenadier’s basic load of grenades at 36. Low velocity grenades weigh about half a pound a piece, so that’s 18 lbs of grenade ammo. If we want to carry all medium velocity grenades, which weigh about three quarters of a pound, our ammo load goes up to 27 lbs. Medium velocity grenades have a number of advantages over low velocity grenades. The higher velocity doubles the maximum range from 400 meters to 800 meters. Medium velocity grenades also have a significantly larger maximum point-blank range (i.e. the largest range at which you don’t need to adjust your aim to account for grenade drop). Furthermore, medium velocity grenades have a noticeably larger warhead.

We’re not done though. While the grenadier’s primary weapon is (now) his trusty M32A1 multishot grenade launcher, he needs a secondary weapon. Something for close encounters.2 The old-school traditionalists might call out a pistol, and pistols are pretty compact and lightweight. But they’re also generally not very effective in combat. They’re harder to score hits with and they don’t have as much terminal effect as a carbine. Plus, few soldiers have the practice on one to make it work for them. Can we make the loadout work with a carbine as secondary?

While a basic load for a rifleman is seven magazines, we can reduce this to, say, three or four magazines because the carbine is a backup weapon for the grenadier. An M4A1, Aimpoint Comp M5 red dot sight, and ATPIAL for night fighting comes out to about 7.2 lbs. Three mags come out to 3.2 lbs, four come to 4.3 lbs. So total weight for the carbine secondary is 10.4 lbs with three mags, and 11.5 lbs with four mags.

Just for the record, a Glock 19 Gen5 MOS with Deltapoint Pro and four mags comes to 3.3 lbs or so.

If I go with three mags for the carbine, I can squeeze in under my SAW Gunner weight threshold, even with 36 medium velocity grenades. I’m a bit over with four carbine magazines, and of course going with the pistol option leaves me a reasonable margin. I still prefer the carbine as a secondary weapon because of its greater utility, and because carbine marksmanship is a lot less perishable than pistol marksmanship. Overall though, this seems like a plausible grenadier loadout, and I like it much better than the alternative.

  1. This is very much NOT the sight I would put on my squad LMGs, but this is a standard choice for US Army MG sights, so it’s what we’ll go with here. Remember, we’re only trying to get a ballpark heavy load. 
  2. Read that in a Michael Biehn voice.