The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Saturday, December 31, 2022

How Did The M1917 Enfield Compare to the 1903 Springfield?

 I ran across this article, There is something about Old school Battle Rifles, Sure I like the Plastic Fantastics, Or I did until that durn Canoe accident....But there is something about an old school Battle Rifle.  The History I suppose and if those Rifles could talk, the stories they could tell.  I own a Springfield 03 or I did before that durn Kayak and I can see the attraction, it is considered the epitome of an excellent Rifle.

 American soldiers, armed with Model 1917 Enfield rifles, attack during the Second Battle of the Marne, in July 1918.

In director Howard Hawks’s 1941 film classic, Sergeant York, then-Corporal Alvin York, portrayed by Gary Cooper, single-handedly knocks out more than 30 German machine-gun nests and, with little assistance, captures 132 enemy soldiers. In the process, the former conscientious objector from Tennessee drops 25 Germans with 25 shots, many fired from his trusty 1903 U.S. Springfield rifle. The movie’s climactic scene helped cement the Springfield’s mystique with generations of military firearms collectors, history buffs, and re-enactors. Sleek and accurate, the Springfield seemed the perfect weapon for an iconic American hero.

Inspiring as the film was, York probably did not use a Springfield rifle on that October day in 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It seems more likely that York achieved his stunning feat of arms carrying the less-well-known but more widely issued U.S. Rifle Model 1917. Although some confusion persists about which rifle York carried during the battle, in his diary he wrote: “We got to France at Le Havre. There we turned in our guns and got British guns. I had taken a liking to my gun by this time. I had taken it apart and cleaned it enough to learn every piece and I could almost put it back together with my eyes shut. I didn’t like the British guns so well. I don’t think they were as accurate as our American rifles.”

How did York wind up with a British gun? The explanation involves American ingenuity, productive capacity, and lack of preparedness for entry into the Great War. Having concluded that the Krag-Jorgensen rifles used by U.S. Army troops in the Spanish-American War were inferior to the 1893 Mauser rifles that the Spanish troops carried, the Army adopted the U.S. Magazine Rifle of 1903, commonly called the Springfield because it was  manufactured at the U.S. armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. Based on Peter Paul Mauser’s bolt-action rifle design, the Springfield proved short enough for cavalry use and long enough for infantry use, and fired the new 30.06 service cartridge that matched or surpassed the performance of any standard military cartridge in the world. American troops instantly loved the rifle for its butter-smooth action and tack-driving accuracy.

Even so, the Springfield suffered from one serious weakness: limited production. Before the United States entered World War I, this mattered little. In 1917, the U.S. Army mustered roughly 127,500 officers and men, fewer men than Portugal’s army. When Congress declared war on the Central Powers on April 6 and later implemented military conscription, the U.S. Army embarked on a 30-fold expansion, growing to roughly four million soldiers in just over a year.

Training and equipping so large a force quickly enough to enter the war before Germany overran the French and the British appeared insurmountable even for the United States. Lack of sufficient quantities of war materiel in general and infantry weapons in particular hampered preparations. The U.S. Army had 600,000 of its superb Springfield rifles in 1917. Another 160,000 of the old Krags in .30-caliber also remained available. For training purposes, the Army purchased 1891 Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles in 7.62 X 54 mm and roughly 20,000 .303-caliber Canadian Ross rifles that, if improperly assembled, occasionally launched their bolts into the shooter’s face. Even if these weapons were suitable for combat, their incompatible parts and calibers created a logistical nightmare.

World War I-era arms, left to right, include the 12-gauge shotgun with bayonet attached, American Enfield, and Springfield rifles.

The Army clearly preferred the 1903 Springfields, but only two factories had ever produced the rifle. The Springfield Armory, the larger of the two facilities, quickly maximized its production. The other facility, the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, also possessed the machinery necessary to produce Springfields, but the War Department had closed the plant in February 1914. As tensions mounted between the United States and Germany, the Rock Island Arsenal reopened two months prior to the American declaration of war. Unfortunately, much of the arsenal’s skilled work force had found employment elsewhere, delaying the plant’s return to full production capacity. The United States was fast creating an army without rifles.

The War Department considered issuing contracts to commercial firearms companies to produce the Springfields, but quickly rejected the idea. It would require far too much time to re-equip and retool plants and train the work force necessary to produce the rifles. A better option appeared when fully equipped factories with trained workers became available at exactly the right moment, though not for producing Springfields. In 1913, Great Britain had begun experimenting with a weapon to replace the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) rifles issued to their army. Affectionately nicknamed “smellies” by British troops, the Mark III Lee Enfields, first issued in 1907, were chambered for the .303-caliber, rimmed, smokeless cartridge that had served the Royal Army as standard issue since the 1880s. Germany had long used the rimless 7.92mm in its service rifles, and the American adoption of its rimless 30.06 inspired Great Britain to consider replacing the SMLE with a stronger bolt-action rifle chambered for a more modern, more powerful cartridge. The British based their experimental rifle on the Mauser action, just as the Americans had, and developed a high-velocity, high-pressure .276-caliber rimless cartridge for the weapon.

The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock produced 1,000 of the new rifles for tests, but abandoned the project when Britain entered the Great War. Britain faced the same problem the United States would confront three years later, expanding its small peacetime army, equipping it, and deploying it on the battlefield in time to defeat Germany. Adopting a new infantry rifle and cartridge seemed an impractical use of Great Britain’s limited resources. Worse yet, the new .276-caliber cartridge posed problems of rapid barrel erosion, exceptionally loud report, and bright muzzle flash. For the time being, the old “smellies” would have to do, but the British government doubted its ability to produce these in sufficient numbers. The solution was a compromise that permitted continued development of the new rifle, but in the old .303-caliber. To this end, Great Britain turned to the United States’ surplus manufacturing capacity.

The British government issued contracts for the production of the new rifle, designated the Pattern 1914, at three American plants: Winchester Repeating Arms of New Haven, Connecticut; Remington Arms Company at Ilion, New York; and Remington’s plant at Eddy-stone, Pennsylvania. The Pattern 14s differed little from their experimental predecessors aside from their .303 chambering. Despite rising production costs and delays occasioned by on-site British quality inspectors, the U.S. plants produced nearly 1,900,000 Pattern 14s, with Eddystone producing the greatest number and Winchester the least.

Just when Great Britain seemed poised to replace the SMLE rifle with the Pattern 14, the smellies, despite their supposed obsolescence, performed admirably in the trenches. The .303 cartridge proved perfectly adequate for modern warfare, and the standard Mark III Enfield not only functioned reliably but also held twice as many rounds in its detachable box magazine as Germany’s 1898 Mauser. More importantly, Britain’s accelerated SMLE production satisfied the Royal Army’s needs. American production of the Pattern 14 became unnecessary, and the British government canceled the American contracts. Production ended in July 1917, just as the United States mobilized for its own entry into the war.

The cancellation could not have come at a better time for the United States. The Ordnance Department had already considered adopting the Pattern 14 as an alternate infantry rifle to supplement the Springfield, but did not want a rifle in the .303-caliber British model. Now the United States found itself with three fully operational factories capable of producing a modern infantry rifle and seeking a buyer for their goods. War mobilization forced a quick decision. Rather than retool commercial firms and train a workforce to manufacture Springfields, a lengthy task at best, the Ordnance Department decided to purchase American-made Pattern 14s with one key modification. The otherwise identical rifles would be chambered for the 30.06 cartridge and the new rifle adopted as the U.S. Rifle Model 1917. With one brilliant administrative decision, the Ordnance Department solved the Army’s rifle shortage—or so it seemed.

American troops armed with the new Enfields practice bayonet tactics in France under the eyes of stern-faced instructor.

Modifying the Pattern 14 to fire the 30.06 cartridge proved simple enough. Built with the potent .276 cartridge in mind, the Pattern 14 boasted an exceptionally strong action perfectly capable of accommodating the high-pressure American cartridge. The only real difficulty involved parts interchangeability. Tests revealed that Pattern 14 parts were built to comparatively loose tolerances and often required time-consuming hand fitting. This threatened delivery schedules and complicated repair, but desperate for weapons, the War Department issued contracts for the new rifle’s production. Although the initial runs of 1917 rifles from Winchester suffered from this problem, the rifles eventually enjoyed 95 percent interchangeability, a satisfactory rate during wartime.

By February 1918, the three plants combined produced over 7,000 of the 1917 Enfield rifles daily for the princely sum of $26 per copy, half of what the P-14s had cost to produce. By war’s end, 75 percent of the doughboys carried the “U.S. Enfield,” as it was often called. The Marine Corps received 61,000 and the Navy received 604 1917s.

Although the 1917 rifle solved the War Department’s rifle supply problems, many American soldiers shared Alvin York’s preference for the Springfield. They complained about the new rifle’s weight, nearly a pound heavier than the Springfield, and its length, two inches longer. Some also disliked the fact that the 1917’s bolt cocked on closing, whereas the Springfield cocked on opening. Soldiers objected to the American Enfield’s lack of magazine cutoff. Because of this, the bolt could not be closed on an empty magazine unless the soldier depressed the magazine follower with his thumb or inserted a coin on top of it. Many also shared York’s opinion that the Springfield performed more accurately than the 1917. The 1917s sights lacked any device for windage adjustment, an omission that riled competitive shooters. A few soldiers even objected that the rifle’s sight protectors would distract the shooter from acquiring an adequate sight picture.

Despite the doughboys’ objections, the Enfield had definite advantages over the Springfield. Although the Enfield sights lacked windage adjustment, the Enfield’s aperture rear sight lay closer to the shooter’s eye and could be much more easily acquired in combat conditions. The 1917’s sights rested safely between protective “ears” that shielded them from abuse. Accuracy proved better than the rifle’s critics expected. In 1918, Marine Corporal F.L. Branson, using a 1917 rifle, won the 1,000-yard competition at the national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.

The Enfield’s box magazine originally accommodated five .303 cartridges, but the 30.06 cartridge’s smaller-diameter rimless head occupied less space, giving the 1917 Enfield a six-round capacity compared to the Springfield’s five. Unfortunately, the Army still issued only five-round stripper clips, which undermined the advantage. Finally, the Enfield adapted readily to the French Viven-Bessiere grenade launcher. Equipped with such accessories as a 22-inch bayonet designed for the P-14, the 1917 proved itself equal or superior to any infantry rifle issued in the Great War.

By the time of the Armistice in November 1918, the Remington, Winchester, and Eddy-stone plants had produced 2,193,429 1917 rifles, so many that the War Department considered adopting them to replace the Springfields. In the end, the Springfield won the battle, partly because match shooters preferred its sights for competitive shooting. During the postwar years, the Army refurbished its inventory of 1917 rifles. Some were sold to the Philippines, and a few found their way home to ROTC units for drill purposes. Most simply languished in storage.


Armed with Enfields, American doughboys man an abandoned German position in the Meuse Valley north of Verdun

World War II changed all that. After the British Expeditionary Force abandoned its weapons on the beaches at Dunkirk, the Royal Army faced a German cross-Channel invasion lacking equipment of every kind, especially infantry rifles. The British government appealed to civilians to volunteer their firearms for home defense use, but post-World War I legal restrictions on firearms ownership and the manufacture of automatic weapons made suitable firearms scarce in the British Isles. Although many British civilians turned in the few weapons they had, their contributions did little to alleviate the shortage. The British government bought advertising space in U.S. publications asking Americans to “Send a Gun to Defend a British Home.” American citizens shipped a vast assortment of personal firearms to the beleaguered nation to fill the gap.

Despite American generosity, Great Britain’s army desperately needed uniform modern battle rifles. Once again, the 1917 rifle came to the rescue. Roughly one million of the Americanized Enfields reached Britain through the Lend-Lease program. To avoid confusion with the .303 Pattern 14 rifles still in Royal Army inventories, the British marked the 30.06 1917 butt stocks with red paint. Nationalist China also received shipments of the rifles.

When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II in December 1941, the U.S. Army, while better prepared for war than it had been in 1917, once again suffered equipment shortages. Over 200,000 1917s were issued for training purposes within the United States. A few also turned up in the hands of artillery and mortar crews during the North African campaign in 1942.

By 1943, the Army’s infantry rifle shortages abated. Supplies of the U.S. Rifle Model 1903-A3, a Springfield modified for rapid manufacture, appeared in growing numbers, and the magnificent U.S. Rifle Caliber .30 M-1, called the Garand in honor of its designer, became available by the millions. By October 1945, the 1917 rifle had been declared obsolete. The military life of the American Enfield had passed.

The American Enfield lives on in civilian hands. After World War I, many returning doughboys’ wartime weapons experience whetted their appetite for bolt-action sporting rifles. Remington possessed large stocks of 1917 rifle parts, and from 1926 to 1940 the company produced a sporting version of the American Enfield designated the Model 30. Many surplus 1917s were sold to civilians after World War II. Their stout nickel-steel actions made them suitable for conversion to powerful sporting cartridges, and many were converted into sport rifles. Today, unaltered 1917s have become increasingly scarce and collectible.

While it never developed the mystique associated with the Springfield rifle, , it was the American Enfield that Alvin York and most of his brothers in arms carried to victory in World War I.


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Longest Dogfight in U.S. History

 I saw this pop up in my feed, I never heard about this and there have been "Rumors" that the Soviets have flown against the Allies in North Korean planes before but this was strictly Soviet planes, I wonder if some Soviet Aviation front commander had to go in front of "The Boss" and explain what he was thinking.  Sure Stalin wanted to support Communism all over the world, but a direct clash with the West wasn't what he wanted or had in mind and to have several fighters shot down to boot especially by an inferior plane had to irk the Soviets.   After reading this article, I almost think he should have gotten "The Blue Max" for what he accomplished.

    This was from the "Eurasian Times"

Former US Navy Grumman F9F Panther pilot E Royce Williams was recently awarded the Navy Cross by Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del for his solo dogfight with seven Soviet Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 pilots during the Korean War.

On November 18, 1952, Retd. Capt. Williams, who was then a Lieutenant in the US Navy, took off in his F9F-5 from the USS Oriskany, along with three other pilots from his fighter squadron, VF-781, into the stormy skies over the Sea of Japan.

“We started to rendezvous with each other as we climbed out of the clouds,” Williams recalled. “And that’s when we heard from the combat information center that there were inbound bogeys from the north,” he said.

US Intelligence reports assessed that the MiGs were seeking retribution for a major airstrike earlier that day (in which Lt. Williams had also participated), on an industrial complex in northeastern North Korea, only around eight kilometers from the Soviet border.

During the Korean War, Navy Lt. Royce Williams went head-to-head with 7 Soviet fighters and not only survived but left the fight with multiple confirmed kills. (Task & Purpose photo composite/Wikimedia Commons/US Navy via Twitter).

The bogeys were detected on radar roughly 80 nautical miles (148.16 kilometers) in the north-northeast. There appeared to be seven Soviet MiG-15 fighters that had taken off from a Soviet base in Vladivostok.

Soon after, Williams’ flight was directed toward the bogeys. During this time, one of the jets suffered a fuel pump problem which forced it to break off and return to the aircraft carrier bringing his wingman with him as an escort, leaving Williams and his wingman to defend the carrier against incoming MiGs.

The F9Fs had broken out in the clear at 12,000 feet and were climbing past 16,000 feet when Williams spotted the enemies’ contrails (line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft engine exhaust) some seventy kilometers from the carrier. He estimated that the Soviet fighters were flying 30,000 feet higher.

Williams kept ascending and radioed back to the Oriskany that he had sighted the MiGs split into a three-plane and a four-plane group. The CIC onboard Oriskany radioed Williams not to engage when suddenly the MiGs opened fire with their 23mm and 37mm cannon, and the battle was on!

The engagement became one of the most incredible feats in aerial combat and arguably the longest aerial duel in US military history.

Williams radioed back to the CIC, ensuring his cannons were armed and ready to fire. “We are already engaged!”

The attacking aircraft were indeed swept-wing MiG-15s, which surpassed Williams’ Panther in speed, maneuverability, climb rate, and the weapons range.

A Soviet Air Forces MiG-15UTI two-seater trainer over Duxford Air Festival 2017 (Wikipedia)

While the US Navy had scored some early kills against the MiGs, their mission had now changed to one which primarily entailed ground attack sorties.

The aerial combat was generally limited to the western half of the Korean peninsula, where the US Air Force (USAF’s) F-86 Sabres would patrol the approaches from China known as ‘MiG Alley,’ which indicated to Williams that the planes he was engaging were most likely launched from the Soviet Union.

MiG-15 (left) and F-86 Sabre (right) on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air, and Space Museum (Wikipedia)

The four-plane formation of MiGs came at Williams and his wingman from the right side and opened fire. Williams pulled into a hard climbing left turn, came around on the “Number Four MiG,” and fired a short burst at its rear fuselage.

The MiG went down smoking, and Williams’ wingman followed it, leaving the former alone to face six remaining Soviet fighters.

As the two MiG formations climbed for altitude to make attacking dives, Williams found himself on the tail of one and downed the second aircraft. After this, he had to be careful while firing shots, as the Panther carried less ammunition than the MiGs.

“In that moment, I was a fighter pilot doing my job. I was only shooting what I had,” said Williams.

The remaining five MiGs now began taking turns climbing and then making passes at Williams, who could only engage a Soviet jet when it passed in front of him or rapidly turned to engage them head-on.

“I was engaged mentally at the time. A lot of it was awareness of where they were and how I had to maneuver to avoid them. They were taking turns. I decided that if I concentrated on shooting them down, I’d become an easy target. So, my initial goal was to look for defensive opportunities when they made mistakes,” he said.

F9F-5s USS Lake Champlain in 1953. (Wikipedia)

Williams then fired at another MiG, forcing it to a bank (inclined turn) out of the fight, and the wingman of that aircraft turned towards him, who fired a long burst as the two jets passed close to each other, with the Soviet plane crashing into the sea.

The three remaining MiGs of the other group easily accelerated away from Williams and gained altitude to dive for another firing run.

Williams saw their left wings emerge as they reversed course and managed to fire a burst as the MiGs flashed past but failed to score any hits. The three MiGs pulled away again to make another firing run.

Williams then saw a MiG locked on him from behind. He made a tough wings-vertical right turn with contrails spinning off his wingtip fuel tanks, and the MiG flashed past his tail.

Two F9F-2Bs over Korea. (Wikipedia)

Eventually, the enemy formations were torn apart, allowing Williams to track an individual MiG as the pilot dived in to attack. Some rounds appeared to hit, but he could not follow up as he had to avoid getting locked on from behind.

“I was firing at every MiG that passed within gun range as they came by,” said Williams.

Finally, the leader of the group and his wingman turned to the right, and Williams went after the section leader of the plane he had shot, who pulled up into the sun, and Williams lost him.

After that, Williams saw the leader and his wingman come around for a diving attack. “I turned into them and fired at the leader. He turned away, and the wingman rolled down on me, and we went past belly-to-belly as I raked him with a long burst. He caught fire and went down,” he explained.

The section leader then came around, and Williams turned into him and fired at him practically point-blank, and he also went down.

The flight leader came around again, and Williams fired, and parts came off his aircraft as he went away.

The Panther had also suffered a lot of damage of its own.

“I was turning, and one guy hit me with the 37mm cannon that knocked out my hydraulics,” said Williams.

With no ammunition and a plane that could barely fly, he turned back toward the Oriskany, using his remaining flight controls to maneuver the aircraft.

Diving low into the clouds, Williams thought of ejecting but decided to keep flying, knowing full well that in that weather, he could not have survived in the time it would have taken to find him.

Also, he found that his aircraft was uncontrollable below 170 knots which made the approach dangerous, considering the Panther’s normal landing speed was 105 knots.

A F9F lands on the USS Oriskany in November 1952 (Wikipedia)

As Williams approached the aircraft carrier, several escorting destroyers fired on him, mistaking him for an enemy aircraft.

Aboard Oriskany, the deck was ordered cleared for what was going to be a crash landing. “I told them I couldn’t fly slower than 170 knots and I could see the ship visibly speed up as she turned into the wind,” Williams said.

Eventually, the Oriskany’s captain turned the ship away from the wind, allowing Williams to make a straight-in approach.

Lt. Royce Williams observes some of the damage his F9F-5 Panther sustained in combat with 7 Soviet MiG-15s on November 18, 1952. (US Naval Institute/via Twitter)

On deck, there were 263 holes counted in Williams’ Panther, although he never saw it again.

The jet was supposedly pushed off the deck into the sea, with the gun camera footage being taken away for analysis.

Navy Admiral Robert Briscoe informed Williams, then commander of Naval Forces Far East, that while it was confirmed he had shot down three and possibly four MiGs, he was not to discuss the engagement with anyone, ever.

The US Navy and National Security Agency also did not keep a record of this incident because the US was concerned that acknowledging the incident might drag the Soviets into the Korean War.

Therefore, it was not mentioned in the declassified American archives for the Korean War.

Meanwhile, Williams continued to serve in the Navy for an additional 23 years, flying 110 sorties during the Vietnam War.

He retired in 1975 with a display case full of awards, including the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Legion of Merit with combat “V.”

He kept the dogfight a secret from everyone, including his wife Camilla and his pilot brother, until the early 2000s, when the Korean War archives were formally declassified.

Four decades later, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, records began to come out from Moscow confirming the aerial battle.

The dogfight was covered in a chapter in a 2014 book by Russian historian Igor Seidov, “Red Devils Over the Yalu: A Chronicle of Soviet Aerial Operations in the Korean War.”

However, according to that book, four MiGs were brought down by a single American aircraft, one was shot up and crashed while returning, and the seventh was never located.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Tips For Senior Shooters

 I shamelessly clipped this from "American Rifleman", This touched upon a subject that has hit me and many other shooters, I have been forced to use "Red Dot" and "Optics" to make up for my eyes not being as good as they used to be, Sure I can still use iron sights, but it is a lot harder for me to discern or differentiate from the front and rear posts, it is easier with a "peep sights" but it is still harder than it should be.

Senior Firearm Inventory Manager Larry Quandahl

Even experienced shooters like NRA Publications Senior Firearm Inventory Manager Larry Quandahl—a senior whose career includes service in the U.S.M.C., a Double Distinguished competitor rating and numerous NRA instructor credentials—can benefit from aids to marksmanship such as the Skinner Sights Express aperture unit seen here on a vintage Marlin 336 in .30-30 Win.

In his January 2020 article, “The Aging Defender,” then-Managing Editor Kelly Young did an admirable job in chronicling his interview with doctor of physical therapy Joseph Logar—who is also national manager of the NRA’s Adaptive Shooting Program—about the effects of aging on today’s shooters. And while Young’s article should be required reading for every NRA member, I had some issues with it—primarily that it was the article I had wanted to write ever since my personal odometer passed the 65-year mark more than a few birthdays ago.

But Kelly beat me to the draw, editorially speaking, and, to make matters worse, there was the irony of his surname. However, in the spirit of full disclosure, Young readily admitted to being “… a few years shy of 40” at the time. I, on the other hand, have spent more than 40 years (and counting) in a gun-writing career that has taken me from the deserts of Arizona to the jungles of Africa. In the process, I have encountered countless .22 rimfires, muzzleloaders, handguns, rifles and shotguns, from both the hunting and collecting perspectives. Consequently, I feel I am eminently qualified to write about the challenges of being a senior-citizen shooter. So, as an addendum to Young’s article, here are a few other age-related tidbits that I have personally discovered and that will hopefully be of benefit to some of our more “seasoned” NRA members.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that as we get older, we become more sensitive to recoil. Not to be confused with flinching, it is simply a matter of our internal framework becoming a bit more fragile, or, as my friend the late radio announcer and “Laugh In” television personality Gary Owens used to say, “I find I’m not healing as fast as I used to.” Gary still shot his nickel-plated Smith & Wesson .41 Mag. for relaxation at the range, but he began doing it with reduced handloads. By that same token, I now primarily stoke my Model 29s with .44 Spl. rather than .44 Mag. ammunition—same gun, but less jarring on the hands and bones. I do, however, still occasionally put a cylinder’s worth of full-house magnums through the Smiths just to remind myself why I don’t do it all the time.

Bowen Classic Arms’ Ruger Rough Country Rear Sight
The author’s experience suggests that some sights work far better for his aging eyes than others. Among those he favors are Lyman’s No. 2 tang sight (l.) and Bowen Classic Arms’ Ruger Rough Country Rear Sight (r.) for both single- and double-actions.

When I learned I had to have cataract surgery in both eyes and discussed the various options for the lens implants with my ophthalmologist (you can get bifocal implants or specific fixed-vision lenses), I opted for the strongest long-distance prescription I could get for both eyes. Being nearsighted and knowing I would still need glasses to correct my intermediate and close-up vision, I chose progressive trifocal glasses. The bottom portion of the lens is for reading, writing, adjusting gun sights, etc., the center portion is for working on my computer and the top portion of the lens is glass with no prescription at all, because my cataract lenses give me excellent distant vision. 

.38 Spl. in a .357 Mag. and .44 Spl. in a .44 Mag.
Revolvers and lever-actions chambered for magnum cartridges can be downloaded simply by shooting “specials” to decrease recoil. Examples include (l. to r.): .38 Spl. in a .357 Mag. and .44 Spl. in a .44 Mag.

And, for Christmas, my wife gave me a folding, pocket-size magnifying glass for gun shows to make up for my lost pre-cataract ability to read serial numbers and to see minute stampings without my glasses. I’ve been using this pocket-size magnifier now more than I care to admit, but in the interim, I carried a pair of reading glasses—the type you can buy at the drug store in magnification ratings that normally run from 1.50 to 3, and that are great for close-up scrutinizing but not for distance. I suspect they would work well for those who are as “close-up vision-impaired” as I am, although the miniature magnifying glass is a lot less intrusive and, for me, easier to carry around.

Progressive lenses
Progressive lenses and trifocal lenses, which cover multiple prescriptions, can make a big difference for senior shooters.

While on the subject of eyesight, the single-action revolvers that I am fond of shooting do not lend themselves to bulky high-visibility aftermarket sights. A good example is my Ruger New Model Blackhawk Bisley. Blackhawks, in general, are notable for their all-black rear sights and their equally all-black front sights, which are incredibly difficult for my aging eyes to properly line up. So, when I had my New Model Blackhawk Bisley customized with Turnbull casehardening (turnbullrestoration.com) and a tuned-up action by Andy Horvath [(440) 458-4369], I also replaced the factory’s micro-click rear sight with Hamilton Bowen’s Ruger Rough Country Rear Sight (bowenclassicarms.com). Although Bowen makes other variations for Ruger and Smith & Wesson revolvers, I found his easy-to-see Rough Country Rear Sight with a square, white-outline notch to be the easiest for me to see. I also had Horvath inlet a brass bar on the front sight ramp for a perfect pairing with the Bowen sight. The only problem is I can’t blame my “frequent fliers” on the gun anymore.

Peltor ear muffs
Electronic hearing protection, such as the Peltor ear muffs pictured can help protect a senior’s remaining hearing.

In addition, I have always been partial to open sights on a rifle, but as we get older, those open sights tend to become an exercise in frustration, as that rear sight sometimes blurs into obscurity. That is why you see many vintage Kentucky rifles that have had the original dovetails for their rear sights moved forward—farther from the shooter’s eye—so that the aging shooter could still make out enough of the rear sight notch to properly align it with the front sight. Moreover, until the use of scopes became widespread, peep or aperture sights were the best “quick fix” to accurize a rifle. In his 1961 book, “The Complete Book Of Rifles And Shotguns,” Jack O’Connor wrote, “It has been my experience that a big peep is the fastest of all sights—much faster than the open sight and a bit faster than a low-power scope.” Even in today’s world of electronic reticles and lasers, peep sights retain their century-plus reputation for accuracy. Outfitting a non-collectable rifle with a large peep, or even a ghost-ring rear sight, makes sense. But even some collectable rifles can have their original peep sights adapted by slightly enlarging the rear sight aperture hole so that they are easier for older eyes to peer through. I still hunt with my 1940s-era Winchester Model 71 but always unscrew the factory’s peep sight disk beforehand, leaving a larger hole where the sight screwed into the base; thus, I have an easier-to-see “ghost-ring” through which to sight. Additionally, Lyman (lymanproducts.com) still catalogs its original No. 2 tang sight for Winchester, Marlin and even some Uberti replica lever-actions.

In addition to our eyesight, hearing is also something that begins diminishing as we get older, and most elderly shooters have already lost a fair percentage of their ability to hear. When I began shooting back in the late 1950s and early ’60s, no one was overly concerned about hearing protection, whether it was target shooting on my high school ROTC rifle team or zeroing-in my Winchester 94 carbine at the original Ben Avery Shooting Range outside of Phoenix, Ariz. That ringing in my ears was just an annoying inconvenience, and, besides, it seemed to eventually go away, even though, unknown to me at the time, irreparable damage was being done. 

I eventually began stuffing tissue in my ears, but wadded-up Kleenex offers precious little in the way of hearing protection. Nowadays we know better, and muffs or earplugs are de rigueur, no matter how old—or young—the shooter may be. However, for us older folks, earplugs are not enough. In order to protect what little hearing I have left—especially after a rather traumatic middle-ear operation that required a tungsten insert to restore the hearing in my left ear a few years ago—I now use both ear plugs and ear muffs. This not only offers double the protection, but the muffs shield the entire circumference surrounding the ear from magnum-level decibels—something that ear plugs alone can’t do.

Thumbing it back manually
Thumbing it back manually (l.) makes a hammer-fired pistol’s slide much easier to rack.

This might be a good place to mention that upgrading shooting equipment can be beneficial to us senior shooters who never throw anything away. For example, I had been using my Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic ear muffs ever since 2007, but because of the tremendous advances made in technology during the past few years, I recently upgraded to Peltor’s newer Sport Tactical 500 Electronic model, which offers 26 decibels (dBs) of hearing protection (compared to 20 dBs of my older model) and dramatically enhances audio, while more effectively blocking out high-decibel sounds like gunshots. In fact, with the Tactical 500, I can hear the range master’s commands even more distinctly than I can with my unaided ear. In addition, this model has Bluetooth wireless technology that syncs to mobile devices and can even be used to make and receive phone calls through the headset, a benefit I have yet to fully embrace; I really wanted the Tactical 500 for its higher decibel rating to protect what little hearing I have left. Peltor also makes a Sport Tactical 300 model that delivers 24-dB hearing protection but without Bluetooth capabilities.

cross-draw holster
Following shoulder surgery, the author found a cross-draw holster to be much easier to use.

As Dr. Logar points out in Young’s article, muscle tone is another aspect that diminishes as we get older. I remember my late friend, singing cowboy star and NRA Life member Roy Rogers, once telling me that his sixguns seemed to be getting heavier each year. Today, in addition to daily walks, I use an adjustable hand-strength exerciser, along with a hand dumbbell on a regular basis to maintain my muscle tone. Admittedly, these are low-impact exercises, but they enable me to still shoulder and shoot a 9-lb., 8-oz., rifle offhand.

And for those who have trouble racking the slide on a Government Model 1911, I have found that by cocking the hammer first, the slide goes back much easier, as it is not pushing against the hammer’s mainspring. In the same way, my Beretta M9 has a very practical slide design for easier racking, at least for me; those “ears” on either side of the slide make it much easier to grasp and rack. Plus, with most exposed-hammer, DA/SA semi-automatics like the Beretta M9 and 92 variations, you don’t have to struggle to get off that first double-action shot. Keeping your finger off the trigger, cock the hammer first for an easier-to-pull, single-action first shot.

And finally, when I had a pinched nerve in my right shoulder a few years ago, my primary care doctor (who is also an NRA member) suggested that I should consider using a cross-draw holster—as that cross-body motion did not cause my shoulder any pain. Thankfully, my pinched nerve eventually went away, and in the process, I ended up with a couple of new cross-draw holsters—both thanks to my doctor.

To be sure, as we reach that “vintage” stage in life, some of us start requiring a little more maintenance, and yes, perhaps a few new parts, just like the guns we shoot. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas !!!!

 Merry Christmas to all, spend time with Family and Friends.  The Craziness will resume on the 26th

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas Eve

 I Want to Wish My Readers a "Merry Christmas Eve, I am on vacation (Yay, Me!!) until Tuesday night, so I don't have to think "Aviation" until then, LOL.  Spend time with your friends and family, that is the reason for the season.  I will post another Christmas related theme on the 25th.

 I have a post percolating for after Christmas,

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Driving in Icy Condition...

 Well Christmas literally is around the corner, driving in the snow even in Georgia where I live is a possibility.  When I was living in Germany, I had 300 pounds of masonry in the trunk of my Mustang and I kept the Gas tank full to put more weight over the rear axles of the Mustang because the car was rear wheel drive and the the rear was so light.  Now every once and a while it snows in Georgia then I just dust  off those skills and keep on traveling.

   I shamelessly clipped this off "Art of Manliness"

While busy airports tend to get all the attention around the holiday travel season, the highways and byways are actually far more trafficked. Of long-distance travelers — those going 50 miles or more — over 90% are getting to where they’re going by car. Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s are in fact the most heavily trafficked times of year on America’s roads.

While it’s wonderful that folks are traveling to spend time with friends and family, it’s also an unfortunate time of year to be on the roads in certain parts of the country. Icy streets and snowstorms can quickly change a pleasant drive with the family into a stressful and truly dangerous situation, especially if one isn’t familiar with winter driving tactics and practices; it’s a whole different game than driving on dry pavement.

So whether you’ll be passing through conditions on the way to Grandmother’s house that you don’t normally encounter in your home state, or you’ve recently moved to a snowy place and are getting the feel for driving in your first winter there, be sure to acquaint yourself with how to navigate this cold and slick season. Below I offer a primer on this subject, based on input from experts, as well 15 years of my own experience driving in wintry conditions in Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado.

Before Driving

Quarter test for tire tread illustration.

Ensure proper tire tread. One of the most important things you can do before getting behind the wheel in snowy conditions is to ensure your tires have enough tread to grip the road/snow. While proper tire inflation is also important (even though myths about intentionally underinflating in winter persist, don’t do that; it puts too much pressure on the tire), tread depth is more so. In some states (including my home of Colorado), you can actually get fined in the winter for having balding tires.

You should have at least 1/8” of tread. A quick way to measure this is to simply use a quarter, with George Washington’s head pointing down. Place the quarter in the tread, and if the top of his head is covered, you’re also covered. If the top of his head is visible (at any point around the tire — test multiple points) it’s time for new tires, and ASAP. More winter accidents are caused by poor tread than anything else. In recent years, Colorado State Patrols have tried to underscore this point by measuring tire treads at ski area parking lots and handing out fines if treads are less than that 1/8” threshold.

You’ll see some guidelines saying that 1/16” is okay (which would be passable using the Lincoln penny test), but newer standards and research shows that it may already be too late at that point — especially in mountain environs.

Don’t hesitate to delay your errands/road trip if needed. Pay close attention to weather forecasts. If it’s a week out and the weather looks spotty, no need to postpone plans yet. But check daily what the reports look like, and if it gets to be 1-2 days beforehand and the forecast still calls for blizzard conditions, don’t hesitate to postpone. It’s a hassle, of course, but far better to be safe than sorry. And even though weather forecasting is an inexact science, when it’s just a day or two out they’re more likely than not to be right. You also really just need to know your own confidence levels. Growing up in Minnesota, I have years of winter driving under my belt, so it takes quite a bit to keep me off the road. I have no judgment, though, for someone from a warmer locale canceling plans because they don’t want to be on the snowy roads. Again, use your head, and repeat to yourself over and over that it’s far better to be safe than sorry.   

Here’s a pro tip: Use national weather services vs. local reports. In his book The Signal and the Noise, statistician Nate Silver researched this topic and found that local meteorologists tend to exaggerate forecasts (albeit unintentionally — probably) and make things seem just a little worse than what the National Weather service might say. Why does this happen? Because a poor weather forecast is going to garner better TV ratings than a good one. My go-to is weather.gov online and Wunderground on the phone.

Keep winter emergency supplies in the car. While there are some things you should always have in your car, a few are winter-specific:

  • Blanket(s)
  • Hat(s) and gloves
  • Ice scraper
  • Mini snow shovel
  • Kitty litter (for tire traction)
  • Tire chains
  • Candles (and lighter/matches)

This article goes into a little more detail on these things (plus the other stuff you should be keeping in your car).

Clear the car of snow and ice (ALL of it). After a snowstorm, few things drive me crazier than seeing cars that have cleared off windows and hoods, but left a foot of snow on top that is slowly — and sometimes not-so-slowly but rather all at once — being blown off into the car(s) behind them (including mine). I know it’s hard with your giant SUV, but clear off the entirety of the car before driving. It reduces risk for everyone else on the road.

Know that your 4WD SUV doesn’t make you a Super Snow Driver. While your 4WD is handy for traction, it only works if you’re going at safe speeds at which the tires can actually catch that traction. If you’re going too fast, 4WD won’t help you slow down faster. You still have to practice all of the following safe driving tips, even if you’re driving a tank.

Know your locale. When I was in college, I was once visiting my mom in Seattle over spring break. She lived in the heart of the notoriously hilly city, and while I was there it snowed a few inches. While back at school in Iowa, that wouldn’t cause anyone to even bat an eyelash, I kid you not when I say that the entire city was shut down. People were literally sledding down the streets on mattresses.

It was clear that it would be best for us to stay off the roads, not only because they were filled with gleeful sledders, but because the folks out there driving likely had little to no experience and were making the whole thing more dangerous. In my hometown, those few inches would be nothing, and it was more likely that the folks on the road knew what they were doing (to some degree, at least). In short, know where you are and use your practical wisdom to judge whether or not the situation would be safe.

While Driving

Accelerate and brake slowly. Everything takes longer in snowy and slick conditions. When accelerating, do so slowly. Your tires will be better able to grip the snow and push forward versus if you’re slamming the gas pedal, in which case your tires will just spin and spin.

Same goes for braking. It (hopefully obviously) takes longer to stop on snowy roads. Press the brake slowly rather than slamming it down, and give yourself much more room than you think you need in order to stop. If people would heed this single piece of advice, there would be far fewer winter accidents.

Winter driving distance between cars illustration.

Related: you’ll want to double or even triple your normal following distance to account for this. Give 2-4 car lengths between your car and the one in front of you, depending on your speed. Some experts say to add a car length to every 10 miles per hour in speed in winter driving conditions, e.g. at 30 mph, give 3 car lengths of space. Put another way, give 8-10 seconds between you and the car you’re following; that is, you pass a landmark or stoplight 8-10 seconds after the person ahead.  

Drive slower than you normally would, and know your vehicle. It’s okay to be a grandpa on the road when conditions call for it. Drive as fast as you can while still feeling in control of the vehicle, no matter the speed limit (without going over, of course). If it’s 30, and you can safely drive 30, great. If it’s 60, but you can only drive 30, do it. There’s no “right” answer here because it totally depends on the conditions and the vehicle. I drive our 4WD SUV a little differently than our small 2WD Toyota. As you’re driving, you’ll be able to make a determination on how the car is handling, and adjust accordingly. Sometimes when I start out driving in snowy conditions, I’ll hit the brakes on a random stretch of straight road — when nobody is around, of course — just to test out what it feels like. You’ll have to gauge each scenario as it comes.

Let’s talk about hills. Hills are a nightmare in the winter (in fact, if you have 2-wheel drive, it might be prudent to alter your commute routes and the like in order to avoid particularly steep ones). A couple tips to help you navigate them:

On the way up: Don’t floor it. Your instinct might be to give the car extra juice the whole way up the hill, but that’s the wrong approach. It’ll just get your wheels spinning, and you’ll stop making progress. Instead, try to actually get some inertia before you get to the hill so that you don’t have to accelerate too much while you’re on it. Then when the car naturally slows at the top, you can sort of coast into the decline at a nice slow speed.

On the way down: Coast down nice and easy, but don’t hit the brake beyond a gentle squeeze. If you hit the brakes too hard, you’ll slide and possibly lose control. You want the tires to still spin a bit.

Ditch the distractions. For real though. A vast majority of Americans agree that distracted driving — particularly in the form of phone use — is very bad and very dangerous, and yet 70% of drivers admit to using their phone while driving in the past 30 days. We know the problem, but most of us still contribute to it. In poor conditions, you need to be especially cognizant of any distractions in the car. Don’t text, don’t be eating, don’t shave (yes, I’ve seen it), and even consider turning off the radio/music altogether so you can really focus on driving safely.

Watch the road surface closely. Black ice — basically, thin, invisible ice on roadways — is difficult to detect, but if you train your eyes to detect dark, wet, slick-looking patches on the road, you’ll be better able to avoid those areas. Underpasses are notorious black ice zones (they don’t get the sunlight that often melts ice), as are bridges and other elevated roadways (they don’t get residual ground heat, so they stay colder).

Related: Watch things on the road a bit further out than usual. You’re often just looking at the first few cars ahead of you and reacting to what they’re doing. In poor winter conditions, though, you’ll want to look even further ahead. Since things take longer, you need to know what’s happening 10 cars ahead rather than just a couple.

Slow wayyy down for turns. Normally, you’re probably braking and turning at the same time. That’s the wrong tactic for driving in slick conditions. You’ll want to slow way down before the turn — almost all the way down, in fact — because braking and turning would just lead to slipping and a possible wreck. Once slowed — again, almost to a complete stop — you can either coast into the turn, or give it just a bit of gas. This way you’re in full control and can adjust as needed. For instance, if you gas too much and the wheels start spinning, you can take your foot off the pedal and probably gain the traction you need to keep the car in control. If you’re braking and turning, there’s just not as much you can do once you’ve started sliding in an undesirable direction.

Make yourself extra visible. If you’re in a snowstorm, make your car as visible as possible by first always having your headlights on. You can also turn on your hazard flashers when it’s especially poor visibility or if you’re traveling much slower than the speed limit. Flashers alert other drivers of your presence better than just having your headlights on.

Know your skids — and how to avoid/get out of them. A couple years ago the fellas at Team O’Neil Rally School put together an article for us on how to avoid and get out of 5 different skids that occur when driving in the winter. Read that article, and know how to properly apply the brakes when skidding (hint: it does not include slamming the brakes, even if that’s your natural instinct).

Waiting at stoplight winter driving illustration.

Give just a little extra time at stoplights. In snowy conditions, I always wait just an extra second or so to start going at a green light. You never know if someone from the other direction might slide or not be able to fully stop at their red light. Nobody is going to fault you for some extra caution in snowy conditions.

Give a little extra grace to other drivers. If you’re normally a little road-ragey, cool it. You should really cool it anyways, but especially in poor winter driving conditions. Give everyone around you plenty of space, don’t honk if someone doesn’t immediately hit the gas at a green light, etc. You’re not the only one stressed out about getting to work on time, but in the snow, there’s a little more slack all around, including, hopefully, from your employer.

Driving in wintry conditions can be hairy and stressful; you can find yourself gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles for hours on end. Hopefully by heeding the above tips, you can relax a little more (while staying vigilant) and will not only make it through that next snowstorm like a champ, but gain confidence in your winter driving skills as well, which is nearly half the battle.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Inside the U.S Army's Newest Surveillance Plane

 I saw this article and it caught my attention, when I was in the U.S. Army, one of the platforms used by soldiers in my unit was the "RC-12 Guardrail V System", so this is basically a replacement for that system.  The Guardrail system has been around for a long time and I was wondering if they were going to keep upgrading the system or go move toward a different platform.



From a distance, the all-white business jet parked neatly in a hangar underneath a giant American flag looks a lot like the other sleek, luxurious private planes arriving and departing from this Virginia airport. But inside, this plane is far more working class.

The cabin, full of server racks, looks more like an IT closet than an executive aircraft. The seats are cloth and two computer consoles are connected to a dozen or so antennas protruding from the plane’s belly.

To the U.S. Army, this plane—or something like it—is a ticket to the future of warfare, built to monitor the complex communications of an adversary nation-state from standoff distance, rather than the simpler chatter of insurgents right below.

Called ARTEMIS, the plane uses its antennas and computers to intercept and decipher enemy communications. The aircraft itself is made by Bombardier, but the specialized modifications are made by Virginia-based defense and technology firm Leidos. 

“These [planes] can see very far when operating at 40,000 feet,” Mike Chagnon, deputy group president of Leidos Defense Group, said in an interview.

It’s the second Challenger 650 that Leidos has modified like this for the Army as part of a technology demonstration. L3Harris Technologies are also developing similar business jet intelligence planes, which it calls ARES.


The Leidos and L3Harris planes are helping the Army figure out its long-term plans for new, high-flying intelligence planes, an effort called High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System or HADES. Those planes will replace the turboprops heavily used to survey the battlefields over Iraq and Afghanistan for insurgents and roadside bombs.

“They want a multi-layer sensing capabilities from space to mud,” Chagnon said. “This is the airborne layer.”

Defense One was invited to see the Leidos aircraft shortly before it was put under the Army’s control and agreed not to share the location of the plane's home base. The extra aircraft will allow the Army to deploy to different locations or participate in more exercises and experiments, Chagnon said.

In November 2021, the first ARTEMIS aircraft was pulled from an Army exercise in the United States and deployed to Europe to be part of the NATO effort to monitor Russian forces near the Ukraine border. Over 10 days, the plane flew from Arizona to Virginia where it received some upgrades before flying to Europe, Chagnon said.

“It really hasn’t been home since,” he said.

As of Dec. 1, the first plane has flown more than 370 missions, racking up more than 3,200 flight hours for combatant commanders around the world, Leidos CEO Roger Krone said at the small turnover ceremony in the hangar. 

“You're flying basically in...a mow-the-lawn-type pattern for 10 hours [and] you're collecting massive amounts of data,” Chagnon said.

The deployed aircraft flies an average of six days per week for nine to 10 hours per day, Chagnon said. The planes are unarmed and don’t fly in so-called “contested” airspace that’s defended by surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets.

“We're not going into the contested environment,” he said. “We're looking inside a contested environment from an altitude and a standoff, whereas our counterinsurgency aircraft were flying in, just looking down, in an uncontested environment.”

As much as the aircraft represents a new generation of conflict, it could also represent a new way of buying weapons.

The planes are owned, operated, and maintained by Leidos employees, not the Army. But, through satellites, Army officials stateside are able to connect to the plane’s sensors remotely, Chagnon said. The Army essentially pays Leidos a by-the-hour fee.

“It benefits the government and it benefits the country,” Chagnon said. “We're responsible for keeping the aircraft in the air. And they [the Army] no longer have to have that long logistics tail, which is sometimes the most expensive part of a government program. 

“They can turn the spigot off on these anytime they want,” he continued. “So, we're incentivized to continue to innovate on these [planes and] make them more useful, and…find as many efficiencies as we can to keep the mission-capability rate high. The first ARTEMIS plane took Leidos about 18 months, from concept to delivery, and the second is on track to be delivered ahead of schedule in just five months from contract signing, Krone said.

Krone, several times, noted that the company and the Army had put “skin in the game” to be able to buy and convert the business jets into militarized intelligence planes. 

“This delivery is the culmination of a lot of really hard work [and] a lot of sharing of the risk,” he said.

The technology is open, so different types of sensors made by different companies can be installed. Some of the sensors are government-owned, others purchased by Leidos.

Leidos has also purchased two larger Bombardier Global 6500 aircraft that it intends to convert into intelligence planes for another Army spy-jet competition called ATHENA-R. It’s competing against an L3Harris and MAG Aerospace team and Sierra Nevada. Those companies are also offering modified Global 6500 aircraft. ATHENA-R aircraft will also be owned and operated by contractors and will be a bridge to the HADES program.

For Leidos, a government contractor better known for its IT and government services, ARTEMIS represents efforts to diversify its portfolio. In 2020, the company purchased Alabama-based Dynetics, a company that specializes in directed energy, space, drone, and hypersonic technology.

“We are a people company,” Krone said. “This is very unusual” that “there's something I can point to.”