His death was unexpected, sudden, and peaceful. Well, it was peaceful for him. For us, less so. His death affected us immediately and has continued to do so over the last three months, even in ways we didn’t initially recognize.
My dad was a very interesting man – I have written about him previously. I’ve learned even more about him after his death from, say, flight logbook entries from Liberia in 1971 with notations such as “natives, spears, g-strings” and “unreal.” But what I knew about him before hasn’t changed – that he cared about me (and my mother) very deeply.
I had a very good relationship with my dad. I probably spent more time with him than almost any guy in his late twenties who hasn’t lived at home since sixteen. My original plan for the week before his death was to go to West Africa, but instead I stayed home and did little things – primarily with my dad.
We didn’t do anything major, just working on cars and planes and flying and doing all the things we normally did together. The night before he died, I grilled him a steak exactly the way he liked it, which we ended up splitting. I had no idea when I said goodbye to him afterward that I’d be saying goodbye again four hours later.
Maybe that’s for the best. In fact, I know it is. And really, in hindsight, I don’t know that I would have done a whole lot differently in that last week. Over time I had decided to turn a few sayings into action – to live every day as if it were my last, to honor my father and mother, and a few other things. I had realized that all those things I butted heads with him about, the things I resented when I was younger- they were a result of him wanting the best for me. Right or wrong, he was looking out for me in the ways only a father can. Years ago I let go of the resentment and embraced him for the man he was, and I became a better person as a result.
My father made my life, and that of my mother, simply wonderful.
The other day, I thought to myself that it might be fun to talk about guns with friends, record the conversation, and release it to anyone who might want to listen.
If this is successful, we will do it again, with more guests/co-hosts.
In this first episode of “Vuurwapen Blog Radio,” we discuss the proposed changes to ITAR, different BCG coatings and platings, flash performance while using a silencer on an AR15, and Battle Rifle Company. These topics come from questions that have been emailed to me by blog readers over the last…well questions that have been emailed over a certain period of time to which I never properly responded.
I have continued to work on the muzzle device test, and am looking to include some highly scientific analysis of a certain factor relating to muzzle flash which will make this second round of testing significantly better than the first. This necessitates a delay in publication, but I think it will be worth the wait.
Also, several months ago, I wrote an article analyzing fatal accident rates of the Cessna 170 over the past several decades. It was recently published in the The 170 News, the quarterly newsletter of The International Cessna 170 Association.
I’ve been working on a second round of muzzle device testing, and light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. Like the first test, this would not be possible without help from multiple industry sources. In addition to the muzzle devices from the first test, I have been provided with the following devices:
– Knight’s Armament Co. Triple Tap
– Smith Vortex/Good Iron
– White Sound Defense FOSSA-556
– Surefire MB556K
– AAC BrakeOut 2.0
– Fortis RED
– Noveske KX3
If you have a device which you would like included in the test, please contact me immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few years ago Arizona did away with the concealed weapons permit requirement for carry. I liked this because it allowed those in dire need of an effective method of self defense to carry a firearm as quickly as possible, but I also disliked it because it made a lot of people think that they didn’t need to have any skill or knowledge in order to carry a firearm safely and effectively. I actually found my initial concealed carry class to be an excellent primer on the legal aspects of carrying a deadly weapon. It was a little light on proficiency, although safety was covered in detail. Overall, though, it was a worthwhile investment of time for an individual serious about defending themselves.
From a civil liberties vs. public safety standpoint, there can be an interesting philosophical discussion here.
From a business standpoint, some people have smelled profit.
I have received several emails from a man named Victor Fabre representing “The Carry Academy.” Mr. Fabre said we could “help each other’s missions” if I shared his business on my blog. I was also offered $6 per referral and/or a free T-shirt (I am not sure whether i was being offered both or just one). Initially I ignored the email, as I ignore the vast majority of people wanting me to pimp their business for them or allow them to write about Top One Best Gun Safes America on my blog, but he emailed again, so I looked at his business.
Their business model is to provide “training” through a brief demonstration video on the internet, after which you may take a certificate to the local authorities and apply to a permit. You can even take the course on Facebook! If you have ever thought it would be okay to carry a gun when the entirety of your firearms training consisted of you having a Facebook tab open behind seven Buzzfeed and Cracked.com tabs, please turn in your firearms to Dianne Feinstein for destruction.
The Carry Academy promises to make your life better – fast! Here’s what their website had to say about their course:
You don’t need range time or to spend an entire day in a classroom learning the basics of firearm safety, in addition to this course. Our course is specifically designed for your convenience. Everything required to apply for your concealed carry permit is provided in our 30 minute firearms safety class! All you need is a computer with internet access and a printer.
A concealed carry permit may be all it takes for you to feel safer, both for yourself and for those you care about.
That’s right! You don’t need range time or a day in the classroom to learn firearms safety! Those people who never talk to their kids about gun safety and end up having their five-year-old shoot their two-year-old, they don’t actually exist.
And hey! It doesn’t matter if you ARE safer, it only matters if you FEEL safer. This reminds me of a Prius commercial I once heard in California. The woman was talking about why she liked her Prius and it came down to “My Prius makes me feel like I’m doing something for the environment.” Not“My Prius is actually good for the environment.”
There was an important distinction in that ad, and there is an important distinction here. The people who run The Carry Academy are not making anyone safer. They are selling a paper-thin security blanket – and encouraging dangerous incompetence with firearms.
Several weeks ago I wrote an article discussing the outright fabrication of military service, the benefits such actions may have, and why the people behind them should not be given a pass. I would be remiss in turning a blind eye to those who have served in the military but felt the need to tell untruths in order to enhance their standing within the community.
Specifically, I want to write about Chris Kyle, and I want to write about the movie American Sniper.
I find the Superdome story disturbing because it is essentially his mental conveyance of the Iraq war to the United States. While it is unlikely that any ROE (rules of engagement) would allow a hypothetically placed military sniper – let’s not forget the Posse Comitatus Act – to shoot people just for the act of looting, the laws and conventions of war would most likely permit lethal force against armed individuals not identifying themselves as part of an allied police or military force. What Kyle described is, essentially, a description of what a sniper would do at the height of a struggle between forces for an urban area. In Iraq, American snipers were like a protective umbrella against the acid rain of insurgents.
But this story took place in New Orleans, which, if you didn’t know, is part of America. And it would not be justifiable, legally or morally, to shoot American citizens simply for the act of being armed in the wake of a natural disaster – especially given his vocal support of the Second Amendment. That Chris Kyle found it acceptable enough to make up stories about it is illuminating.
As for the other story, the ultimate tragic irony is that after bragging about having killed two men who failed to steal his truck, he and a friend were killed by one man who successfully stole his truck. The former story has been thoroughly investigated and found to be without basis, the latter is a matter of legal fact.
The movie American Sniper does not discuss these stories; it focuses on the emotional rollercoaster of deployment cycles and the combat experienced by Kyle in Iraq. Correction: it is a fictionalized depiction of that combat. The majority of plot points are not based in reality, and many of the figures or groups depicted therein are loose representations of reality.
For example, there was no sniper battle stretching over multiple deployments between Kyle and a Dragunov-wielding family man with beautiful eyelashes and excessive amounts of eyeshadow – or if there were, it didn’t make it into the book upon which the movie is based.
There are other SEALs depicted in the movie, but they exist only to be ancillary figures to Kyle or to die in ways that leave Kyle unable to save them. Unlike many of the other things that are discussed in this article, those SEALs did in fact die near Kyle and in ways he could not have prevented. I would like to have had some knowledge of the impact these injuries and deaths had on the SEAL corpsman assigned to that platoon, but we are never given a chance to find out.
The movie relentlessly revolves around Kyle, most likely as he would have preferred, given how many stories he told which were apparently intended to boost the legend of, well, The Legend – Kyle’s nickname for a good portion of the movie. This focus on Kyle is so intense that no mention of Chad Littlefield, the friend who was murdered alongside the SEAL, is made in the movie, although Kyle’s death is addressed.
There is a stateside scene in which a Marine addresses Kyle and his young son and describes how Kyle carried him out of a house while injured, thus saving his life. Of course, no mention is made of any of the other people who were involved in saving his life, such as the other person who most likely was involved in carrying the Marine out of the house. Everything is about Chris Kyle. There can be no other heroes. The scene ends with the Marine, in civilian attire and indoors, saluting Kyle. Yeah, right.
The film is so fictionalized that it becomes less of a representation of Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL sniper, than of the trials and tribulations of many post-9/11 servicemembers. Bradley Cooper worked very hard to become Chris Kyle, or the Chris Kyle that Chris (and Taya) Kyle wanted the world to see, but this New Kyle was in fact an amalgamation of all the positive attributes – and a few of the negative ones – a patriotic American public wants to see in its’ servicemen. And, although I may be slightly biased, I think this depiction was accurate. American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are indeed tough, brave, and kind to the weak, but not infallible and not without a few flaws that make them human like everyone else.
The movie capitalizes on the adoration of a significant amount of Americans for those in the military. Bradley Cooper becomes the definitive American war hero in a way that few other movies have managed to depict. Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, wrote an autobiography which became a movie. The movie was all about a scrawny little guy who wanted to join the Army and ends up saving the lives of everyone in his unit over and over again. He played himself in the movie, and he was a true hero, but the family aspect of American Sniper makes Chris Kyle a hero to which most Americans can relate in some aspect.
This may lead the reader who has not seen the movie to think that it is a jingoistic propaganda piece. It is not, at least not to me. All of the servicemen in the movie end up seriously injured, dead, or at the very least having lost close friends. The strain of military service is obviously difficult on Taya Kyle, to the point that she hints to Chris that she will leave him if he doesn’t leave the military. Chris himself is severely affected by his experiences although he denies that he is one of the guys who has problems adjusting. Audie Murphy wrote a followup book about his difficulties in adjusting to civilian life, but no one wanted to make that into a movie.
All told, I found that the movie did not depict military service in a very positive light. Those who feel it is a two hour recruiting film are misinformed. There have been a number of people comparing American Sniper to Nation’s Pride, the faux movie-within-a-movie in Inglorious Basterds about a Nazi sniper who kills hundreds of Allied soldiers.
It would appear that the people making these comparisons have not seen American Sniper; in the faux propaganda piece, the German sniper is shown shooting dozens or even hundreds, including noncombatants and wounded and unarmed soldiers – and revels in doing so. In American Sniper, we see only a few sniper “kills,” none of which would be considered illegal under the laws of war or applicable rules of engagement, and Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle is shown to be hesitant to kill those who are not clearly enemy combatants and is relieved at not having had to take certain shots.
That said, while there are many aspects of the film which are Hollywood-movie-playbook-emotion-inducing and clearly inaccurate, such as the final scene of the movie, there are a number of things which are accurate.
The film – rather, Bradley Cooper – accurately shows the psychological anguish of knowing that other men are off fighting a battle that you signed up for, participated in, and then left. Post-traumatic stress can take many forms, but guilt is one of the most insidious and damaging on a long term basis.
Chris Kyle was a SEAL. A significant number of SEALs (compared to other special operations troops) have been eager to write books or give interviews on their experiences and exploits. This was true before Chris Kyle left active duty, remains true today, and will almost certainly continue to be true for years to come. While many SEALs work in the shadows, literally and figuratively, without ever seeking fame, some do not.
To become a SEAL you must (presumably, I am not a SEAL nor have I ever considered going to BUD/S) have a very aggressive personality. Were it not for that, you would likely quit before successfully becoming a SEAL. Given the history of some SEALs seeking fame, it makes sense that the most aggressive of these men would embellish their own histories in an attempt to set themselves apart from their most impressive peers. Furthermore, when every American serviceman is a hero, one must be truly exceptional to be recognized as a hero of the first tier.
Most recently, we saw a public and rather embarrassing squabble between former SEALs over who really shot Osama bin Laden. Enough people are interested in such things that the media will breathlessly recount almost anything a SEAL says. Delta Force? Well, if one of them were to talk about a current operation, it is likely that the media would not treat it as being one tenth as interesting as if it had been said or done by a frogman.
Chris Kyle’s tall tales overshadow some of his most lasting accomplishments – helping returning veterans and working to show that men and women who have seen war should not be viewed with suspicion and distrust. In this he was quite genuine. It is a shame that the lies he told have received far more attention than the good work he did – but there is only one person responsible for this, and that person is Chris Kyle.
Why couldn’t the things he actually did have been enough?
Having completed my spirit walk/vision quest, I now return to blogging.
Every six months, give or take, we learn of some minor (or major) gun world personality who has exaggerated, inflated, or outright invented a history of military service in an attempt to make money, gain influence, or further their career. Inevitably, three groups of people form in response:
– Those who never cared for anything the person in question had to say;
– Those who are outraged at the thought of stolen valor;
– Those who think it wasn’t a big deal and that the person has positive traits which mean their tall tales can, or should, be overlooked.
With the increasing lionization of military members in the post-9/11 era, it was probably to be expected that military service would eventually become even more of a selling point in certain circles. There are a lot of people who didn’t join the military but wish they had, especially in the gun world. They look at military members and veterans with varying degrees of envy, adoration, and respect, but also resentment and distaste.
It is this latter group, I think, which forms the bulk of the military fakers. They were unable to join, to complete their basic training, they didn’t have time, etc. – but they see praise being lavished on those who did go through with it and their resentment grows to the point that they think they will only succeed if they pretend to be a member of the elite. They don’t see that there was honor in their attempt to join the military, and that no one would have questioned their integrity if they just said something like “I didn’t make it through boot camp because of a medical condition, but I still love my country and I like to shoot guns. Watch my videos!”
It is the former group of non-veterans which becomes their fans. The more adoration one has for the military and its members, the more likely one is to swallow a load of crap. Adoration intensifies to the point that even when the story is revealed to be false, a significant number have stopped caring about the specifics of military service and have transferred their hero worship directly to the individual in question. These are the diehard fans – the ones who will encourage the faker to continue their work despite “the haters.” They will try to explain away the stories as “not a big deal.”
There are several recent examples to discuss. The most notable is Cory of Range Time, or Cory07ink as he is known on YouTube. He appears with “Erika,” and the duo are often referred to as “Cory and Erika.” For those who don’t know, Cory recently had some issues with…bad publicity. Long story short, he claimed to have been honorably discharged from the Army when in fact he went AWOL before completing his training.
A more recent case is that of “Amy Jane,” a woman who sought to work in the gun industry (and saw moderate success in her brief efforts) based on having been a Marine, but then it came out that she had never graduated basic training and received a medical discharge. This apparently left some people with egg on their faces.
How do these things happen? It comes down to two basic steps.
Step One – Build a Background, But Slowly
This is where the nuances of storytelling are important. Rather than lump all of his eggs into one easily verifiable basket, the Cory and Erika Show planted the seeds of a complicated and decent background in various places until a respectable legend had emerged. Just as with creating a fake identity, these things are best done over time – if someone appears out of nowhere with a fancy video claiming to be a SEAL, they can be exposed as a fraud in a matter of hours. But when the claims are limited to being an Army infantryman who served overseas, and these claims are made over time and in a less obvious manner, the average person’s motivation to research them is lessened.
So it was that Cory built a business and a large YouTube following due in no small part to his false background stories. The other reason he came to prominence – rather, they came to prominence – is that they were not shy about marketing their videos with the use of Erika’s “assets.”
As I stated previously, military service has become a selling point to some – and Cory used his military background the same way he used Erika’s body, to attract men who should have known better. In all likelihood, he didn’t see a difference between lying about his military background and Erika’s body – they were just things he could use to advance his career.
Step Two – Apologize (Sort Of), Redirect
In almost every one of these cases, there is an apology of sorts – Cory’s was rather pathetic and came only after a series of denials and attempts to shift blame – followed by an attempt to redirect attention to the “good” things about the person or what they have done, such as, in Cory’s case, essentially “try really hard to learn from different people about being a good instructor.”
The most rabid fans, the ones who have gone past the military adoration to the personal adoration stage, eagerly accept the suggestion and proceed to attack those who take issue with the liars.
This is when we see the “it’s not a big deal” arguments, or in the case of Amy Jane, the leghumpers and Captain Saveahos come out of the woodwork with encouragement for the damsel in distress. It helps when other personalities such as James Yeager go to bat for people like Cory – and since Yeager has a large following of people willing to overlook a lack of background, Cory’s salvation was virtually assured. In Amy Jane’s case, her looks guaranteed a certain number of desperate, unattractive men willing to reassure her that they were behind her.
Why You Shouldn’t Support Military Fakers
Here is the crux of my argument – why you should no longer give these people your time, money, or attention.
Military service is not incredibly difficult to achieve in all its forms, but for some it is an impossibility. Some are physically/medically unable to join and some don’t feel they have the time or are unwilling to set aside other goals, such as education or family, to join. And most, if not almost all, of these people are honorable and in no way inferior to those who joined the military.
But when someone joins the military, they are in essence saying that they are willing to put aside their personal life for the greater good – that they are willing to serve the public at the risk of their life. Yes, volunteering to join the military has many benefits, and some join solely for those benefits, but it has many drawbacks as well. Constant deployment and training cycles cause stress and family hardship on a level with few equivalents in the civilian world (at the same time, certain aspects of military life are infinitely easier than those of civilian life, but I’m getting off topic).
When someone fakes or exaggerates military service, they not only want you to see them as a hero – for many Americans see all servicemembers as heroes – but they want you to see them as a fundamentally different person at their core than they really are. Rather than being a human with flaws, as we all are, who set aside other aspects of their life to serve their country, they are essentially lazy and untrustworthy people.
They had a choice between honesty and hard work and dishonesty and the easy path of just telling a lie, and they chose the latter. Having a military background is not a requirement for success in the gun industry. Many competition shooters have no military background, and yet they are as in demand, if not more than, military shooters when it comes to firearms instruction or sponsorship deals. But being a good competition shooter requires a lot of hard work and dedication. And that’s simply not something people like Cory or Amy Jane are willing to do.
Nor were they willing to spend months, years, or decades in the service of their country instead of the service of themselves, wrongly feeding their reputation with every story of military heroism that Americans associate with every member of the military. The men and women Cory and Amy Jane were taking advantage of couldn’t compete with the years-long process of building a successful business or brand in this industry, because they were overseas or in training or spending some of their precious little free time with their family.
The fakers and their acolytes will contend that they have worked hard to get where they are, but repeating a lie long enough that they believe it to be true while networking at SHOT and the gun range isn’t hard work – it’s fundamentally dishonest and lacking in the sort of fortitude and moral fiber one traditionally expects in a role model, especially an armed role model.
From taking gun safety seriously at all times to protecting their home and family before expecting others to do so, people in the gun world, and gun owners in general, put a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility.
I wish these people no ill will and hope they find work as something other than a firearms instructor or gun TV show host, but I don’t feel that they have a place in a field where a sense of honor is, or should be, at the core of everyone’s soul.
I first met Caylen Wojcik at the 2013 Sniper Adventure Challenge, where he and his (shooting, not domestic)Â partner Jon Canipe displayed shooting skills far in excess of the entire field of competitors. For example, of the 26 teams in the competition, only 7 scored a rifle hit on the first shooting stage. Two teams had one hit, four teams (including Paul and I) had two hits, and one team (Ares Armor, I believe) had four hits. Caylen scored seven hits out of ten possible.
So he can definitely shoot, but it’s not surprising that heÂ also has a solid background. He was a Scout Sniper in the Marine Corps, having taken part in Phantom Fury and been an instructor at 1st Marine Division’s Sniper School. He’s also been teaching shooting since he got out of the military, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the quality of his instruction.
I have co-taught a good number of courses at Sniper Country, and at first it was basically a very large open range with steel targets out to 1800 yards. Desert Tech has since put a lot of money in the facility, with new improvements coming on line at a rapid pace. It’s a really awesome place for a shooting class, and Caylen is a pretty awesome guy to take a class from. If you have the time, I highly recommend taking one of these courses.
There are many reasons to buy a product. I use Barbasol because DodsonÂ Dennis Nedry smuggled dinosaur embryos off Isla Nublar in a modified Barbasol can. Might I get a better shave with another product? Perhaps. But every time I pick up a can of Barbasol, I smile and think about Jurassic Park.
I don’t have any happy childhood memories regarding AR15 muzzle devices, so I generally stick to practical reasons for using one product or another. If you’ve read my muzzle device comparison, you know that…well I have a good handle on what each device in that test does in terms of muzzle flash, sound/blast, and recoil control.
That’s why I have a really big problem with BattleComp Enterprises. Their device is not very good by any objective standard, and their claims regarding the performance of the device are not at all accurate. In fact, they are in some cases blatant lies. Here’s what their site says about the BattleComp:
The BattleComp offers muzzle control like some of the best brakes on the market, with none of their liabilities.
Well, that’s not true. In terms of rearward recoil reduction, the BattleComp lagged far behind the best brake in the test, and it beat out only one other product which is sold as a recoil reduction device.
It was less effective than almost every brake and compensator tested, and that’s only rearward forces. When it comes to pushing the muzzle down, the BC 1.0 is a champ. But that’s not something to be proud of. And that means another BattleComp claim is nonsensical, that
“the increase in muzzle stability allows the user the ability to see rounds hit while looking through the scope.”
let’s look at sound. The BattleComp is within 1-1.5 decibels of the loudest (and coincidentally most effective) muzzle brakes in the test.
This throws into question another BattleComp claim, that the device does not have the
“crushing blast and concussion common to most muzzle brakes.”
Finally, BattleComp claims that their device offers
“flash comparable to an A2.”
By every measurable standard, the BattleComp is much, much brighter and more visible in low light than the A2. This has held true in all of the testing and observations I have conducted over the last few years. I have never seen a BattleComp exhibit a flash signature in any spectrum that was comparable to the A2.
There is not a single (quantifiable) statement made by BattleComp regarding the performance of their device that is even remotely true.
So why is the device so popular?
It’s a combination of things. The BattleComp got some hefty gun-celebrity endorsements, especially from those who are popular on gun forums. Next, enter the placebo effect. A person hears from a celebrity, or hears the parroted words of a celebrity, that the BattleComp worked really well and then shoots a rifle with one. In the absence of hard data saying otherwise, they agree that it works really well.Â I initially liked the BattleComp for that reason. That changed when I truly compared it to other devices.
Popularity intensifies, and then it becomes cool to have a BattleComp on your rifle. The price doesn’t hurt either – it’s pretty expensive (over $150), and you gain admission to a pretty exclusive club when you can drop $150 on a muzzle device. BattleComp Enterprises is savvy with marketing, too, and they have cultivated this exclusive image quite well over the last few years. After all, it’s not a muzzle brake, it’s a “world class tactical compensator.” None of those words actually mean anything, but they’ve sure sold a lot of widgets.
The strength of that placebo effect really… stuns me, to put it simply. People will insist that the BattleComp has significantly reduced muzzle blast compared to other devices, but I have conducted other tests and found that it is essentially impossible for a person to pick out the BattleComp in a group of (more effective) muzzle brakes when the shooter is standing next to the blindfolded test subject. And there’s the above sound data, too, which is all a logical person needs to understand that any device which reduces recoil is going to redirect sound to the sides and rear of the muzzle.
The bottom line is that the A2 does a better job of matching BattleComp’s claims than the BC 1.0 does. It has good flash reduction, it’s not as noisy or blasty as a brake, and it “offers excellent muzzle control.”