Tag Archives: commentary

Whence Cometh PMAGs?

It occurred to me that there are plenty of folks who don’t understand how and why Magpul’s fantastic PMAGs became the standard magazine for AR-15 users both civilian and military. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In terms of product, Magpul’s PMAGs1 hit a solid mix of reasonable price, reasonable quality, reasonable durability, and reasonable reliability of feeding (which is to say, function). They’re also pretty ubiquitous. Easy to find almost anywhere. While you can buy more durable magazines, they will cost you more. And mags that are cheaper by a large enough margin to care about don’t work as well.

Magpul wasn’t the first to come to market with a polymer magazine. Their first prototypes were made in 2006. They were among the first to come out with a polymer magazine that worked well, and they had built a customer base with some of their other quality products, like their magazine pulls (hence the company name).

Of course, the AR-15’s original magazines were made from thin aluminum. They were originally intended to be disposable after a single use, and this allowed the Armalite design team to make them very lightweight. However, the military did not go for that, and reissued magazines. Civilian shooters would also not treat aluminum magazines as disposable items either. However, the Armalite design team was not given a chance to redesign the magazines to make them more durable.

One of the things that will crop up with ‘USGI’ aluminum magazines is that the feed lips can deform, whether from being dropped or being smacked or whatever. And a property of metal is that when deformed with enough force, you’ll get “plastic deformation,” i.e. it will stay bent. If the feed lips get messed up, your mag isn’t going to work. These can be subtle problems. Your eye won’t know, but your rifle will. Like the princess and the pea.

Now, the military hates to throw things out, so mags that get bad from use and abuse (or stupid, stupid boots) are going to stick around. And civilians aren’t very likely to throw out bad mags either. They paid good money for those! That’s not to mention the affect of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which allowed the sale to non-law enforcement civilians of standard capacity magazines made before 1994. So those aluminum mags were going nowhere. And those old mags were now worth a premium, so whatever crappy mag that a guy could dig up could be resold at a significant profit. Even if the mag was beat to hell.

I still have a folder of data on my hard drive of proper feed lip dimensions and instructions for retuning feed lips to get them close to original spec so that they wouldn’t induce double feeds. Ugh. Bad memories.

After the sunset of the ban in 2004, the market exploded with manufacturers making standard capacity magazines. Of course, the nature of the aluminum USGI magazines meant that it was pretty hard for the layman to tell if the magazine was made by anyone who knew what they were doing. Substandard materials or construction methods could lead to more problems. Or more rapid onset of problems. Or not; you could just get lucky.

Enter Magpul’s PMAG. Magpul hit the market with a good design, good materials (finally–remember this wasn’t the first attempt at a polymer AR-15 magazine), and good quality control. If you bought a Magpul PMAG, it would work, unlike previous polymer magazine efforts. And you didn’t find PMAGs in a box with a bunch of other curbstomped mags at a gunshow. Even if you did, they looked distinctive. Plus, they were cheap enough to buy a lot of.

Once they got the polymer magazines working well, Magpul’s choice of material brought other benefits. Polymer doesn’t deform like aluminum does; ironically it doesn’t do “plastic deformation”. It’ll either spring back to its original shape (elastic deformation) or break. And when it breaks it’s obvious. Maybe there’s a chunk of feedlip missing. Maybe there’s a big crack down the back of the magazine. Maybe the weld split. And it’s probably going to vomit bullets all over the floor when you try to fill it.

There you have it. Why we love our PMAGs.

  1. All caps, because Magpul spells it that way. And when I say PMAG, I do mean “Magpul’s PMAG” not something else. Not the imitators. And I like Magpul a lot, so I’ll happily oblige them on their branding. 

Mythbusting: The US Army and Autoloaders

Let’s tackle a persistent myth. The myth is that the US Army does not like autoloader systems for tanks. Proponents can point to the M60 having a human loader and the Abrams having a human loader, and then cite all of the nice things about having a fourth man in the tank when it comes time to post guards or do labor-intensive maintenance like fixing/swapping tracks, and ipso facto, the US Army loves human loaders. Clearly autoloaders are only for godless commie scum and cheese-eating surrender monkeys!

Of course, when we actually bother to look into the matter, those meddlesome facts get in the way of our carefully crafted myth. The US Army actually loves autoloaders. Let us examine the evidence.

Exhibit A is the MBT-70. This ill-fated project was a joint effort between the Americans and the Germans. It would end up being doomed by cost overruns and an inability to come to agreements on a number of key systems, including the gun and engine. However, one thing the Germans and Americans did agree on was that it should use an autoloader. Yes, that’s right, the wondertank of the 1970s embraced new ideas like an adjustable, hydropneumatic suspension and a fancy mechanical loader, just like the T-64. Since I like arguments supported by sources, and we’re busting myths here, one might consult a good source like Hunnicutt’s Abrams volume for details of the MBT-70’s design.

Exhibit B is the early design sketches of what would become the M1 Abrams. Again, we’re looking at Hunnicutt’s excellent work on the subject. The US Army originally wanted an autoloader for the Abrams, but then had it deleted to try to help sell Congress on the idea that the notional Abrams was economized and not a high-risk, gold-plated project like the MBT-70.

Exhibit C is the Abrams follow-on plans. Autoloaders galore. TTB had an autoloader. CATTB had an autoloader. The Abrams Block III proposals all had autoloaders. Want to upgun? That needs an autoloader. Want to isolate the ammo and the crew and reduce the turret profile? Gonna need an autoloader. Want to try to pretend you’re keeping the weight down as you add armor to deal with the relentless improvement of tank guns? Autoloader.

So there you have it. The US Army actually likes autoloaders.

US Army Mortar Improvement Request

The US army has finally decided to improve it’s mobile mortars. They have announced their goals to develop a turreted mortar system for their vehicles, with a completion target of 2021. Let’s break down what they’re looking at:

  • Caliber: 120mm
  • A manned or unmanned turret
  • Autoloading system must accomplish loading rounds from ready rack into the breach.
  • Ideally all ammunition handling would be automated
  • Vehicle should be able to stop moving and fire within one minute of getting a fire mission
  • Project will investigate being able to shoot on the move
  • Maximum rate of fire (sustainable for one minute): 16 rounds/minute required, 24 rounds/minute ideal
  • Sustained rate of fire: 6 rounds/minute required, 12 rounds/minute ideal
  • System should have a direct-fire capability
  • System should be compatible with all existing 120mm mortar ammunition
  • Maximum range should be at least 5 miles
  • Minimum range should be 220 yards (direct fire)

Patria’s NEMO system comes close to meeting the above requirements, but would need some work to meet the short-term maximum rate of fire requirements. AMOS should be able to do the rate of fire goals given its twin barrels. My one worry is that the perfect would be the enemy of the good enough. Big Army should just pick an off the shelf system (probably the reasonably priced NEMO) and start slapping them on Strykers and AMPVs and call it a day. Have a couple beers and some wings in Alexandria. Any such turreted system is going to be a significant improvement in survivability for the mortar crews, and should also provide improvements in effectiveness. Don’t overcomplicate this.

AU-220M, a New 57mm turret

At IDEX-2015, Russia unveiled the AU-220M, a turret for a 57mm gun, designed for IFV mounting. Let’s take a look:


It’s unmanned, holds 200 rounds of 57mm, and has a coax 7.62mm gun with 2,000 rounds of ammunition. It’s been mounted on a couple BMP-3 prototypes, and demoed at some Russian trade shows.

I don’t like it and neither does Fishbreath. Congratulations, you’ve built an IFV-destroyer. It’s like an old tank destroyer, but the gun is too small to threaten a tank from the front. It can threaten an MBT from the side, but 30mm is generally enough to do that as well, especially since supplemental armor packages are focused on shaped-charge threats. The Russians are also usually very good about adding modern ATGMs to their IFVs.

On the BMP-3 in particular, this is both an annoying design challenge and a firepower lateral move. I’m not convinced that this is an appreciable firepower improvement over the 100mm low velocity gun and 30mm autocannon that’s already mounted. The 100mm gun can already fire missiles that will be problematic for IFVs but will have trouble killing tanks, and that’s a bigger HE option.

The AU-220M is also problematic from a vehicle engineering perspective. It has a large turret basket that eats internal volume, just like a manned turret. But it’s unmanned. You have to relocate the vehicle commander and gunner somewhere else in the crew compartment. As if it wasn’t cramped in there already.

So there you have it folks. We’re not a fan. And I haven’t seen it on any production vehicles either. I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it.

Reconsidering the LCS

Editor’s note: Fishbreath and I aren’t fans of the LCS, but he asked me to defend it and I can hardly resist such a challenge…

The LCS is a curious sort of ship. There are two classes, the Freedom-class and the Independence-class, and I’m going to group them together for the purposes of this discussion. They are both very fast, lightly armed, and carry a helicopter. They have some swappable mission modules to enable them to carry things like Hellfire missiles. Their only air defense system is a launcher for the RIM-116; a close-in weapon.

One is immediately struck by what the LCS don’t have. They don’t have a fancy towed sonar array. They don’t have a fancy bow sonar array. They don’t have a bunch of lightweight torpedo tubes. They don’t have antiship missiles. They don’t have a “proper” SAM system like SM-2/3/6, Aster, or ESSM. One might think of them as stripped down Oliver Hazard Perry-class analogues, but this might be frustrating. The Perrys are the quintessential Cold-war era multirole frigate. One might also look at all of the other ships called frigates these days and despair about the LCSes. They are underarmed!

Or are they? Let us first ask what mission we might have for the LCSes. Mission ought to drive the ship design. The Perrys were designed as escorts. Second-rate escorts: intended to protect the anticipated convoys running supplies and war materiel from North America to Europe in the event of a Cold War gone hot. As such, they have an antiaircraft armament of one Mk. 13 single-arm launcher for the SM-1. They also have a towed sonar array and some lightweight torpedo launchers, plus hangar facilities for two helicopters. On paper they’re much more capable ships.

However, one of the things we note is that from 2004 to 2005, the US Navy removed the Mark 13 launchers from the Perrys that remained in service. Why? Well, clearly removing the system reduces ongoing support and maintenance costs. Plus, it’s not really all that useful. The SM-1 missile and Mark 92 fire control system is grossly inadequate against modern threats. The CIWS is going to be able to (probably) handle a single inbound antiship missile fine, and anything serious attack is going to get past SM-1 and CIWS.

The Falklands War showed all manner of problems with the Type 42 destroyers. These were built for air defense, but they suffered badly at the hands of the Argentine air force. The Argentine air force used Exocet antiship missiles and the sort of unsophisticated, low-level, unguided bombing attacks one might see in the Korean War. There were problems with target prioritization, being sure that no target was left unengaged by the multiple firing ships, and ships fouling each other’s radar fixes. The Perrys were even less optimized for anti-air warfare than the Type 42s.

Anyway, the LCS-as-frigate comparison seems to be assuming implicitly that we have to have nice, simple ship types: cruisers, destroyers, and frigates, and proper navies have all three. We have Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which are built on Spruance-class destroyer hulls and are smaller than Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Let’s unpack those a little more. There are currently 22 active Ticos, each with the Aegis combat system and 122 VLS tubes. There are 65 active Burkes with three under repair, four under construction, and five more on order. Each Burke has an Aegis combat system and 90 or 96 VLS missile tubes. Taking active hulls only, that’s a total of 87 Burkes and Ticos, which I’ll collectively (and imprecisely) refer to as “Aegis ships” for simplicity.

The Aegis ships are fantastic escorts, since they all have powerful radars, computer coordinating systems, communication networks to chat amongst themselves, and lots of missiles. Each VLS tube can hold one of the Standard family of SAMs or four ESSM SAMs. In terms of dealing with air or missile attack, they are the best ships available. They can protect themselves and something nearby. Like a carrier. We have 11 supercarriers, plus nine more straight-deck “Baby Carriers” of the USMC. So if they all were at sea at once, and all operating separately we’d have about four Aegis ships per flattop. That’s pretty good. The Royal Navy would like to be able to do that, and we’d have way more missile tubes per flattop than they would, even if they could manage four escorts per flattop.

Of course, the Mk. 41 VLS tubes on the Aegis ships can carry other missiles as well, including Tomahawk Cruise missiles and LRASMs, giving the ships a potent land attack or surface strike capability. It’s pretty easy for a task force commander to lob an awe-inspiring number of cruise missiles at some tin-plate dictator we hate while having enough SAMs to protect the fleet. For comparison, look at the positively lame ground attacks from the Russian navy deployed to Syria. They wish they had “Aegisski” ships with tons of VLS tubes to lob cruise missiles at their enemies.

In the Aegis ships, the USN has a large number of highly capable surface ships that are truly “Do-everything” ships. They can do any mission you please, and can be configured to do all of them reasonably well at once. No 4-5,000 ton frigate can do likewise. They tend to have 16-32 VLS tubes and a much less powerful radar. These ships tend to carry a mix of quadpacked ESSMs and standard missiles, or foreign equivalent systems. They can do some amount of air defense, but mostly just of themselves. It’s not clear what adding a bunch of ESSMs is going to do to the already formidable air defense umbrella in a US Navy carrier battle group.

Lets also stress that, while we could argue about the most cost-effective mix of ships, the 87 Aegis ships mentioned earlier are already purchased. We have them. They’re ours. Spending a bunch of money on redundant capabilities is silly, and that seems to be what most want to advocate for.

What the Aegis ships aren’t is cheap. They have high operating costs, and there’s plenty of flagwaving missions or antipiracy operations that could be done by a ship without all the fancy, expensive bells and whistles. Playing “Plane guard” and fishing pilots who had to eject from a botched carrier landing doesn’t require a fancy radar or lots of missiles. Hunting pirates off the horn of Africa doesn’t require any fancy systems either, just seakeeping. So the best compliment for a big fleet of highly-capable Aegis ships is a bunch of austere, cheap-to-operate corvettes with good seakeeping.

Good seakeeping is important, and is the major cost driver. Seakeeping is a function of structure, and I’m being imprecise and lumping in range as well. America, as you probably know, is separated from regions of trouble by large oceans, and anything sent to those troublesome regions has to first cross those pesky oceans. And yes, seakeeping eats up space that could be otherwise filled with weapons. If our ships could sail ten miles from our coast and find trouble, we could pack them to the gills with weapons and not care how stable they are. But that’s not the situation we find ourselves in. So no, we can’t just build a few Pegasus-class fast attack craft and call it a day.

So that is how we get to the LCS, more or less. It has a deck gun, a SeaRAM installation, and a helicopter hangar. It can accept a few other mission modules. It can handle a number of basic tasks, including to sail to not-so-hot regions flying an American flag. The one thing I don’t get is the overly high top speed of the ships. I wouldn’t have designed that in, since it drives costs up. Even so, they’re good ships for what they’re designed for: complimenting the rest of our highly-capable surface fleet.

Engineering Tradeoff Q&A: Puma and Bradley

I finally worked out answers to a few things that puzzled me for a while, and figured it might be fun to post here in a sort of Q&A format. This follows our articles looking at loadouts for the Bradley and Puma IFVs. Having read those articles, you might be wondering the following:

  • How does the Bradley manage to carry so much ammo?
  • The Puma IFV has an unmanned turret, so no turret basket, and it’s pretty large. So why does the Puma only have space for six dismounts?

The space under the turret on the Puma, where we would expect a basket to be on a manned turret, is actually a bunch of storage bins. It takes up about the same amount of space that two more shock-resistant seats would. So that’s where the space goes.

That begs more questions. Why do we need those bins? The Puma requires storage bins under the turret because the Puma’s sponsons contain fuel and various systems. They can’t be used for storage. On the smaller Bradley, the sponsons are empty and open to the cabin. So the space behind the bench seats can be loaded up with tons of stuff for both the vehicle and the dismounts. Check out this picture to see what I mean:

M2A2 storage space

Happily, this picture shows the space being used with things you are probably familiar with, like a cooler and a bunch of 2-liter bottles. In combat conditions, we’d expect this to be full 25 mm ammo boxes and TOW missiles for the Bradley, plus food and ammo for the crew and dismounts. If you give up that storage space, you have to put the stuff somewhere else. And you can’t easily relocate stuff for the dismounts outside of the crew compartment. Hence, storage lockers. Note also in the above picture the floor panels at the bottom left. These can be lifted up to access yet more storage space. This space is normally used to fit 25mm ammo. We can also see some storage space under the bench seat. Convenient, but not the best when dealing with antitank mines.

The Puma uses the in-cabin storage lockers for stuff for the dismounts, and it has a bunch of external compartments to hold the 30mm ammo. The Puma was designed with protection and survivability first. The Germans went to a lot of trouble to put in decoupled running gear to minimize the number of penetrations into the hull for the suspension, since penetrations mean weak points for mines. This meant that the sponsons had to hold more suspension gear. Plus, the Puma’s designers tried to isolate the passengers and crew from the fuel and ammo.

The Bradley was designed in an earlier time when survivability was not as paramount, and its designers put firepower first to counter the expected hordes of Soviet light armor. If the Bradleys could take those out, American tanks would be free to concentrate their fire on enemy tanks. Or so the theory went. While possessing a bit of a glass jaw, the Bradley proved to be an excellent vehicle killer in Desert Storm, and was a good fire support vehicle in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Handicapping the FFG(X) Contenders

Big Navy announced the finalists for the FFG(X) program a few days ago. Let’s have a look.

In the interest of spicing things up a bit, I’ve assigned some moneyline odds to each competitor.

FFG(X): buying 2012’s frigate in 2020

The Navy ended up a little behind the eight ball after its insistence on buying the all-but-useless Littoral Combat Ship, which we’ve trashed on several occasions1. Rather than build a frigate as the Perry class was running out of lifespan, they built a weird fast corvette with no striking power and found themselves paying $700 million a pop for effectively useless ships.

FFG(X) is a stopgap measure to take care of the actual business of naval combat while the LCS contractors get their collective acts together, in which the Navy will spend $20 billion to buy twenty actual, effective combat ships.

LCS variants: Less Crappy Ships

The two contractors for the LCS have each assembled a bid using their LCS as a base for a real fighting ship. Both have unrefueled ranges of less than 4,500 nautical miles.

Austal Frigate: -300

Austal’s entry is based off of their trimaran Independence-class, a design I like aesthetically and for a few practical reasons (that giant flight deck among them). The Austal Frigate cuts a few feet off of the flight deck to add a stern platform to hold twin- or quad-pack Harpoon launchers (or other SSM launchers), as well as a towed sonar. Earlier Austal Frigate proposals put the VLS in the superstructure, on either side of the main mast, but someone must have realized what a terrible idea that was in practice; in the final proposal, one VLS 8-pack is forward of the superstructure, and one is at the aft end of the flight deck.

I was going to gripe about how 16 VLS cells seemed a little light, but it appears that’s the fit most of these frigates have, sadly. At least the ESSM can be quad-packed; 32 ESSM and 8 fancy Standard Missiles is an acceptable combat load, I guess.

Freedom Frigate: -400

The Freedom Frigate is the LockMart-brand LCS frigate, with very little to differentiate it from the Austal Frigate beyond its more conventional design. Same armament: 16 Mk. 41 VLS cells and a gun. Similar aviation capacity, although it has a smaller hangar. (Both only ship one MH-60 in normal circumstances, though.) I think the basic Freedom-class has less to recommend it than the basic Independence-class, which is why I give them a lesser chance here.

Not-invented-here options

Various European navies have interesting frigate choices. Two of them made it to the final round.

FREMM: -1000

As much as I like the FREMM, I don’t think it’s a very likely choice for the US Navy. The VLS system is wrong, and I have no idea how easy it is to plug a Mk. 41 system into the Sylver A43 hole in the FREMMs.

Too, it also depends on the FREMM version. The French FREMM is well-kitted for anti-air and anti-surface-unit warfare, with 32 VLS cells in all, Exocet launchers, and even support for land-attack missiles in the larger 16 VLS cells. It only has one helicopter, and only the anti-submarine versions carry a towed sonar.

The Italian FREMM has a faster cruise speed, a faster top speed, two helicopters, an improved radar, two guns, and (in the anti-submarine fit) anti-submarine missiles, but it has fewer cruise missiles and is only fit with 16 Sylver A43 VLS cells.

Both have long range, north of 6,000 nautical miles. Both are expensive, between 600 and 700 million euro per unit.

Keeping in mind the various incompatibilities which would have to be addressed, and the fact that the ship is built by ‘Fincantieri Marine Group’ no matter how much they claim they’re from Wisconsin, I think the FREMM is one of the less likely options.

F100: -450

The F100/Álvaro de Bazán class of Spanish frigates came as a bit of a surprise to me; I hadn’t heard much about them, but clearly I should have been paying closer attention.

The F100 is an Aegis frigate. Yes, you heard me right; besides the related Fridtjof Nansen class, they’re the only frigate-size ships to carry the Aegis setup. Fittingly, the Spaniards did not skimp on missiles. The F100 carries a full 48 cells of Mk. 41 VLS, for a standard combat load of 64 ESSMs and 32 SM-2s.

Its anti-ship capability is a bit more suspect, at only eight Harpoons, but those are in deck launchers and easily retrofit should the Navy come up with an actual decent sea attack missile.

It carries decent anti-submarine weapons and a torpedo decoy, along with a single helicopter, but does presently lack a towed array, a missing feature which could come back to haunt General Dynamics. I don’t know if it would be an easy retrofit, but it’s certainly something the Navy would want addressed.

Beyond that, though, the F100 strikes me as the blindingly obvious choice from the final competitors. There’s zero reason to complain about its anti-air fit, and its anti-ship fit is no worse than most of the other competitors. (Eight Harpoons seems to be enough for the Navy.) A helicopter is more important for modern anti-submarine warfare than a towed array, and one presumes that the F100 could probably ship one if it comes to that, given that a variable depth sonar and a towed array are on the requirements list and General Dynamics still entered the F100. It has 4,500 nautical miles of range, and doesn’t cost any more than the other options on the list.

Why do I not make it the favorite among the options, then? Because the Navy has already plowed a ton of money into the LCS, so they aren’t canceling it, and if they buy a non-LCS-based frigate, then they have to pay both to buy the new frigate and eventually turn the LCS into one. I expect political concerns to hamper the European designs, despite the fact that both the F100 and the FREMM are objectively better in every useful dimension than either LCS or LCS frigate conversion.

The Coast Guard rides again

But wait! There’s a dark horse contender.

Legend-class/National Security Cutter: -2500

While the Legend-class cutters are the right size, have superb range (it’s reduced to 8,000 nautical miles for the bid), and, as Coast Guard cutters, have tons of internal room for weapons and whatnot, selecting a cutter as a base for a frigate design would require the Navy not only to admit the Coast Guard exists, but also to admit that the Coast Guard built a better ship than they did. Not going to happen.

Program canceled or delayed beyond the point of usefulness: +250

I’m not a pessimist by nature, but this really does seem like the most likely outcome to me.

  1. It’s one of our favorite punching bags. If we’re missing a segment for the podcast, I’ve been known to say, “Have we beaten up on the LCS lately?” 

The 2017 Many Words Press Audience Report

It’s that time of year again, which is to say, it’s no longer the previous year, that time when I like to dig into site statistics and come up with some interesting insights for you, the reader.

Total Visitors and Views

Since Google Analytics wasn’t running for the full year (I believe I turned it on again in February), these numbers come straight from the built-in WordPress stats system. It more or less lines up with Google’s numbers for the part of the year where they overlap, so I believe them to be accurate. (Or, at the very least, wrong in the same way all the stats in this article will be.)


In 2017, traffic to the Soapbox doubled compared to 2016; the other two sites held steady.

The Soapbox

As usual, the Soapbox takes the clear victory for both visitors and views.

Popular Posts


The most popular few posts of 2017 were published in 2016 or earlier. Parvusimperator’s Battle Royale review of the P320, the PPQ, and the VP9 has been enduringly popular for us, mainly because it got great search engine play. In fact, in 2017, Battle Royale accounted for about 6,600 views at the Soapbox, between a quarter and a third of the views for the year. We tried to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with an M9/P320 comparison, but that ground was too heavily trod for us to make anything of it. We do have some plans for a future post in the same genre, but I won’t spoil them.

The second and third most popular posts also belong to parvusimperator: the Resurrected Weapons entry for 50mm Supershot and his Colt 6920 review.

Posted This Year

More interesting, I think, is the list of most popular posts published in 2017. After all, that’s most likely the year you started reading in, going by our growth from 2016 to 2017.

  1. Movie and Firearms Review: John Wick Chapter 2
    This sort of post is our bread and butter: a fresh take on a niche subject.

  2. The EDC X9 Is Stupid
    Clickbaity, but effective.

  3. Fishbreath Flies: DCS AJS 37 Viggen Review
    I made it into the top ten! I was a little surprised.

  4. How-To: Two USB Mics, One Computer, JACK, and Audacity
    One of a very few guides on how to connect two USB microphones to one computer, this guide was the forerunner to a more detailed how-to I posted earlier this year. Hopefully that one appears on this list next year.

  5. S&W M&P 2.0
    An article from our SHOT 2017 coverage. We’ve had very little of that this year, which may handicap us somewhat. We were also handicapped last year by not actually being present at SHOT. On our list for 2018 is to continue to develop our supply of firearms-related content so that we can get parvusimperator a 2019 SHOT Show press badge.

  6. Glock Trigger Pull Mods
    Parvusimperator’s roundup of things to do to make your Glock less terrible in the trigger did deservedly well.

  7. New VP Pistols from HK
    We aren’t ordinarily a news site, focusing more on the opinion and commentary side of things, but we sometimes make exceptions for news of particular interest to us. Parvusimperator’s a big fan of the VP line, and I confess they have their charms, so we ran with it.

  8. Fishbreath Plays: Starsector 0.8 Kind-Of-Review
    I always try to write up big Starsector updates, because when it hits 1.0, it’s going to be one of the very best space sandboxes of the decade. People seem to like hearing about it.

  9. Wilson Combat’s New EDC X9
    I’m very proud of this one, and of parvusimperator’s work on it. We scooped the major firearms blogs by twelve hours.

  10. Hudson H9 Range Report
    Another SHOT show post, parvusimperator picked up the impressions off of some of his shooting forum buddies.

Traffic Acquisition

The Soapbox, like most websites, gets the overwhelming majority of its traffic from Google searches. 81% of our sessions come from Google. The next 13% are direct traffic.

The other 6% are spread across the lesser search engines, social links, and forum posts. We get the very occasional hit from some hnefatafl websites.


97% of the Soapbox’s users are male. The 25-34 demographic is the most popular, although our prime age range is 25-44. (After that, 45-54 comes next, followed by 18-24, then 55+.)

64% of Soapbox sessions in 2017 came from Americans. The UK, Canada, and Australia come in in places two through four, and Romania sits in fifth. (Romania slipped behind Australia very late in the year; we saw a few binges from Australia in the stats late in the year.)


Curiously, the Soapbox sees more mobile (that is, phone and tablet) views than views from desktops, by about a 60-40 ratio. 55% of our mobile visitors are Apple users; the rest are on Android devices.

Chrome, however, is more popular than Safari, which suggests that a strong majority of desktop users use Chrome. (Sadly, my favored Firefox represents only 7% of our hits.)

Many Words Main

The fiction arm of Many Words Press is dramatically less popular, but it’s my pet project, so I’m going to talk about it in a little depth.

Popular Posts

As expected from a site with ongoing content, the front page is the most popular part of the site by a large margin, followed by the Archives page and the e-books-for-sale page.

Traffic Acquisition

In contrast to the Soapbox, only 5% of the visitors to Many Words Main came from Google searches. Direct traffic was the most common method of arrival, and referrals from various sources came next.

For all the effort I’ve put in getting listed on various web fiction aggregators, we see very little traffic from them.


Unfortunately, Many Words Main has no information on demographics; Google can’t tease out information which can’t be linked back to one or several users.

The location information is also less exciting: the US and Canada make up the top 65% of views. China, a bit unusual, comes in at 6%. Every other location on the planet is below 3%.


Fascinatingly, despite being more e-book-like, Many Words Main is viewed 75-25 on desktops. Apple devices also make up a mere 40% of the mobile views.

Other Sites

Not much to mention here, besides that the most popular Softworks product is our Out of the Park Baseball schedule generator. Even though it’s imperfect—highly so—it’s the only product of its nature with any recent updates, and therefore pretty frequently downloaded.

That’s all I have. Thanks for reading this post, and for your views in 2017. We have big plans for the future, and we’re glad you’re along for the ride.