Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Point at what you Shoot.

Regular readers will know that I often find that diverse threads of research unexpectedly meet.

The other day I was contributing to a discussion on futuristic and unusual revolver designs. One such gun was the Vector 22 shooting system that was offered by an Albuquerque company called “Mark Three”. The Vector 22 had a number of novel features, one of these being a distinct lack of decent photographs of it on the internet! I may devote a future blog to this design once I find time to scan images from a few of my reference books.

The particular feature that interests me today is the grip and trigger. The Vector 22 had a grip somewhat like a saw. It was designed to be held with the first finger pointed down the side of the weapon and the lower three fingers around the grip. A rest for the tip of the forefinger can be seen top centre. Firing was by squeezing the grip so involved every finger except the trigger finger! The muzzle of the pistol was a little below the line of the first finger and close to the axis of the forearm.

Later, I am flicking through another book on a quite different subject and I come across the statement that when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald he pulled the trigger with his second finger and had his first finger pointed at the target. From the photographic evidence this does appear to be the case. Allegedly this was a technique taught to the SIS and SOE. Ruby may have arrived at the technique independently or may have learnt it from another source. He may have just grabbed the gun wrong in haste! Ruby had lost the tip of his forefinger but this was on his left hand. Pocket revolvers such as the Colt Cobra Ruby uses often have short grips. Working the trigger with the second finger may also be more comfortable with such a weapon. It would also place the bore-line lower down in the hand, helping to reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. This technique is sometimes called “Point and Shoot” or “P&S.”


Sadly I do not have access to any firearms at the moment so I had to experiment with a pistol-shaped video game controller. I noticed that gripping with the second finger on the trigger did encourage a firm grip. This is an advantage when using the “Quick Kill” techniques advocated by Fairbairn and Applegate. Snap presentations tended to put the front blade over the target. Using the second finger seems to encourage “squeezing the grip” rather than “pulling the trigger”. This, and the lowered bore-line I suspect will tend to reduce movement of the firearm when firing. Overall the “weapon” seems more stable in this grip.

One the downside I noticed I had a tendency to apply pressure to the trigger with the second finger when I first gripped a gun in this fashion. Your initial experiments with this grip should be made with an unloaded weapon until you become more familiar with this technique. When using a loaded weapon be wary of the possibility of accidental discharges and keep your muzzle orientated in a safe direction at all times. You will also need to learn to keep the second finger off the trigger when not firing.

Ruby used this technique with a pocket revolver. It should work with an automatic providing that there is sufficient depth of the frame. Obviously you do not want your forefinger resting against the moving slide, over the ejector port or beyond the muzzle. It is not recommended for Colt M1911s. The pistol will also sit lower in the hand so there is the potential for “hammer bite” with some weapons. I suspect this is more likely to be a problem with some older designs rather than modern weapons. Finger guards can be constructed or purchased.

There is no reason why this technique should be restricted to pistols. Try it with a rifle or shotgun and see if it makes the weapon present better. A rapid fire technique for bolt-action rifles uses the second finger to work the trigger, freeing the first finger to manipulate the bolt.

The Books

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Four Defense Techniques for Women.

When I first started this blog I expected it to feature more techniques than it has. “Attack, Avoid, Survive” was written to be a fairly comprehensive work so between it, the new edition and “Crash Combat” the majority of techniques I might wish to pass on have been covered. On this blog it has been more common to pass on more specialist techniques such as the Fairbairn Thumb Hold.
Following a recent private conversion I thought it might be instructive to look at some defensive techniques in the context of shorter, lighter users. The video shown below has appeared a couple of times on a group I frequent. This is interesting since the group is not about martial arts or specifically for women. Self defence videos span the full range of quality but this is one of the more realistic. My additional comments follow.

The finger jab is a technique in my book and recommended for its speed and ability to distract a foe. Chaining techniques together to maintain initiative is also in the book. Here we see the two concepts logically combined to produce a rapid fire counter attack. I would be inclined to teach this technique alongside the chin jab. The chin jab is well suited to users of shorter height than their attackers and the barrage of finger jabs can create an opportunity to use it.
The knee to the groin is an effective and well known technique. So well known that many attackers will be prepared for just such a move. My best advice here is to be aware that there is a definite window to using this technique. You do not throw it when you feel like it, but when you detect the instant where to attacker is open to it. This is mainly learnt from sparring and practice. This window is spatial as well as temporal. Too far away and your knee will not reach, too close and it cannot access the target. The same mechanics of a good knee strike also teach you the front snap kick, so add this to your arsenal.
Striking the groin is not just a technique for the knees! The palm heel strike can be directed to this region too. After impact dig your fingers deep into whatever you have encountered, grasp with all your strength and throw that hand back over your shoulder. This technique is described in the Vital Points section of my book. In the new edition with give it the aide memoir name of “Monkey steals plums”. Someone I personally know used this technique on a would-be rapist. She pulled so hard one of his testes popped out of his scrotum. Serves him right and good for her!
If some defence courses and books are to be believed someone grabbing your throat with both hands is commonplace. I am sceptical about this but it is something my girlfriend specifically asked me about recently so it is obviously something that concerns women.
Effective counters to the frontal strangle fall into three groups. Those that come up, those that come down and those that come from the side. The technique shown in the video is a side technique. It may be considered to be an abbreviated form of the “ginga-based” technique shown in my book. The latter is more likely to throw an enemy off-balance and places your elbow ready to counter attacks to attempted head-butts and similar.
The upward technique involves clamping your hands together  and using your forearms as a wedge to drive upwards between the attacker’s arms. Swing your joined hands forward to hit towards his face in time honoured Captain Kirk fashion. This is a more strength and surprise orientated technique so may not work. Be ready to follow on with another counter-attack.
An example of a downward technique is that described in my book as based on “Wind through the ears”. Your forearms come together before your face like sliding doors and you put your full weight into your elbows against his arms. You may even jump up to deliver all your weight.
Another sideways technique you may have seen is to reach over the top of both arms with one arm, under both arms with the other. Take a firm hold and twist your waist so your lower elbow is raised and your upper is dropped. This is a technique you can attempt if you are lying on your back.
Unless your attacker has pinned you against a wall moving backwards can weaken the throat grabber’s position. Perhaps you can lead him so that an obstacle such as a chair or counter is between you.
Alternately, hold onto his arms for stability and use your front snap kick to hit his groin, stomach, solar plexus or heart. You may need to add an oblique delivery to access your target, which is why my book also covers the roundhouse kick. Grabbing the arms and kicking is a valid follow-up to the “upward wedge” technique if it does not break the hold.
Having a heavier attacker on top of you is a difficult situation for any fighter. To the advice given in the video I will suggest that if he has his weight on your arms accompany your bucking action by sinking your teeth into his wrist or thigh to distract him and weaken one corner of his stability. More ground techniques in my book.
The Books

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Guns for Commandos

Following my recent look at covert and James Bond firearms I thought a look at armament for more “overt” special operations might be instructive. In addition to special forces this includes the reconnaissance sections of more conventional units and hostage rescue units such as SWAT.
If our TV screens are to be believed special forces always favour unsuppressed MP5s, which will seldom be fired in burst of less than ten rounds. Some MP5s used as props have probably logged more screen time than Richard Jaeckel!
There is no single “best” weapons for such operations so I will limit this post to the subject of suppressed weapons. There are a number of reasons why suppressed weapons might be used. The obvious one is to avoid unwelcome attention. As well as the military advantages of this property it is also welcome for applications such as pest control. In confined spaces gunfire can be deafening and disorientating, which is a reason to favour suppressed weapons for overt CQB operations such as SWAT assaults. Suppressors also protect the hearing of shooters (and that of their dogs) so can be beneficial in situations where more conventional hearing protection is impractical. I recently read a statement that some suppressors make shooting in volatile atmospheres such as drug labs less hazardous.
Below is a British weapon known as a “De Lisle Carbine”. These were built from a number of existing constructions. The action is from an SMLE, the magazine from a Colt 1911, the barrel from a Thompson SMG and the sights from a Lancaster machine carbine. The stock of the folding variant looks like that of a Patchett/ Sterling, a weapon being developed in the same factory at the same time.

Allegedly the loudest noise when firing the De Lisle was the striker hitting the cap! The bolt handle included a rubber pad on the underside to muffle the metallic click of operation. Operating the bolt was the loudest part of operating the De Lisle but being a manual action the user could at least choose to do this when they thought it most expedient. Unlike many of its contemporaries the De Lisle uses the .45 ACP round and is effective to three or four hundred yards. The De Lisle was used in the latter half of World War Two and the Malaya Emergency. It may have been used in Korea, Northern Ireland and later conflicts.

The De Lisle was an excellent weapon for dispatching sentries at relatively long ranges. It was not so useful if you needed to quickly neutralize a guardroom full of enemies. For such missions there was the silenced models of the Owen, Sten mk II and mk VI and later the silenced Sterling L34. These selective fire weapons all use the 9mm Luger round which is supersonic in its standard loading. There are two approaches to this problem, neither really ideal. The first is to port the gun barrel and bleed off propellant from behind the round, reducing the velocity of standard ammunition. The requires a bulkier and more complex suppressor to deal with the bled off gases. The other approach is to issue special subsonic loadings of ammunition, such as the 139gr Nahpatrone ‘08S or the MEN 155gr im 9x19mm. Small quantities of specialist items have a tendency to get lost in the supply system or not reach where they are needed.
For suppressed applications the .45 ACP has a number of advantages. It is subsonic in its standard loadings and is widely available. The bullet is also heavier than that of most subsonic alternatives. If you fire two bullets of similar design at the same velocity it is the heavier that will usually travel furthest and hit harder.
The formative years of the SMG were centred on Germany so designs not in 9mm are rare. Suppressed .45 weapons are even rarer, but not unknown.

One design that has seen some use is the suppressed M3 and M3A1 “Grease Gun”. Below is the wartime version. The OSS Weapons and Equipment Catalogue (p.41) comments that the bolt movement is still noisy but at least the operator is no longer deafened by the clatter of the piece. The weight of the suppressor also counters muzzle climb.

In US hands the suppressed M3/ M3A1 served at least until Vietnam. In the hands of other nations these weapons served even longer. Below are a number of M3s used by Philippine troops. Some appear to have new designs of suppressor and modernized sighting systems. Wisely the operators have camouflaged their weapons.

There are two objectionable features of the M3 as a commando weapon. One is that it fires from an open bolt. The second is that it can only be fired fully automatic. Neither of these features lends itself to medium range precision fire such as eliminating sentries or cameras.

Many years back I proposed that a .45 version of the Sterling would be a very useful weapon. The configuration of the Sterling allows a prone shooter in an OP to stay really low and hidden. Police variants of the Sterling are designed to be fired from a closed bolt. Potentially the bolt could be locked in the forward position, functioning like a slide lock on a suppressed pistol. Noted as a very reliable design Sterlings sold worldwide with 400,000 being produced. Its production and distribution might actually exceed that of the MP5, but Hollywood seldom shows them! Sadly the production lines for the Sterling has long since been scrapped.
Another user of the M3 was the South Korean special forces. When replacements became necessary someone had the smart idea of adapting the Daewoo assault rifle into a suppressed SMG. I think they would have been wiser to have made it .45 rather than 9mm, but they were on the right lines. Several designs of assault rifle such as the AUG and Tavor can be modified into 9mm weapons. There are also other SMG designs that use components of assault rifles, such as the Chilean SAF and the Colt 9mm.

Basing a suppressed SMG on an assault rifle has a number of advantages. Troops need little additional training and supply and maintenance are simplified. Assault rifles generally use closed bolt operation. This can be retained even if the design switches from gas to blowback operation. Many assault rifle designs have non-reciprocating bolt handles which may decrease the mechanical noise of firing. It might be prudent to take a leaf from the PB’s book and construct the suppressor in two parts: a rear section to deal with bled gas and a detachable forward section to handle muzzle blast. The detachable section will make transporting the weapon more convenient and allow the firer to make noise when attention is desirable for signalling or distraction.
The envisioned weapon would have both close range assault application and a medium precision role so might more accurately be termed a carbine. There are some newer subsonic rounds such as the .30 Whisper, .30 Blackout and 9x39mm but I think the .45 still has much to recommend it. Possibly magazines could be compatible with handguns. Some years ago I wrote an article on a “magsub” using the .45 win mag for an unconventional warfare weapon. This is still an attractive idea but would mainly be useful if the round can use heavier subsonic bullets than the .45 ACP. Compatibility with handguns would also need to be investigated.
Below are rather nice images that give an idea what a suppressed .45 AR-15-based weapon might look like. Magazine would be different, of course.

Below is a Chinese soldier armed with the Type 64 suppressed SMG. The standard Chinese SMG and pistol load is the 7.62x25mm Tokarev, an 85gr bullet noted for its high (1,650 fps+) velocity. The Type 64 uses a subsonic load using a bullet of between 187-202gr. One wonders if these are rifle bullets and how bullets of that mass fit in the cartridge case. Allegedly the Type 64 can use standard pistol ammunition but I wonder if any modifications are necessary or loss of performance results.

The Books

Friday, 7 April 2017

Guns for James Bond : Keep it Quiet!

A friend of mine is a major Bond fan, so rather enjoyed the Bond hook I put in the last blog. I thought it might be interesting to look a bit closer at the firearms of Commander Bond.

I’m not going to make an in depth study here, since there are many webpages that have done this already. This one is particularly worth a read.

Bond has been armed with some oddities over the years. In the early books his primary weapon was a .25 Beretta, most likely an M418. About the best thing you can say about this pistol is that it was most certainly concealable. A .25 ACP (6.35mm) is a bit like a knitting needle. It is lethal if you can put it in the right place, but only a “darn” fool would choose it as his main defence. Incidentally my book “Attack, Avoid, Survive” has some advice on getting the most out of “mouse guns” such as the .25.


One reader who objected to Bond’s use of such a puny weapon was Geoffrey Boothroyd. If the name seems familiar it is because Fleming named a character after him and the character of this name appears in some of the books and movies. Boothroyd suggested that Bond be armed with the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight, supplemented by a .357 magnum for longer range situations.

In Dr. No Fleming equips Bond with a Walther PPK and a Centennial for longer ranges. In Fleming’s defence, an automatic is more logical for an agent who might need to use a suppressor. Some reviewers have noted that Fleming seems to have had a fondness for two-part names such as “Aston Martin” and “Vodka Martini”, so “Walther PPK” may have appealed to him. The claim that the 7.65mm/ .32 ACP gun has “a delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window” is, of course nonsense. The main merit of the .32 is that it is better than a .22 and .25.
The most likely explanation for the Centennial as a long-range gun is that Fleming did not understand what Boothroyd was suggesting. The Centennial seems to have been quietly dropped from later books, probably because Fleming was embarrassed by such a foolish mistake.

When John Gardner took over writing the Bond novels he inflicted a variety of personal firearms on Bond. The most bizarre was a Browning M1903 automatic chambered for 9mm Long cartridges. It’s an elegant looking weapon but offers not advantages over more modern weapons. Ammunition would be very hard to find, and when found would be of questionable age and reliability. In later books Gardner’s Bond uses a H&K VP-70, a P7/ PSP and an ASP, a customized Smith & Wesson M39 automatic. In one of the films Bond switches to a Walther P99. The particular movie is notable for some very unsubtle product placement, BTW.

My friend voiced the opinion that Bond needed a new, compact 9x19mm weapon, and I had to disagree.

If we accept that Bond is theoretically more about stealth than assault then the Walther PPK remains a good choice, although he’d be advised to use a .380 ACP/ 9x17mm version. It’s a compact, double action weapon and the round is subsonic, making it more compatible than a 9x19mm for suppressed shooting.
A more logical choice, however, might be for Bond to acquire a 9x18mm Makarov. The Makarov PM is very similar to the Walther PPK/ PP. The round was designed to be the heaviest load that could be accommodated by a simple blowback design. In short-barrelled pistols it is usually subsonic. The weapon, and its ammunition will often be encountered in the hands of likely enemies, many of which may be armed with vintage Soviet or Chinese armaments. Notable is that Bond never selects an identifiably British handgun. Having a weapon with Chinese, Bulgarian or Czech markings may promote disinformation.
There are a couple of alternatives to the Makarov pistol that use the 9x18mm. The Stechkin is probably too big. The Hungarian PA-63 is apparently a little more compact than the PM but cannot use PM magazines. The Czech Vz 82/ Cz 83 is a 9x18mm with a 12-round magazine, but if a bulkier weapon is warranted Bond may be better off with one of the compact .45s now available. The Makarov seems like the best choice. Perhaps Bond might even acquire the PB suppressed variant. At low temperatures the 9x18mm round may become transonic. The PB has a ported barrel to bleed some of the gases off and reduce muzzle velocity even further. The gases are bled off into a suppressor chamber that surrounds the barrel. A second suppressor that captures any muzzle blast can be attached to the muzzle.
Boothroyd’s idea of a second gun for longer-ranged and more combat-orientated situations does have some merit. In some of the books Bond keeps a Colt .45 in his car. Fleming gets the name wrong but the article here deduces that this is most likely an M1911A1 Government model. In some of Gardner’s books Bond keeps a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum in his car. “Live and Let Die” is one of the few movie instances where Bond chooses to upgrade his armament before the mission. Here he carried a Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum but uses most of his ammunition shooting the statue of Baron Samedi!

The Books