Monthly Archives: June 2020

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


Science and Technology


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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…



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.


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


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


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



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.


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.


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


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


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.


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



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:


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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

4:46 a.m.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


It is a glorious day for France, mes amis.


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.


  • 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


  • 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.




Science and Technology

Grab Bag

Rule the Waves 2: To January, 1937

February 1935


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.


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


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—


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.

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


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!


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.

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

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.


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

8:43 a.m.


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.


Thanks, guys. Better news:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Shortly after, it goes under.


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.


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″.


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 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!

Book Review: Chassepot to FAMAS: French Military Rifles 1866-2016

Ian’s book is out. How is it?

Disclosure time: I was a backer of this book on Kickstarter, for what that’s worth. Mostly because I wanted to support Ian and his new publishing company. Take that as you will. I was pretty ambivalent about French Military rifles when I backed it.

First off, the production values of the book are amazingly good. The book itself has a really nice cover: it’s hardbound in a leathery, old-world sort of way, and it’s full of really good color pictures. These pictures were done carefully with good lighting, and they are always very clear. I don’t think I have nicer reference books, and Fishbreath can confirm I have lots of reference books.

Next, the material. French rifles aren’t commonly discussed in a book in English, which makes this a pretty unique work. And, the French tend to go their own way a lot, so lots of the engineering is unique. The reasoning and doctrines may also be not what you are used to. I’m not an expert on French Rifles, so I can’t attest to how thorough the book is. But Ian is pretty well known as a knowledgeable source on firearms in general and French military firearms in particular, so this is as good as you’re likely to get in English.

The French often come up with their own answers to doctrine or engineering questions. Or, perhaps that’s because the American stuff I’m most familiar with usually cribs from someone else for small arms. Anyway, because the French stuff is usually somewhat different, it’s a more interesting book than it would be if we were just revisiting clones of the Mauser action.

So let’s get down to it. Should you buy this book? I’m gonna go with a ‘yes’ if you’re even remotely interested in firearms or enjoy Ian’s content over at Forgotten Weapons. And I really do, even if I sometimes disagree with him.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 3, 2020)

Relatively quiet week again. That is, in terms of stories we have to share, not in terms of world affairs.



Protests 2020


Grab Bag