Monthly Archives: January 2019

Shorter 3-Gun Rifles?

The “traditional” multigun rifle has an 18″ barrel and a rifle gas system, to create a soft-shooting rifle with plenty of velocity for longer range shots. Is this really necessary?

If we’re looking at matches, a large number will be organized under 3 Gun Nation rules or United Multi-gun League rules. Both of these tend to favor bay matches, with lots of shortish (100 yards and in) shooting. Often, this will be offhand position (i.e. standing, unsupported).

As always, there’s a tradeoff here. Lighter weight will swing faster. Heavier will be more stable, but it will also fatigue you more. Also, where the weight is matters. Weight out at the end of a longer ‘lever arm’ (like a long barrel) will be more fatiguing than weight on a short lever arm.

Now, everyone is going to bring up the long-range component. However, our first point is that there really isn’t much in most 3GN/UML matches, especially if the match director doesn’t want to screw over the PCC folks. Second, you can shoot fine out to longer ranges. If you don’t believe me, go look at Loose Rounds taking an M4 Socom barrel out to 1,000 yards. And that’s without a low-power variable optic with some sort of BDC/MOA-dot/mildot reference for holds. As ever, if you know your dope, you can get your hits. Long barrels are not required for long range work. It will be a little harder with less velocity, but 3-Gun scoring is based on hits; there are no extra points earned for putting rounds in the proverbial X-ring.1

Going with the shorter barrel optimizes for more of the common shots and handling. Most of the time in most matches governed by one of the competing rulesets will be spent shooting up close, and a shorter barrel makes that better.

How short should we go? Well, certainly 16″ is becoming increasingly popular; and that’s the minimum non-sbr length. 14.5 is shorter and lighter still, though that requires either Form 1 paperwork for an SBR or a pinned-and-welded compensator. Shorter than 14.5″ is almost certainly going to require being a registered SBR. Which may or may not be worth the trouble. That’s for the rifleman to decide.

14.5″ has some weight benefits, but it does require being happy with your choice of muzzle device. These days, I don’t think that’s a tremendous burden. There are lots of really effective muzzle devices out there. Picking one and just practicing with the damn rifle is a good idea. Doubly so if you’re an inveterate tinkerer like me.


  1. Which the three gun targets don’t even have. 

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

Now that parvusimperator is back with us, I can focus on this post more than usual. As usual, when I focus on something more than usual it doesn’t just get done. It gets overdone.

Categories arranged not in the usual defense-first fashion, but rather in the order they showed up in our weekly-news-stories channel on the company Hangouts Chat.

Американский футбол

Science

  • First we saw too few Milky Way satellite galaxies, now we see too many – An interesting case where refinements to the theory brought the estimated number of satellite galaxies down, while refinements to measuring tools brought the number of discovered satellite galaxies up. As always, a good read from Quanta. This story came from the daily news dump at Ambient Irony, a blog run by a Twitter acquaintance, which usually has some good stuff in the science/technology field.
  • Rocks: the next dark matter detector – When the next Einstein rolls around and upsets the luminiferous-ether-like consensus on dark matter, I’m going to be smiling very smugly from my little corner of the internet. (Or we’ll eventually catch a WIMP, and you’ll never hear from me again.)

Technology

Defense

The Акула/Typhoon-class boomers, in pictures

History

American Politics

Monroe Doctrine


  1. This is definitely the accepted plural. 

OH-58D Kiowa Warrior

Usually our procurement posts are all about buying shiny new stuff. And that’s fine. But sometimes you can get some “pre-owned” stuff for a great price, often from major powers who have decided they don’t want it for no good reason. Let’s take a look at one such item now: the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

The OH-58D is a derivative of Bell’s venerable and popular 206 JetRanger. The -58D had a more powerful engine than earlier models, and added a Mast Mounted Sight. This globe-shaped module above the main rotor contained a thermal imager plus a laser rangefinder/designator, and allowed the Kiowa Warrior to observe the enemy while the fuselage is obscured by terrain. The OH-58D has two hardpoints that can take small rocket pods, Stinger missiles, or Hellfire missiles.

We should also take a brief moment to talk about the related trainer. The TH-67 is a Bell 206B-3 purchased for use as a primary trainer. It’s available with IFR-rated instruments if desired. It’s another great choice if we’re considering the OH-58, since we’d get some fleet parts commonality. Plus, it’s a common, reliable, and cheap civilian aircraft, and a trainer should be cheap and reliable to facilitate plenty of flying hours.

The Bell 206 family is very popular on the civilian market, and is still in production. As a result, getting spares shouldn’t be a problem. Current models (the model 206L-4) have a strengthened tailboom and improved gearboxes. Other options on offer from Bell include replacing the tail and tail rotor with those of the Bell Model 427, replacing the main rotor and gearbox with those from the Bell Model 4071, and upgrading to a bigger Honeywell HTS900 engine with over 800 hp.

Once we get our hands on the Kiowa Warriors, we can also start considering options for sensor upgrades in the MMS, tinkering with the communications suite, and adding a blue force tracker. As is, the OH-58Ds were very successful in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Army2 had wanted to replace them with the gold-plated and ill-fated RAH-66 Commanche and then the ARH-70, which also went way overbudget. Currently, the Army has no scout helicopters and is trying to fill the void with other things. Oh, and complain to Congress.

We’d like to take the perfectly good ones they’re trying to sell through the Excess Defense Article and Foreign Military Sale program.


  1. The Bell 407 and 427 are themselves derivatives of the 206 by way of the twin-engine JetRanger development projects of the 80s. 
  2. Who has never known what the words “good enough” mean when they can dream of “better.” 

Pistol dots as training aids

While telling parvusimperator how easy dry-fire practice is when you have a red dot wiggling over your point of aim1, it hit me that you can make a similar dry-fire training aid for quite a number of pistols, and you can do it for less than a lot of actual training aids.

All you need is a pistol with a Picatinny rail and an Amazon account2. With the latter, you buy two things: a Picatinny rail pistol dot mount (the cantilevered sort, which gives you rail estate atop the gun), and a little red dot. In both cases, you buy the absolute cheapest knockoff crap you can, because, remember, this is a dry-fire training aid. It doesn’t need to stand up to any impulse more severe than the striker or hammer falling.

As it turns out, I have a cheapo micro-red-dot which occasionally lives on a frame mount on my Beretta U22. I shook the Many Words Press petty cash piggy bank, replaced a tenner inside with a note saying ‘IOU $10’, and chipped in $2 more for the cheapest polymer sight mount I could find on Amazon.

Two days later, and it was in hand. It is an appalling piece of crap. This was not entirely unexpected in kind, but I certainly underestimated the magnitude. ‘Appalling piece of crap’ is going to be my Amazon review headline. Just how is it so bad? Let me count the ways.

First, it’s entirely made from polymer. Even the hardware. Even the heads of the screws. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to turn a polymer screw before, so I’ll tell you how it goes. First, you take your nice gunsmith’s screwdrivers. Then, you carefully choose one which fits the polymer screw correctly. Then, you gently turn the screwdriver. Lastly, you instantly strip the screw.

Happily, the sight mount is also too narrow for my Px4 and P-09s, so just shoving it on over the rail until the friction holds it in place works too. You can’t move the slide, but that’s fine. Thanks to hammer-fired guns, I don’t need to worry about it. So, does the sight-and-mount combo work as a training aid?

Yes and no.

On the yes side, watching the dot wiggle is a wonderful way to see in what way you’re pulling the trigger wrong. It’s extremely clear. You can see both where and how you’re moving the gun when you pull the trigger.

On the no side, I don’t think I would recommend using it all the time. The problem with a dot is that it sits higher than the ordinary sights, and the problem with this dot and mount in particular is that they’re not zeroed correctly. Both issues require you to hold the gun in a way that won’t work with iron sights. Do that too much, and you risk breaking your muscle memory.

Still, at $30 or so in total project cost, it doesn’t cost you a lot of ammo money to set up, and it’s easier to see exactly what mistakes you’re making and how to fix them than it is with dry-firing on iron sights alone. I give the idea a thumbs up with reservations.


  1. He knew already. 
  2. AliExpress works too, but I can’t imagine there are many places in the world where you’re a) practicing with handguns and b) unable to order from Amazon. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 9, 2019)

Today is an extremely grab-bag day.

Defense

Firearms

Technology

  • Patreon’s censors (video) – Noting the danger megacorporations pose to free speech online is one of the least traditionally conservative positions I hold politically. I have a longer post on the issue in draft status, but it’s a hard one for me to write, probably because there aren’t any easy fixes. The main point I found compelling in the linked video is that it’s absurd that Patreon exercises editorial control, when in effect it’s content creators hiring them to do behind-the-scenes accounting.

Wargames I Would Play: Civil War Operational Logistics

As regular readers may remember, I’m slowly slogging my way through Shelby Foote’s Civil War, and I’m struck by how little most Civil War wargames resemble the battles recounted therein, in two different ways.

First: movements in the field were often dictated by logistical concerns: I’m at the end of a tenuous supply line, and Jeb Stuart just cut it; Vicksburg is supplied over the railroad from Jackson, and Grant just captured Jackson. Wargames usually abstract supply to ‘in supply’ or ‘out of supply’, without regard to combat and noncombat supplies. It was entirely possible for an army to have plenty of food but no ammunition or vice versa, and in fact it was frequently thus. Wagons, horses and mules, forage for same, and rations or foraging for the soldiers were daily concerns.

Nor do the Civil War wargames I’ve played fully emphasize the crucial importance of railroads and river control. A torn-up railroad in your backfield wasn’t a minor inconvenience, it was a critical problem which could derail (ha) an entire offensive. Supply dumps were important, but so were the routes by which those supplies reached the front. See also Grant’s first few moves at Chattanooga.

Second: an army commander’s interactions with his troops were almost entirely through his corps commanders. He might shuffle a division from place to place, detaching it from one corps to reinforce another, but he generally wouldn’t dictate exactly how each division was supposed to be arrayed. His communications with his corps commanders would also often be over insecure or unreliable channels—letters entrusted to couriers, telegraph lines, or runners on the battlefield. His corps commanders might misapprehend his instructions, or those instructions might be rendered irrelevant or impossible to follow by changing circumstances or bad maps.

So, could a wargame simulate some of these snags? I think so, with some combination of the following features. I might work on this some myself, or leave it as an exercise for the enterprising reader. Either way, I lay no claim to any of the ideas here.

Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg is the obvious grand campaign for a game with a logistics focus: it lasted longer than any other in the war while taking place along one of the most interesting theaters in history, the Mississippi River.

Unreliable Maps

Unreliable maps are so common in war, and such a linchpin for the other features implied by the above and laid out below, that it’s surprising that no wargame I’m aware of has done them.

The primary kind of unreliability in the Civil War is missing features: maps which don’t show certain roads or certain impassable terrain features. Ultimately, this is just a different kind of fog of war, eliminated not by simply moving into it, but by dedicated scouting and mapping. It also seems to require different levels of fog of war, to represent easy or difficult features to uncover.

In the Mississippi campaign, Grant wasted a bunch of time on various canal-digging and river-diverting projects, in large part because his maps were no substitute for detailed local knowledge. Only by attempting those projects and failing at them did he eventually come to some workable solutions.

Detailed Terrain and River Systems

In the Mississippi campaign, high-resolution elevation data and a river level simulation are all but requirements, and probably the hardest part of doing a good wargame of this sort.

In the 1860s, the Father of Waters rose and fell with the rains and the seasons. A canal dug in November might overflow its banks when the spring flood comes, as the surrounding countryside floods too. A river passable by ironclad in late April might be entirely unnavigable by steamboats in late August. The ever-shifting terrain of the Mississippi basin makes for a fascinating battlefield, and one that isn’t ordinarily well-represented by wargames.

Detailed Supply

The wargame I picture is driven much less by combat than by supply. You can get away, then, with abstracting combat pretty heavily. (See below.) I don’t think you can get away with abstracting supply as much as usual. At the same time, you don’t want to get too deeply into the weeds. Some items you probably want to track separately:

  • Food: either bring it with you in your train, or forage from the countryside around you. The latter option requires constant motion, or else you run out.
  • Forage: distinct from food for the troops, forage is food for your army’s beasts of burden. It comes up a lot in Foote’s history. If you don’t have forage, you have trouble moving your train as well as your artillery.
  • Ammunition (small arms and artillery): you probably don’t need to track ammunition with more granularity than the foregoing parenthetical.
  • Environmental supplies: winter coats and boots, tents, and the like. Less a problem for the Union. More a problem for the Confederates.

You probably also should track things like pontoon bridges separately—their lateness to the battle was what torpedoed Burnside’s crack at Lee. (Well, that and Burnside’s decision to go ahead with an attack after it was no longer a surprise.)

Weak Command

An army commander’s experience in the field was generally limited to watching from a headquarters, receiving reports from the field, and hearing (or failing to hear) subordinates engaging in battle.

The extent of his command, too, was limited: ensuring subordinates are in the right place, ordering attacks at a given time, and shuffling divisions around.

I think the Command Ops approach is a reasonable one for a game of this sort, though likely with even greater obstacles between the commands you give and their execution by the troops. Your runners might be captured or killed, and in most cases your orders will move at the speed of horse. If a corps of yours gets into action elsewhere on the field, you may not even know about it before you get reports saying they’ve retreated. Certainly you’ll have a hard time exercising much direct command in battle.

Conclusion

The question, then, is would a game like this be enjoyable to play? It’s hard to say. Command Ops manages to make order delays fun, but I’m not so sure that they would stay fun when your duties are primarily ordering people to capture, repair, or tear up railroads, and you rarely have very much direct control over the course of a battle.

Like I said, I don’t have the time to make this a reality, not even at the prototype stage, so history may never know the answer to the question above. Still, I think it would make for a fresh and interesting take on simulations of the Civil War.

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

Welcome to 2019! Maybe it’s just me, but saying ‘twenty-nineteen’ feels like the future to me in a way ‘twenty-eighteen’ didn’t. I was making plans to put a garden in our back yard the other day1, realized I wasn’t going to get there this summer, and subsequently realized that meant I was making plans for 2020, which is absolutely the future.

Technically, I wasn’t supposed to start these back up until next week, but we have a few items in the queue that I figured I might as well whip into some kind of article.

Defense

  • Australia’s Defence Technology Review, January 2019 – The front cover has what I can only call an LST-X on it, which is why it’s in the roundup to begin with, but it also has a ton of interesting news on Aussie defense inside. The advertising and other non-editorial inner matter reminds me of early-20th-century Janes books, where (usually) English companies manufacturing things like boilers and armor plate would advertise.
  • Parvusimperator had another link on the Achates-Cummins opposed piston engine, but we’d already covered the information therein, so here’s a different article – This one focuses a bit more on possible consumer applications, rather than the 1000hp Cummins project for combat vehicles, but has some good animations and graphics to consult if you have a hard time picturing just when things happen in an opposed piston cycle. Cummins was supposed to present a report on initial test results in November, but I can’t find a copy. Scrounging is parvusimperator’s gig. If we find one, we’ll have it for you.
  • Foreign Affairs writes on Trump’s foreign policy – They use the term ‘illiberal hegemony’ to indicate that current American foreign policy is not strongly focused on exporting democracy or liberalizing illiberal regimes. I think it’s fair to say it’s a foreign policy with the idealism knob turned down to zero, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • China’s railgun test ship is undergoing sea trials – Some Twitter pictures show it steaming at sea. Business Insider calls it a ‘warship’, but it’s just a landing ship with a big honking railgun turret plopped onto the bow.
  • Secretary Mattis’ departure delays KC-46 deliveries – Apparently, some paperwork was awaiting his signature.
  • The PLARF tests an S-400 system on a ‘simulated ballistic target’ – I still can’t type PLARF without snickering.
  • China can’t control the South China Sea – The author is speaking specifically in circumstances less than war. At war, he seems pretty happy with the US-SoKor-Japan-etc. bloc’s ability to beat China, which is (I think) where the sober, non-hysterical money ought to go. At levels of tension less than war, he also thinks China doesn’t have sufficient hulls to enforce its control over the South China Sea. He gets there by excluding the PLAN from patrol and flag-waving duties, which seems to me to be a questionable assumption.
  • US Navy considering a block buy of aircraft carriers to save money – U-S-A! U-S-A! More seriously, it’s what the kids might call (might have called?) a baller move to order two aircraft carriers at once when competitor states are working toward that capability, in peacetime, because a bulk buy is cheaper. ‘Murica.
  • F-35 AAM testing – They’re really playing up the simultaneous engagement thing for reasons which aren’t fully clear to me. Was it an EOTS engagement? Sensor fusion? If it’s just shooting AMRAAMs at two separate targets tracked by radar, I’m not all that impressed. It’s 70s/80s state of the art.

Mattis’ Farewell Letter

I’ve decided to transcribe the entire thing here, because it’s so clearly the work of an old soldier rather than a politician.

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE EMPLOYEES

SUBJECT: Farewell Message

On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one-sentence telegram. It read: “Let nothing which is transpiring change, hinder, or delay your military movements or plans.”

Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.

It has been my high honor to serve at your side. May God hold you safe in the air, on land, and at sea.

Technology

Grab Bag

  • Philadelphia is a terrible place – It’s an old story, but as proud residents of Pennsylvania’s better half, we’re honor-bound to trash Philly whenever we get the chance.

  1. I bet this clause took speakers of the Queen’s English a read or two to parse correctly. 

The 2018 Many Words Press Audience Report

The 2017 audience report was fun to put together, so you get a 2018 report, too. As an added bonus, it’s done on January 1st, as opposed to late February!

Total Visitors and Views

Google Analytics was running the full year this year, but to ensure the numbers are comparable, I’ll use the built-in WordPress stats again.

2017VisitorsViews
Soapbox1328720034
Main14422819
Softworks8541518
Total1558324371
2018VisitorsViews
Soapbox1955336022
Main11962554
Softworks8801529
Total2162940105

In 2017, we doubled traffic over 2016. We didn’t do quite as well in 2018 over 2018, but we weren’t that far off.

The Soapbox

Once again, the Soapbox leads in visitors and views.

Popular Posts

All-Time

Our most popular posts all-time remain about the same, with the addition of two more Fishbreath entries: the DCS Harrier review, and my wireless hydrometer entry from the summer (which got some good Reddit play).

Battle Royale remains the most popular single post, but is down to a mere 1,477 views this year (from more than 6,000 in 2017). The home page and archives pages (tags and chronological) took the lead at 6,095 views.

Posted This Year

2018’s most popular posts are an interesting bunch.

  1. Fishbreath Flies: DCS AV-8B NA Harrier Review
    A Fishbreath post tops the list! Surprising.

  2. Gravity, Graviton, Pendulum: a wireless hydrometer for homebrewing
    Thanks to Reddit for my success here.

  3. USASOC’s URG-I for the M4
    Parvusimperator will have to tell you what this one means.

  4. SIG P365
    The first traditional civilian gun article on the list.

  5. Competition Meets Tactical: SOCOM and the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6x
    Parvusimperator’s optics reviews are always popular with the Google set.

  6. The Crossbox Studio: multiple mic podcast recording for $60 per person
    I’m making a much better showing on the list this time around. Maybe we should do some further podcasting in 2019.

  7. On the Glock 19X
    Another modern pistols article.

  8. Sweden Chooses an MBT: Looking back at the ’94 contest
    Defense and tanks in particular being one of our main topics, it’s no surprise that one of those articles took a spot in the top 10.

  9. Handicapping the FFG(X) Contenders
    We’re keeping an eye on the competition, and will perhaps write up how we did on our predictions when there’s a result.

  10. Resurrected Weapons: XM806
    Good old resurrected weapons.

Traffic Acquisition

Compared to last year, our traffic share from search dropped from 81% to 75%. Our direct traffic rose 3% to 15%, while our referral traffic rose 3% to 9%.

Google accounted for 70% of our sessions last year, while direct traffic was about 18.5%. Reddit comes in third at 3.3%. These changes indicate to me that we developed a stronger base of regular readers this year.

The most popular traffic source outside of search and social was rumaniamilitary.ro, for which we have a certain reader to thank.

Demographics

The Soapbox’s readers in 2018 were 95% male, compared to 97% last year. I think it’s safe to say we’ve made great strides in inclusiveness and diversity this last year.

Most of our readers are still in the prime 25-44 demographic.

60% of our readers were Americans this year, followed by 5% Canadians and Brits, 2.5% Aussies, Frenchies and Germans, and 1% or less of the following countries: (the rest of the countries in the world). Romania is notably overrepresented relative to its population.

Views By Month

March, May, June, July, and December all saw north of 3,000 views. June came first, on the back of Reddit views of my homebrewing post. Eliminate tose, and it falls to third (approximately tied with May and July). December is second/first, and March is third/second.

We ended the year with a very good month, entirely (I suspect) on the strength of regular readers and newcomers alike having more spare time to crawl the archive.

Random Stuff

In the last year, we (i.e., parvusimperator) wrote 124 posts containing 90,905 words, for an average of 733 per post. All of these numbers are down from our peak in 2015 to 2017, but I’m entirely happy with the schedule and output we’ve maintained this year.

On the other hand, we had 291 comments this year, an average of 1.7 per post. Granted that a lot of those were us (i.e., parvusimperator) answering questions or responding to comments, it’s still encouraging to see a little community forming.

Exercises for the Reader

And now a few questions for you, readers, which you can feel free to answer in the comments.

First: what do you think of the weekly Wednesday What We’re Reading feature? Useful news? Too many links? Too few? Too much editorializing? Too little? We started in August, if you can believe it, and I figure five months is a good length of time for a trial period.

Second: do you miss the podcast? If so, we might be persuaded to do a new run of episodes given some topic suggestions. At the same time, one of the values of we crotchety oldsters here at the Soapbox is that text is the best format for both presenting and consuming arguments and commentary, and we prefer to produce content in that form.

Third: how do you feel about the schedule? Right now, we have a Tuesday and Thursday post most weeks, plus a Wednesday What We’re Reading. Would turning the latter into the Saturday Morning Post be an improvement for you, or do you prefer the weekday diversion?

Finally: give yourself a big pat on the back. We appreciate your readership, your return visits, and your comments, and we look forward to bringing you more of the content you expect from us in 2019. Happy New Year from us here at the Soapbox!