Range Report: "Snake Slayer"

I finally got that derringer I ordered... er, six months ago? Nine months ago? Something like that.

I'd ordered a Bond Arms Texas Defender, but what I actually got was their upgrade model, which for some reason they decided to call the Snake Slayer. All Bond Arms guns are essentially the same, with one variation off the standard double-barrel derringer:

Texas Defender: 3" barrel, short grip.
Cowboy Defender: 3" barrel, short grip, no trigger guard (so it looks like an old Remington derringer for Cowboy Action shooters).
Century 2000: 3.5" barrel, short grip.
Snake Slayer: 3.5" barrel, long grip.

All of which means nothing, since you can buy the extra sized grip as an aftermarket, plus the barrels are interchangable. So what you're really buying is the one you want out of the box, but you can make it into any of them (including the Cowboy, as the trigger guard is removable). Plus, you can buy a barrel for your same derringer that can shoot pretty much any major cartridge made, from .22 LR to .44 Special or .45 Long Colt. All you need is an allen wrench, included, and you can swap out barrels as easy as easy can be.

This one is chambered for .45 Long Colt, but will also take .410 shotgun shells. In fact, Bond Arms will happily sell you .410 shotgun shells loaded with 00 buckshot. I was shooting Hornady .45 Long Colt "Cowboy" loads, which are cast lead without jackets.

There are four things which are notable.

1) This is an extremely challenging weapon. Recoil is stiff, the stiffest I've ever encountered in a handgun. It's got almost no barrel anyway, so accuracy is quite poor. Out of twenty rounds, I kept all of them on paper, but I only had one in the X ring; two in the eight ring; five in the six-seven ring; and the rest were just somewhere on the paper. Not good. Still, for defense at extremely close ranges (FBI crime reports suggest that most gunfights take place at less than ten feet) it would be adequate.
2) The barrel is so short that, even at fifteen feet, the bullet is "tumbling" rather than traveling straight. That could create a nasty wound cavity. This is a good thing for everyone except, of course, the fellow on the business end.
3) It has a crossbar safety, as well as being single-action. As long as you exercise the usual precautions that you should always exercise when handling a firearm, the risk of accidental discharge is as close to zero as an engineer could desire.
4) The report and the cloud of smoke are worthy of comment.

So here's the comment: I arrived at the range on a cold, grey day. There was a small crowd of young people there with a couple of experienced instructors. I assume they were taking a course on firearms safety or something similar. They occupied most of the lanes, so I had to wait a bit. It was not unpleasant, though, watching them shoot: young men and women learning the ropes, and accepting the challenges and responsibilities that come with handling a dangerous weapon.

They kindly made room for me at the next ceasefire, and so I set up on the lane furthest to the left (which is desirable, as it keeps hot brass from being pitched on you by the semiautomatics). I was of course wearing earplugs, as hearing protection is (and ought to be) mandatory. Even so, I could hear the buzz of conversation from these young folks. They were wondering just what it was I was going to shoot, as I wasn't obviously in possession of a firearm.

I took out the derringer, laid it on the mat, and carefully loaded the first two rounds. I could hear the two young ladies tittering. "It's so tiny!" one of them said to the other. I smiled, because I understood. They'd been firing .45 ACPs and Sig Sauer 9mms, which are much more impressive to look at even though they fire a round that is substantially weaker than the old Long Colt. They didn't have enough experience to notice how big the bore of the barrels were.

The thing about the .45 LC is this: in 1873, the US Army had to ask Colt to go back to the drawing board and produce a less-powerful version of the cartridge for Army use. It was too hard-hitting for professional soldiers, even firing it out of 7-1/2" barrels from a full-sized Colt Single Action Army revolver. This thing has almost no barrel at all, and none of the mass of the Colt to absorb the recoil.

I discharged the tiny thing. For about half a minute, there was utter silence on the range.

It takes about five seconds for even a reasonable breeze, such as we had, to clear the smoke well enough that you could see the result of the shot. The report is a shockwave, for a handgun -- obviously any serious rifle will put it to shame. Still, between the report and the cloud of smoke, it's a fairly serious psychological weapon. If you should discharge it in a street while defending yourself from the average armed robber, I would think he would be halfway to the nearest train station before the smoke cleared even if you missed him. If you hit him, I'm fairly sure that tumbling .45 would put him down.

I cocked it again, fired again, and then reloaded and worked through the box. Afterwards, at the next ceasefire, one of the instructors came over to me.

"What on earth is that thing you're firing?" he asked. I told him.

"What does it shoot?" he wondered. I took a spare cartridge out of my pocket and handed it to him.

His eyes got big. "My God," he said. "Hey, Bob, come here and look at this."

So, here's my verdict: if you're up to a real challenge, you might like a Bond Arms derringer in one of the heavy calibers. As a "toss it in your pants pocket on your way to town" gun, it's perfect. I have no doubt that it would be effective as a defensive firearm, at the sort of close ranges where crime is apt to take place. The psychological effect of it is apt to stop fights and disperse crowds, as it was shocking even to experienced firearm instructors.

However, it's not for beginners, and it's not for the weak. You'd better have the wrists to back it up.


Attention The Hall:

You are all familiar with JHD. It is with sympathy and honor we remark the passage of his father. I will leave it to the man himself to speak to the gentleman's history, though the eulogy he sent me was most impressive. I hope he will repeat it to you, though it is not mine to do so.

The next world, however we find it, will be better that men such as this have gone there before us. Raise your glasses, brothers and sisters.



...to The Major.


Breathless Anticipation:

I absolutely cannot wait for the next Rumsfeld press conference. I would give anything to hear his answer if a reporter asked him, "Sir, is it true that the US military plans a forward base on the Moon for the purpose of shooting at UFOs?"

I hope there's a cameraman handy, too. I'd love to see the look on Rumsfeld's face.


Core Competency: Adding Context

Specialist Van Treuren adds context from an AP report to an NY Times report about the bombing at an Iraqi hospital this week. Then, Major K. adds still more context absent from both reports. Readers who follow the MilBlogs are thus much better informed than readers of AP wire reports, and at least twice as well informed as those who are still getting their news from the NY Times.


Measures of Effectiveness:

"MOE" is military-speak for anything you can use to measure and track progress toward a given goal. Here are two, for the success of the mission in Iraq.

I. A Gift

Iraq's Red Crescent Donates $1 million to Katrina victims. (H/t Greyhawk).

"I wish we could have a billion dollars to give," Said Hakki, the organization's president, said by telephone from Baghdad. "Even then, it is not enough to show our appreciation for what the U.S. has done for Iraq and is still doing."
In the early days after Katrina, Bangladesh donated $1 million as well. It was a great shock, as the government of Bangladesh is run by a coalition of three parties, two of which are Islamist in outlook. They remembered what we had done during the tsunami, though, and wanted to do right by us in turn.

How much does that mean in the 'hearts and minds' war? Bangladesh's Islamist movement has what Daniel was calling 'shame cultures,' so it is possible to read the generosity in the wrong way. The motive in Bangladesh is less likely to be a sense of love, than the desire to avoid the shame of being seen less generous than the American. So, a generous gift from Bangladesh does not prove that we have won hearts or minds.

On the other hand, it doesn't have to: establishing reciprocal bonds of honor and duty works almost as well. Love is better, because it will drive actions taken in secret as well as those taken in public. But if you can't have love, honor and duty is the next best thing.

How does the Iraq gift appear in that light? Iraqi Muslims also participate in a shame culture. The gift in this case, however, appears to be given not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of love. The Red Crescent is a self-selecting group, made up of people who are likely to express fellow-feeling through charitable giving. It can't be read as revealing for all of Iraqi society. Nevertheless, with those caveats said, we have to read this as a strongly positive MOE.

II. Iraqi Operations

Iraq's vice president reports that Iraqi forces now implement 70% of security operations. Mackubin Thomas Owens notes that, if the standard is "US-Iraqi or independent Iraqi operations," the figure is 80%.

Bill Roggio noted in an email yesterday traveling on a certain highway in Iraq, the name of which I will leave out for OPSEC reasons. It was, as he reminded us, a highway that had always been extremely dangerous -- until Iraqi forces were able to take it over. They are more effective at many kinds of security operations because (a) they speak the language, and (b) they all naturally understand the culture, and (c) they can more easily spot someone who doesn't belong. That leaves them especially capable of handling the "hold" part of "clear and hold" operations, and other similar security ops.

But wait, that's not all. As the COUNTERCOLUMN points out, the Iraqi Army is now conducting air assault missions.
Air assaults are very challenging, involving a great deal of staff work and specialized troop training. They can stretch officers and NCOs to the limit. The fact that Iraqi troops are now capable of conducting air assaults alongside the 101st, the masters of the art, is very encouraging. Will any national news outlets grasp the significance of this development? Nope.
Again, the MOE here is strongly positive. Far from depressed, we ought to be most encouraged by the recent progress.



We gather today to feast with some of our friends and family, and to miss the ones who are not there with us. It can be hard to be as thankful as the holiday calls for when those you care about are far away. My respects to all of you who must endure that, and manage still to remember the purpose in your hearts.

I see that InstaPundit is recipe-blogging in preparation for the holiday. We've been known to do that here, though mostly with recipes for cooking over open fires (see also the comments). I've encountered a couple of good cookbooks lately, by the way. The first one is mostly for people who, like me, prefer to cook over an open fire: Barbecue, Biscuits and Beans by the founders of the Western Chuck Wagon Assoc.

There's also The All American Cowboy Cookbook. What's interesting about this one is that it's got recipes from rodeo riders, cowboy poets, owners of ranches, and also actors who have famously played cowboys. As a result, the type of food on offer is widely varied and will suit any taste or skill level.

For example, Baxter Black and his wife submitted a great recipe for cooking barbecue ribs in a fire pit that requires you to hose the sand and dirt off them the next day before you chow down on them. This is real cowboy cooking. Some of the ranch recipes are very simple ("Cowboy Beans: 1 pound dry beans, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt"). On the other hand, Clint Eastwood entered a recipe he calls "Spaghetti Western," which features shrimp and sea scallops... so if you like to eat fancy food, there are several recipes from Hollywood gourmets and the fancier dude ranches.

Also, though it's the wrong time of year, I remember I offered my recipe for PETA Pie, in honor of Eat An Animal For PETA Day. It's pretty good if you like meat pies, which I learned to do because of a fondness for medieval history. You don't encounter pies in America much that aren't sweet -- chicken pot pie is the only one that comes to mind. Still, give it a try sometime.

Enjoy the feast.



A few weeks ago, we had a soldier from CENTCOM PA drop by and spam our comments section. Eric remarked, as I recall, "We just got spammed by CENTCOM! CENTCOM cares what we think! Cool!"

Well, they do indeed care. They sent me an email this morning asking me to link to them, and they sent along an appropriate image as well. I'm only too happy to add the link: just click on the CENTCOM badge, on the sidebar.

Wrong Way

An Insult to a Worthy Gentleman:

I've been speaking to points of etiquette lately. Here is a point at which the traditions of etiquette have reached their limits. It comes in a letter directed at Captain Jason von Steenwyck:

I'm not ignorant. I don't like bigots or liars. Moore included. You included.

Don't bother to respond.
The Army forbids its officers from fighting duels, which was the traditional response to such a challenge. The Captain responds gallantly, according to the forms which are still allowed:
I hold that neither has been established.... So let the evidence be brought forth! It will either be an opportunity for self-examination and growth, or it will be an opportunity for much laughter, mirth and merriment at the expense of some frothy-mouthed morons.
That is too much. The honor of an officer of the United States military should not be a light matter, against which the word of any fool can stand. It is not right that a man of his proven valor should have to invite "evidence" of his bigotry and deceitfulness. The challenge has no right to be entertained.

In the days before the duel, the ancient Germanic code held that oath-swearing could take the place of trials by combat. It was a complicated process, but in short, the oaths of the honorable could outweigh any charge, so long as enough such men were willing to swear by their fellow. In a time before forensics, that could be a useful way of asserting the confidence of a close community in a man known by all to be of good heart. In a time after dueling, perhaps it can again serve as a way of asserting the confidence of a community of fighting men in the honor of one of their own.

I'll take my oath by the Captain. I defy anyone to say he is either a liar or a bigot.


Spirit of America:

Another fellow I met on that evening was "Sandy" Shapero, CEO of Spirit of America. They're doing some work in Iraq, and are raising funds for:

- Helping Iraqi and American school children build crucial bonds of
trust and understanding.
- Helping the Marines set up women's centers in both countries that
can provide job training, Internet access, day care services, and a
place where women can meet to exchange ideas and form mutual support
- Working with the Army in Najaf to improve health care services by
setting up a central cardiac monitoring system at a key teaching
- Improving relations between Iraqis and Marines in Al Anbar Province
by donating school supplies, shoes, sports equipment, watches, and
other gifts to Iraqi children.
- Assisting the Marines as they help local farmers rejuvenate their
It's good work they do, and they don't get any government money. If you're thinking of giving to charity this holiday season, or wanting to help the mission in Iraq, Spirit of America is a good way to go about it.

SF Democ

"The Mayor of Ar Rutbah"

Don't miss this piece from Foreign Policy by Green Beret James A. Gavrilis. It describes how he and his company set up a functioning democracy in the early days of the Iraq war.

The story reminded me of the evening I spent listening to LtCol Couvillon, USMC, describing his stint as "military governor" of Wasit. Obvioiusly these good ideas aren't limited to the Special Forces. (I also met Omar and Mohammed on the same evening, though they don't know they met me -- I only shook their hands, thanked them, and left them to talk to more important people than me.)

As we have apparently decided to take stock of Iraq right now, we can usefully remember how far it has come in those two years. A tyranny that had known no self-government for decades now has flourishing small communities like this. They exist in spite of the violence, which seeks to blot out these small acts of freedom and return a new tyranny to the land. It will not be.

Ralph Peters

Ralph Peters Is Mad:

He writes mad better than most, but this time, he's really mad.

I am absolutely astonished by the calls for withdrawal, coming as they do at this time. Of course, they've been coming all along from certain parties, but I can't see any reason why now would be the time you decided to believe that it wasn't going to work. As I wrote in an email to certain parties (with certain details redacted):

In April '04, we had insurgents holding eleven cities across Iraq openly against the US Army. In September '04, the Army had shut all that down, but there were still strongholds in Anbar. In November '04, after Fallujah, those strongholds started to fall one by one. By this summer, we're seeing Sunni tribes who had been somewhat loyal to the insurgents breaking off and supporting the government. Now, we're seeing even some of the more serious tribes negotiating with the government, and we've got clear-and-hold operations throughout Anbar.

Last winter, we were having insurgent attacks in force against American military posts -- remember when the general officers had to take up arms in Ramadi? When was the last time they tried to overrun a US firebase? January? I know the *** is demoralizing, but they do *** because they can't do assaults.

All the evidence is that our boys are rolling them up, and the new Iraqi government is starting to get its feet under it. I don't see why anyone has any doubt that we're winning, and winning big. Meanwhile, al Qaeda's use of murder squads aimed at civilians is cutting the heart out of their support among Muslims. Zarqawi was disowned by his tribe today; last week, we had the largest Muslim organization in the world condemn suicide bombing. If we get to the point that Muslims in general are opposed to groups that carry out suicide attacks, we've won the GWOT for all intents and purposes. After that, we just need to focus on penetrating and capturing the cells in the West, while encouraging democracy and openness abroad.

That's not to say that it isn't still a long road with some dark places along it. But it is to say -- what are people thinking? How can anyone stand up and say that the war isn't winnable, when we are so clearly winning it?
That's the question that baffles me. I realize those who know nothing at all about military science get their opinion of the progress from the media, which apparently also knows nothing about military science. Their reports mention every explosion, but contain no context of increasing stability. Even the Jordan bomb, so clearly a disaster for al Qaeda, was reported as proof of their influence. The image you might take away is of an insurgency that's no less powerful today than it was last year, or a year and a half ago: an enemy that makes no mistakes, whose every attack is an unqualified success.

Still, why have these calls suddenly jumped to the front page and the top of the agenda? Why now? There have been no events on the ground in Iraq to explain a sudden sense of failure. There has been no Tet offensive to misread as an enemy victory. Even if you judge only from the media, without any context to explain the progress being made, surely things don't appear to be getting sharply worse. They just don't explain how it's getting better.

Is it just because Bush's poll numbers are bad, and so the political opposition -- as Peters suggests -- is piling on for that reason? Can it really be that the opposition is so uninterested in national security and the success of America's military and her foreign policy? Can it really be that the only thing driving this is domestic politics -- that the leadership of one of our two policital parties is willing to lose a war purely in pursuit of domestic politics? Whether or not that is so, it's certainly driven the leadership of both parties into playing high-profile games with what ought to be an issue of serious thought.

I want to hear a convincing argument that this is not the case. I will be happy to embrace it, if someone can make it to me. So far, I'm not seeing it. What I'm seeing is a political class that needs an education. It's not just senior officials saying that the dispute is hurting morale -- I've been hearing it from fighters in the field and from their families. The New York Times decided to ask some soldiers, and reports that the dispute between Congress and the President has little effect on morale. Maybe that's true, and I've just heard from people who feel differently than most.

Still, in the last line of the article, they mention this: "Many in uniform say it is the job of the nation's political leaders to communicate the importance of the mission and the need for national sacrifice to a new generation of soldiers." I agree -- the leaders do need to communicate that. They need to show that they understand how important it is to succeed in the mission. These political games need to end. You can't play at standing behind the soldiers and their mission. You have to really be behind them.


Boys Will Be...

I'm not sure exactly why, but my son has recently developed an interest in guns. Both my wife and I carry concealed sometimes (with legal permits, of course), my wife in particular, but we have always taken pains not to have him aware of it (if only so he won't pipe up in public and say, "Mommy, will you take your gun out?"). The guns are locked out of sight and unloaded, separate from their ammo, except the firearms for night defense -- which are also locked out of sight in a safe, and in a condition where they can't be used without some knowledge of how they operate. The safe is sealed and locked every morning before he gets up, so I'm pretty sure that it's not my behavior that has caused this interest. He doesn't see me carrying a gun, in other words, or handling them, or whatever.

I'm not opposed to teaching him about them, just the opposite -- but he's only three. I thought swords would be enough for a while yet. And indeed, the other day we took a long walk, and he carried his wooden sword along. Every few feet, he'd stop and pretend to fight "another monster!" It's very endearing.

However, he has for some time also been picking up sticks that are kind of gun-shaped, and carrying them around. He makes a gun noise: "jugga-jugga!" I guess he got the idea from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, or The Lone Ranger, or one of the other adventure movies he likes to watch when he isn't watching Kipper the Dog.

He has also been begging me to buy him a toy gun. I resisted for a long while. Guns are not toys, I keep telling him; they are a serious business. Still, he's playing "guns" anyway with the sticks; and, I reflected, with a toy that had some semblance to how a real firearm operates, I could start teaching him firearms safety in an enviornment with no consequences if he screws up (e.g., "Don't point that at me!" won't cause anyone to get shot if he does anyway). By the time he's old enough, if I'm dilligent about it, he should know the rules of firearms safety as second nature. I hope, in other words, that I'm doing the right thing by encouraging his interest rather than creating a forbidden object to desire; and by taking the opportunity to teach him how to behave safely and with responsibility. Besides, I had toy guns as a kid.

I weighed and considered this for a long time. I finally made up my mind to go ahead with it, if he continued to show interest, yesterday afternoon. He was playing with his stick gun again. "I've got a gun, daddy!" he said.

I sighed, and pointed to his sword. "You've also got a sword," I replied. "What do you need a gun for anyway?"

He looked at me seriously, and said, "For shooting bad guys."

Well, I couldn't argue with that. It's the very reason I own guns.

So, since he was pleasant and good today, I offered to buy him a toy; and he insisted that he wanted a gun. So we went to WalMart, and he picked out a toy shotgun (the "Montana," of a line of toys that replicate old cowboy guns -- he passed up Star Wars stuff for this). I gave him the initial lecture about gun saftey (which I'm sure went right over his head, but by the time he's ten he'll be able to recite it backwards in his sleep). Then I gave him the thing, and took him home.

A few hours later, I'm up in my office working, and I can hear him operating the thing down below. He's in the bedroom, watching a movie. His mother's voice drifts up.

"Beowulf! Are you shooting Bambi?"

A pause while he answers.

"You're shooting Bambi's Mom?!?!?"

Well, uh, boys will be boys, you know.