Saturday, April 06, 2002

A GATLING IN MY HAND
No, I'm not going to talk about masturbation.

I recently went to the movies. I saw that the characters were all using full-auto machine pistols, which are pistols that can be fired like a machine gun even though they're still just handgun sized. This got me thinking about the subject.

The first commercially successful full-auto machine pistol (FAMP) was the Mauser C96, otherwise known as the Broomhandle Mauser. The designers decided to introduce a shoulder stock/holster with the gun so it could be used as a small and underpowered carbine. They did this because the gun fired a very fast .30 caliber pistol cartridge (the .30 Mauser), and someone decided to put that flat trajectory to work. As a quick point of trivia, it wasn't until the .357 Magnum cartridge was introduced in 1935 that the .30 Mauser's high muzzle velocity was exceeded.

Anyway, sub-machine guns started to become all the rage when U.S. gangsters started to get big press. The guys at Mauser responded by adding a selector switch and making a few internal changes so the gun could be fired full-auto. They called the system Scnellfeuerpistole, or "Fast firing pistol".
The biggest problem with this system was one of control. What does one do to keep the muzzle down? I read once that some guys would carry around a stick with a loop of wire on the end. Slip the loop over the sights and on to the barrel and you have a ready made front grip. I've never actually seen any pictures of anyone doing this, so it's probably hocum.

One FAMP that actually predates the Mauser is the Baby Browning. A tiny hold out pistol that could be hidden anywhere, the gun was extremely popular in the trenches of World War I as a weapon of last resort. (I was going to say "last-ditch", but I figured it would be a little much after mentioning the trenches.) Firing an incredibly underpowered .25 caliber round the gun didn't have much stopping power, especially through the heavy woolen uniforms both sides favored. To increase lethality the seer would be filed down so the magazine would be expended in one quick burst with one pull of the trigger. This gun can't be counted as a true FAMP since it's been modified from it's original purpose. And I've never come across even an anecdotal case of where anyone was ever shot during WWI with an unmodified .25, let alone one of these kludged together Barbi's Malibu Machine Pistols. Still, it's an interesting bit of history.

Most governments looked at FAMP's as an overly-expensive oddity. After all, a FAMP isn't as lethal and doesn't have the range of a regular sub-machine gun, but it can cost over ten times as much to produce. Why bother paying more for something like that?

The Russians never saw it like that. Surrounded by enemies, they had visions of a single downed Russian pilot slaughtering hundreds before being overwhelmed. If that happened a few times then the Capitalistic stooges would think twice before screwing with Mother Russia.

With this philosophy they developed a variety of FAMP's, most of which are impossible to find except in a few museums. One of the more successful was a little gun called the CZ61 Scorpion, or Skorpion, which originally appeared in 1961.
The secret to the Scorpion's success is it's underpowered cartridge. It fires a .30 pistol cartridge that's superficially identical to the .30 Mauser cartridge mentioned above, but loaded to a much lower level of pressure. This means that the recoil is controllable even at full rock and roll (though with difficulty). They saw great use in the Russian tank corps, and the best use for the weapon is probably as a last resort weapon for the crew of a stalled tank.

As with all great ideas, someone has to come along to screw it up. The powers that be decided that it would be a great idea to add a little punch to the weak FAMP, so they had the designers chamber it for the .380 Auto (CZ64), the 9mm Makarov (CZ65), and the 9mm Parabellum (CZ68). Although the CZ61 is found in the hands of security forces and terrorists the world over I can't find an example of any other variant. Go figure.

Many U.S. veterans of the Viet Nam War that I've talked to admit that they modified their standard issue Colt 1911 sidearm. Like the guys in WWI, they'd file down the seer of the pistol so it would rip off the entire clip with one pull of the trigger. Every one of them admitted that they couldn't hit anything after the first shot but the modification gave them some measure of comfort when they were on watch in the jungle. I suppose it did it's job, then.

It seems that the popularity of FAMP's are untouched by such considerations as cost and effectiveness. Designers still come up with new designes, and someone must be buying them for the gun companies to give the green light to such projects. The Russians certainly haven't lost their enthusiasm for them, but it's pretty clear that things can get out of hand. (Why not buy a real SMG instead of clipping all that crap to a perfectly good handgun?) The big problem is one of control, since FAMP's generally jump around like crazy when doing the voodoo they do best. To counter this problem, designers are coming up with stuff that would look at home on Star Trek.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

HUMANS IN THE REALM OF THE GODS
It seems that there's a lot of interest in the Shen Zhou 3 spacecraft that China launched last week. The Chinese are certainly being very methodical about the whole project. They realize that all of the flashy, headline-grabbing glory days are long gone. They seem to be primarily interested in testing the equipment and working their way up to a truly valuable Near Earth Orbit (NEO) vehicle.

On one hand I have to say "Good for them". It's not an easy thing to do, building a precision instrument that will function flawlessly under dozens of gee forces, when portions of the vehicle will either heat up to thousands of degrees (at launch and re-entry), and at other times it will cool down to hundreds of degrees below zero (in orbit, when out of direct sunlight).

On the other hand, even though China has made great strides in recent years, it IS a Communist country with a rather bad history of being buttheads when national pride is on the line. This area of Chinese effort will bear some watching.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

MY KIND OF RECYCLING
The Cobra attack helicopter was the marvel of the Viet Nam war. Fast, heavily armed and armored, it also had a slim, waspish profile that made it all the more difficult to shoot it down.

But, time marches on. The U.S. gov is selling the remaining Cobras as surplus. Some enterprising private citizen has decided that the Cobra, shorn of it's weapons, is perfect as a heavy lifting cargo chopper. After all, it has an impressive engine to carry weapons, ammo and armor, so that extra capacity can also be used for carrying less lethal payloads.

But today I see that Argentina is asking the U.S. gov to sell them a dozen Cobras with all of the weapons still attached.

Hey, didn't Argentina recently have some financial difficulties? How are they gonna pay for the helicopters?

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

A REAL PUZZLER
It seems that Muslim nations, meeting at Kuala Lumpur to try and adresss terrorism, have failed to define "terrorism".

I know what the problem is. "They rejected any attempt to label the Palestinian struggle as terrorism."

Considering that the majority of the Palestinian efforts can be nothing BUT terrorism, I don't think I'll be seeing any progress any time soon.

Sunday, March 31, 2002

STOP DRAGGING MY CAR AROUND
I've always been a big fan of science fiction. I've been waiting for all of the wonderful inventions promised in the books to come to pass. Oh, sure, we now have cell phones that bear a striking resemblance to Star Trek communicators. We also have computerized maps/tracking systems for your car just like James Bond had in "Goldfinger". But it's not enough.

What I've always wanted was a flying car. They've had various failures over the decades, but nothing that looked like it could work. There's been some buzz over the past few years about this flying car, but it hasn't even flown yet. Seems that there's some problem with funding.

The only other prospects are like this one, which looks like a scam to me. And not much of a professional looking scam at that.

It's depressing. Someone go out there and invent a viable flying car!
AHOY, THERE MY HEARTIES!
It's not a subject to joke about, but the old institution of piracy isn't confined to history. Crime on the high seas is a modern day problem. Some people say that it's organized like a legitimate business in some parts of the world.

The reason why is simple enough. The world ocean is very, very large. It's impossible to provide protection for every ship that travels in international waters. The Coast Guard has stepped up efforts to provide protection on ships in littoral waters, and there's private security firms that can be hired, but there doesn't seem to be a good solution to the problem.
CAPTAIN! LONG RAMBLING POST DEAD AHEAD!
One of the differences of opinion I have with people over the Internet is the significance and impact of the Information Revolution. Most people who use computers heavily (or even not that heavily) will say that computers and information networks have revolutionized every aspect of human life. I beg to differ.

Information Technology (IT) has certainly made things more effecient, but they don't actually DO anything by themselves. The technology and networks have generated wealth by creating a whole new area in the service sector, but as the dot.com meltdown on Wall Street has shown even this is terribly overrated.

What IT does is act as a multiplier. It increases efficiency, innovation and force. To show you what I mean I'll discuss a field that I have some small experience in: law enforcement.

Law enforcement became more efficient with the formation of data bases (first Bertillon system ID files, followed by fingerprints files). This was made faster and more efficient when local systems were computerized, and it was improved even further by the creation of international systems. But the low tech boys with the guns are still essential.

In this example, computer networks make it more difficult for criminals to hide from law enforcement or cover up their crimes. It means that duplication of effort is reduced since you probably won't have to catch the bad guy again after you catch him the first time. In this example IT acts as an efficiency multiplier.

The U.S. military is an avid user of IT. They use it to keep track of forces in the field and to tell those forces where to go, what to do and when to do it. In the military IT acts as a force/effeciency mutiplier.

Many corporations and universities are involved in research projects. The researchers use IT networks to keep track of their own efforts and results, as well as the efforts of other research that's being done in other institutions. This means that the lab coat set don't waste time following avenues that have proven to be a failure, and they communicate ideas. In this example IT acts as an innovation/effeciency multiplier.

So here I am, inscribing these words in the memory of a machine that isn't even in my home state where everyone from the world over can read them. Considering the content of my own and other blogs, I'd have to say that IT is acting as a effeciency destroyer in this case. After all, I could be outside doing something useful instead of sitting on my butt in front of the glass teat.