Do you own rifles and/or body armor? You’re a bad guy.

Do you, reader of this blog, own multiple firearms, and perhaps some body armor?

Do you own anything that could be construed as police or military gear or clothing?

I know I do.

I have dozens of firearms, and currently am in possession of five sets of body armor, if we count hard and soft armor separately. I have a T shirt with the logo of a local SWAT team, given to me by one of its members. I have a patch from a Las Vegas-area SWAT team that I rode along on a warrant service with once. I’ve got an NYPD shirt that I bought on my university campus after 9/11 – it’s around here somewhere. I have uniform items from three different military branches, all issued to me at one point or another. I even have a challenge coin from “Task Force Military Police.”

I wonder what my local sheriff’s department would think of me. You see, they’re currently using the fact that an OIF Marine veteran had five firearms and body armor – most of the latter in storage in his garage – to paint him as a bad guy. The clincher, though? “Law enforcement uniform items,” as it’s been described in the media. What exactly does this consist of? A Border Patrol hat. None of it illegal – nothing found in his house was illegal.

This is a complex story, and I won’t try to describe the whole thing here. The facts of the case still aren’t certain, so I’ll refrain from passing judgment on a number of things. Check out Beat and Release for analysis from an experienced police officer – he’s got quite a few in-depth posts on the subject. Also, This Ain’t Hell has some more specific comments on the story.

What I feel comfortable commenting on are the following things:

SWAT Team – The movement and tactics of the SWAT team members during the raid that resulted in the death of Jose Guerena were amateurish and displayed a lack of situational awareness and unit cohesion. If that team had encountered two or three criminals with the intent to harm police officers, there would be several dead Sheriff’s Deputies or Police Officers (it’s a multi-agency SWAT team) – perhaps even the entire team.

The SWAT members fired 71 rounds, hitting Guerena 20 times. This is about on par with other police shootings, but keep in mind that rounds fired by these SWAT officers passed through the Guerena house and into two neighboring houses, prompting the SWAT team to “make entry” into those homes to ensure that no one was shot. I’d like to know the timeline of these subsequent entries, because the team that shot up the Guerena house was occupied with getting his wife and son out, as well as talking to detectives, for quite some time after the initial shooting.

Media Comments – We’ve been told that Guerena was part of a home invasion crew, although the initial investigation, and PCSO comments, centered on this being a drug trafficking ring. We’re told that because he had body armor and weapons, that he was a bad guy. Oh, and the hat. Don’t forget the hat. We’re told that because he owned a polished .38 Super handgun, that he might as well be a Mexican drug lord (It’s a good thing that I sold my .38 Super, although it had a satin finish).

Either Jose Guerena was not only a major drug trafficker, but also a busy home invading bee – while he also pulled down 12 hour graveyard shifts at the local Asarco mine – or this was a fishing expedition based on circumstantial evidence, poorly planned and executed by SWAT officers who didn’t know what they were shooting at, why they were shooting, or even that his wife and child were in the house – only that they needed to empty their magazines down that hallway. It may be all of the above, for all I know.

Of course, we have Sheriff Dupnik down here, who famously, and incorrectly, opined about the cause of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting practically before her blood had even dried on the ground. He’s made some really “intelligent” statements about this shooting as well. I’ve got a lot of faith in PCSO as a whole, but Dupnik needs to go in 2012.

Smith & Wesson “E” Series 1911: 21st Century 1911?

I was recently loaned this Smith & Wesson 1911 for a review, and have spent the last few weeks inspecting, carrying, and shooting it. I came away with one big reservation, but overall, a positive opinion of the pistol. It – and the other E series 1911s from S&W, all of which cost less than this tricked-out model – should bring some much-needed quality competition to the factory production 1911 market.

Also, please read Hilton Yam’s review of a similar pistol, which goes into more detail, and comes from the mind of an experienced 1911 gunsmith.

AR-15 Platform “Barrel Whip” Discussion

Here’s some high speed video comparing why free floated barrels move during firing. The results shouldn’t be very surprising, but the cause is a lot more simple than some might think.

The movement is not due to barrel fluting or piston/op-rod operation, but the simple act of a muzzle device placing uncontested force at the very end of the barrel. Because the barrel is free floated, it only has support where it meets the receiver. As a result, we see the barrel move a bit. When this same rifle has a muzzle device that does not place such force on the barrel, we do not see any movement.

Garmin Tracking Unit – GTU-10

I often venture “off the beaten path” alone, and while this is fun and rewarding, it’s not the safest thing in the world. I let people know where I’m going and when I’ll be back, and have various signaling and communication devices with me, but there’s nothing quite like having your location monitored at all times.

I don’t think I need to explain GPS technology to anyone. It seems that everything has a GPS in it nowadays, and we’ve come a long way from the bulky units I first started using about 15 years ago, or even my beat-up 6 year old Garmin ETrex. Take, for example, the Garmin GTU-10, which Dark Mountain Research/BestSurvivalShop loaned to me for a recent hiking trip. It’s slightly larger than a cigarette lighter and weighs less than 2 ounces. Now, it didn’t tell me where I was, but it gave some people back home the ability to track my exact location at all times.

Hey look! There are you.

It comes with a nifty little case, attached to which is a small carabiner. I clipped this carabiner to my belt loop, and, quite frankly, forgot that the GTU 10 was there. It was so small and light that it had absolutely no effect on anything I did, and it occupied a space that I normally wouldn’t have attached anything to, which is nice when I only have a few pockets or holders for various items.

There’s only one button – power – and one indicator light. It tells you that it’s on and has a signal, then the light goes out to save battery power. Although the device has no “help me” button, it does notify the people who have authority to track it if it’s been turned off. We worked out a system – if the device was turned off and on three times in five minutes, I was in trouble. Luckily, I didn’t need to use this feature.

On the way home, I threw the GTU-10 in the trunk of my car to see if it’d still be able to transmit my location – it did (Luckily for me, it doesn’t track speeds).

The GTU-10 has some other nifty features that I didn’t use, such as the “geofence” – draw a line on the map, or a box, and the system will alert you if the unit crosses that area. With this, you could keep an eye on your kids, or dog, or…well, pretty much anything. Garmin mentions tracking luggage with this device – for people who travel with firearms, this relatively inexpensive device could be a good insurance policy against the expensive loss of a firearm or two.

Battery life, according to Garmin, is between one day and one month, depending on how you use it. It had no problems on my two-day trip, and frankly, I don’t know how you could run the battery down in a day – it’s not like this thing has a color screen that you can watch Dexter on. It has a specific task to accomplish, and it does that very well.

Thanks again to Kino at Dark Mountain Research for the loan.

MOLLE Disease: Too Much Gear

It’s taken decades, but the CDC has finally recognized the threat posed by zombies.

This event led me to consider another often-ignored ailment: MOLLE disease. There are many symptoms of this disease, and in fact, it’s been around for a long time, but the introduction of MOLLE webbing has made the problems more obvious. It’s even been mentioned by the excellent USMC-related web comic, Terminal Lance.

Whether MOLLE is involved or not, the issue boils down to this: too much stuff. Sometimes, a lot of stuff is needed; other times, that stuff will go by unused.

One of the biggest offenders when it comes to this is the US military itself. Designing packs that can carry 120lbs of gear, requiring that grunts carry everything they can with them into the field, and in some units, even forcing them to organize their gear in an identical manner, as opposed to what works best for the individual Soldier or Marine. The military has known for a long time that musculoskeletal injuries are a leading cause of servicemembers being unable to perform their assigned tasks.

Ten years ago, an Army Science Board study even recommended that an individual soldier carry no more than 50lbs of gear. That hasn’t happened. According to this 2007 report, the average individual Marine combat load varies from 97 to 135 pounds. The old rule of keeping carried weight below one third of body weight would lead us to believe that the lightest Marine weighs in at just under 300 pounds.

Because MOLLE webbing allows unprecedented customization of gear, some think that unused MOLLE space is a big no-no; they figure that if they have an extra pouch, they can attach it there to carry something. On a higher gear-acquisition level, the “customization” potential of MOLLE fools decision makers into thinking that everything they buy is going to become one big system, rather than dozens or hundreds of individual pieces of gear that happen to have the option of being securely attached to one another in any desired location.

I fell victim to this when I first deployed. I couldn’t begin to list everything I carried, but take this as an example: I carried ten of the then-new HK magazines for my M4. Unloaded, these magazines weigh 8.9 ounces apiece, or more than 5 pounds total – just for the magazines themselves! Add almost another pound each for 30 rounds of Mk262 or M855 ammunition…you see the problem. Later in the tour, I dropped some stuff, but much weight remained: for extended dismounted patrols, my personal gear load varied from 80 to 100lbs.

It is my opinion that, despite its own studies which reveal mountains of evidence against such practices, the military as a system is in denial about the negative effects that result from “too much gear.” It’s still stuck in “Well, what if you happen to need this?” mode, rather than “What do you really need?” mode.

Law enforcement officers are unfortunately saddled with many of these same issues – being required to carry a lot of gear that they may or may not use. On the civilian side, issues are similar, although everything becomes optional. Having more gear is always a good thing, it seems, even if most of that gear is of little use. This problem is exacerbated because, outside of a square range where gear is brought by vehicle, most of this equipment is rarely carried for long.

Environmental conditions are a major factor, as well. Several months ago, I covered 12 miles while carrying 75lbs of gear. This was on a cool evening, but I still wasn’t able to move as fast as I would have with less stuff. As temperatures rise, I have no option but to shed gear until I am carrying 20lbs at most during the day. As this happens, I consider the possibility that perhaps the other 55lbs of gear wasn’t as necessary as I first thought.

The same goes for the weight of the gear itself. Unnecessarily heavy rifles or radios are an obvious problem, but what about the weight of the pack on your shoulders? I have an HSGI T.R.A.S.H. pack, which uses an ALICE frame and is constructed entirely of 1000D Cordura. Empty, it weighs over twelve pounds. As a result, it’s rarely used on longer hiking trips. For those, I use ~2lb Kelty, North Face, or Gregory packs, which are often more than sufficient.

One must start with absolutely essential gear – a rifle, for example, or water. Work from there in order to choose what to bring, and how much. If you don’t have a truly valid reason to lug a lot of something around, ditch it, or carry less of it. Chances are that you’ll be able to do whatever you set out to accomplish just as well, and you might even be able to do it faster and with less wear and tear on your body.