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Those Colt Lightnings…

I had an opportunity to speak to a man across the pond about this image lately.

Peering from across time, the stern yet pleased assemblage of gentlemen ranging from the junior to the ancient all show the clear eyes of steady marksmen capable of putting lead on target as required with judicious ability. Clad almost universally in three-piece suits consisting of a sack coat with matching vest or waistcoat, most are dutifully mustachioed and equipped with a pocket watch– part of the essential EDC of the time.

For the rest of the story, check out my column over at

Emergency prep: I don’t like the dark edition

A regular right of passage in April– being just around the corner from Hurricane Season ( I am a survivor of direct hits by Frederick, Elena, Georges, Katrina, and Issac), is to replenish my supplies of nonperishables, water and the like. One of the things I like to do is make my own emergency candles. I generally make at least a dozen 8-oz soy candles, each with a projected lifespan of about 30-40 hours, meaning a dozen is an easy 300-500 hours worth of light.

If you shop around you can get decent deals on wax and wicks. I got my latest stuff from Candle Science (you can currently get a 10-pounds of 464 soy wax for $15 and 100 pre-tabbed wicks for like $8). Add to that a $8 box of Ball half-pint jelly jars and a box of paper matches and I can make each candle for about $2. Less if I recycle old jars. If you look around this is about half the price of store-bought candles and I know exactly what I am getting.

For a dozen candles, you need 4 pounds of soy wax (it’s non-toxic and totally safe), 12 tabbed wicks, 12 8-oz jelly jars, a double boiler (or two pots, one larger than the other), something to pour hot ass wax with ( I use an old mixing cup) and something to help keep your wicks straight.

First, melt the wax (note- do not put a pot of wax directly on a stove top, double boiler it!). I find that four pounds melts in about 15 minutes.

Next, scoop out your wax into your jars, each with a tabbed wick at the bottom (the wick doesn’t have to be centered just yet). Be very careful as hot wax is not your friend.

Then center and arrange your wicks. I use grill skewers (I keep lots of propane for the grill as a bonus for Hurricane season). Other people use other methods such as gluing the tabs to the glass. This in mine and, like I said I already have the skewers, so it’s free.

I find the wax sets in about two hours, though I leave them overnight to be sure. Then cut the wicks flush with the jar lid, add a book of paper matches to the jar, and screw the lid on tight.

I like to keep a few dozen of these on hand going into the season as I give some away, use them camping, etc, plus in a post-Hurricane environment, you would be surprised how easy it is to make friends through the offer of a couple of free candles/matches.

The worst April Fools’ joke you can think of

Here we see, in this image from the Imperial War Museum, RFC armorers issuing Lewis guns with Lewis and Vickers ammunition to observers and pilots of No. 22 Squadron at the aerodrome at Vert Galand, 1 April 1918– some 99 years ago today. This was during the time of the German Spring Offensive that year.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: Note the chap in the Glengarry hat puffing away on his pipe

I say April Fools because the Lewis very often froze on these brave young men as their flying machines reached altitude. The only ways to solve this problem were as follows: a) fire a few rounds every so often to keep your barrel warm and mechanism moving; b) carry a small hammer in your cockpit with which to pound on your gun if it iced up, or c) carry your magazine inside your flying clothes to keep it warm.

Formed in 1915 on the Western Front, No. 22 Squadron gratefully flew Bristol F.2 fighters at the time of the above photo, which was armed with a synchronised fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun which, though it had its own troubles, was more reliable than the Lewis, which was used by the rear seat observer on a Foster mount.

With the motto Preux et audicieux (French: “Valiant and Brave”), No. 22 Squadron stood down in 2015 after 100-years or service which includes a VC awarded to Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell for executing a torpedo attack on the German battlecruiser Gneisenau in Brest harbor during WWII. Campbell, notably, was killed in that attack on 6 April 1941 though he was nobody’s April Fool.

White Sniper: Simo Hayha’ by Tapio Saarelainen

During the 1939-40 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union, a hunter and farmer by trade by the name of Simo Hayha returned to his reserve unit and picked up 542 confirmed kills with iron sights.

While versions of Hayha’s story is well known in the West, the 192 pages of Tapio Saarelainen’s White Sniper goes past the second and third-hand accounts and brings you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

It should be noted that Saarelainen is a career military officer who spent two decades training precision marksmen for the Finnish Army and even helped write that Scandinavian country’s manual for snipers. Besides this obvious resume to prepare him to write the work on Hayha, the author also met and interviewed the Winter War hero dozens of times over a five year period.

That’s a good part of what makes White Sniper such an interesting read is that it is drawn largely from first-hand accounts from a man who has been referred to as the deadliest sniper in history, but also from those who lived next to, fought alongside with, and knew the man personally. As such, it sheds insight on the man not known in the West. Such as the fact that he used his own personal Finnish-made Mosin M/28-30 rifle that he had paid for with his own funds. That his outnumbered fellow Finns, fighting alongside him in the frozen Kollaa region during that harsh winter, called him “Taika-ampuja” which translates roughly as the “Magic Shooter.” That he took almost as many moose and foxes in his life as he did Russians. That he was unassuming in later life, spending most of his time calling on old friends in his yellow VW Bettle.

More of my review here.

To check out Saarelainen’s book on Amazon here.

So I have a bayou bladesmith buddy

Warren likes to beat himself up.

I met him a little over a decade ago and he is a fellow LE instructor in everything from niche stuff like ballistic shield training to edged weapon defense as well as, of course, the more pedestrian rifle-pistol-shotgun fields of study.

Currently the head of a police department covering an area the size of a small city but with greater jurisdictional issues, some of my fondest memories of ole Warren (who shows up as the character Heath in one of my zombie novels) is in how he just seems to love pain as he goes out of his way sometimes to get himself hurt.

Take for instance in his long-studied craft of knife making. On my last visit to his shop, I found him with fingertips almost completely devoid of fingerprints due to regular interaction with forge, belt, and interaction with metal.

He likes taking abused old tools like broken draw knives, rusty shovels, and other items, then giving them a new life as a handcrafted edged weapon. He calls them “recovered material” which sounds very hipster to me and argues each has a touch of character and one-of-a-kind appearance that newly manufactured products just don’t.

These neck knives are made from an old shovel. He crafted the leather himself. The guy has a palm like a baseball bat.

This hawk head is made from a used lawnmower blade while the handle is made from a seasoned Cedar limb. The limb is hand sanded and treated with beeswax and orange oil. The heat-treated head is attached with epoxy, brass pins, and wrapped with imitation sinew

These display pieces are made from elk antler and found arrow/spearheads

This file is being remade into what Warren calls a “bayonet style knife.” You can bet this one will be full tang!

I don’t know what he made this sushi knife out of, but it’s wicked sharp

He also crafts blades from new flats of 1095, 1080 and 1085 tool steel.

One of the neatest of which is a little self-defense retention knife he carries at work and is proving popular with other local LE types. The single edge chisel grind blade is worn behind the holster and can be drawn with one hand to separate you from whoever is trying to gain control of your weapon.

It’s got a 1 3/4″ blade and 4″ overall length and is super sharp, coming with a companion Kydex sheath he makes himself.

He told me the design is constantly evolving and he has been working on it with feedback from others for the past six years.

I’ve been carrying one around for a few weeks and have told Warren he needs to ship these with complementary bandaids.

To pick up one of Warren’s blades, check him out here.

Somewhere over Southeast Kassel, Germany, 73 years ago today

Combat encounter report with German Me 109 completed and signed by pilot Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager dated 4 March 1944:

Click to big up

Combat ENCOUNTER REPORT with German Me 109 completed and signed by pilot Charles E. Yeager dated 4 March 1944

Remnants of the Brown Water Navy


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On display at the US Navy (USN) Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument are (left to right) a PBR (Patrol Boat River) Mark II (Mk-2) Patrol Boat, a PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) Swift Boat, and an armored gunboat representing some of vessels the USN and US Coast Guard (USCG) used to patrol the rivers and waterways in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1975.

This memorial honors the 2,564 USN and USCG river boat Sailors and Guardsmen who died during the Vietnam War and is located onboard Naval Amphibious Base (NAB) Coronado, California (CA)

Camera Operator: PH1 (Aw/Sw/Nac) Daniel Woods. Base: Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, 11/11/2004.


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