Friday, 28 April 2017

Workplace Survival.

As is usual for a Friday the blog will be a little more diverse in its topic than usual. Today’s post still comes very broadly under the topic of survival or even defence!

A few weeks back I was reading some books by David Devereux that a friend had given me. First I read his novels, which are worth checking out. After that I read his more autobiographical “Memoirs of An Exorcist”. This will not be to the tastes of some of my readers I suspect. That is a shame. Devereux is obviously an intelligent and insightful individual. He is also a competent and entertaining writer, which is more that can be said for some other better known writers!

Below is an extract from “Memoirs of An Exorcist” about workplace environments. There are some insights here that are likely to be familiar.

So what do we find in offices? Generally, a matter of dealing with negative energies. Most offices have a stock of that: people hate their job, their boss, their colleagues and their customers. They hate the necessity to work. They hate commuting. Be honest with yourself for a second: do you actually enjoy working? If you do, you’re a rare creature. I generally enjoy what I do, but it leaves me tired, frustrated, angry and occasionally despairing about clients and the world in general. So, if this is someone who likes their job, imagine what kind of emotional roller coaster someone who doesn’t is riding. Now stick them in an open-plan office with thirty so other people. No privacy, no respite from the pressure. In some offices, the length of time you spend in the toilet is monitored to make sure you stay productive. The number of calls you take in an hour, or the number of keystrokes at your computer, or the number of shelves you fill, or whatever it is you do, someone’s watching, making you work harder, keeping the pressure up. For all their much vaunted training, managers are not always good communicators. Self-expression is discouraged - wear the correct dress or be sent home.

 I’m not saying that it is wrong for a company to want to get value for money from its employees. But there are ways of doing it that turn offices into nothing more than battery farms and there are ways that treat employees like people. The former approach is generally the cause of difficulties, poor staff retention and a general air of gloom over the whole workforce. This spreads from employee to employee as each drags the others’ mood down.

I’ve seen entire open-plan offices of fifty to a hundred people where nobody smiled. Sure, the managers were allowed a few personal effects on their desks, but employees sat at a desk with a phone, and a computer and whatever they needed to do their jobs; nothing else was allowed because the company enforced a “Clear Desk” policy. Nothing personal, unless you’re a manager. Side screens divided each employee from their neighbour, and conversation was discouraged. Of course, the managers were expected to enforce an atmosphere of jollity and esprit de corps that just wasn’t there because people couldn’t bond. So the atmosphere of the place was depressing and wasn’t helped because almost all the staff were temps with no job security or feelings of loyalty to the company. People were arbitrarily dismissed with no need for notice, because they had no contract and, while the temp agencies responsible for staffing this battery farm had an office on site, there was a distinct impression from some of the liaison personnel that the staff were just replaceable commodities not worth getting to know.

The other parts of the company employed people properly and treated them far better. These parts were more profitable, had better retention rates and happier people. But the first office seemed to end up going through the entire available workforce of its town and it got to a point where they couldn’t hire enough people to keep up with the losses caused by attrition and the summary justice within. The solution was classic corporate thinking: they opened an office in a new town, and expected some of their more loyal temps to travel two hours each way to teach the new office how to do the job.

The simple fact is that misery loves company. If you take an approach that makes people miserable, then that misery will build upon itself and spread throughout the working environment. This applies in the home as well, but is more likely to happen in an office because many people resent having to go to work at all. I’ve noticed that companies who spend time and trouble to create a decent environment for their employees have less sickness, absenteeism (“throwing a sickie” being different from actually being ill) and attrition than companies who are perceived not to care. Something as simple as taking a genuine interest in your staff can make the difference between people who are happy to work for you and people who would rather gnaw their own leg off than spend one more minute than necessary in the office. This seems the most obvious thing imaginable, but it amazes me how few companies do it.

And here’s a thought: how much oxygen are you actually taking in? For a start, most people breathe very shallowly, using about the top third of their lungs. Lack of oxygen leads to them getting tired and emotional, which again contributes to the problem. Simply sitting quietly at one’s desk and breathing deeply for a few minutes can have a remarkable effect on stress.

But put aside my feelings about the generic corporate culture for a moment and consider those more enlightened companies who feel that happy employees are more productive. Things can get interesting when a company switches its policy from battery farming to free-range. Trying to introduce a sunnier disposition to people trapped in a misery-sink can be something of an uphill battle, since employees may not trust the management and are still working in an environment that has stored their anger. This is why office refurbishment is a good way to start, but may not cure the problem entirely. Something obviously needs to be done to dispel the preceding atmosphere and give people a chance to face the new environment with a more open mind. Far Eastern companies have been doing this for years and have started to introduce the same approach here over the last twenty years or so.

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Point at what you Shoot.

Regular readers will know that I often find that diverse threads of research unexpectedly meet.

The other day I was contributing to a discussion on futuristic and unusual revolver designs. One such gun was the Vector 22 shooting system that was offered by an Albuquerque company called “Mark Three”. The Vector 22 had a number of novel features, one of these being a distinct lack of decent photographs of it on the internet! I may devote a future blog to this design once I find time to scan images from a few of my reference books.

The particular feature that interests me today is the grip and trigger. The Vector 22 had a grip somewhat like a saw. It was designed to be held with the first finger pointed down the side of the weapon and the lower three fingers around the grip. A rest for the tip of the forefinger can be seen top centre. Firing was by squeezing the grip so involved every finger except the trigger finger! The muzzle of the pistol was a little below the line of the first finger and close to the axis of the forearm.

Later, I am flicking through another book on a quite different subject and I come across the statement that when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald he pulled the trigger with his second finger and had his first finger pointed at the target. From the photographic evidence this does appear to be the case. Allegedly this was a technique taught to the SIS and SOE. Ruby may have arrived at the technique independently or may have learnt it from another source. He may have just grabbed the gun wrong in haste! Ruby had lost the tip of his forefinger but this was on his left hand. Pocket revolvers such as the Colt Cobra Ruby uses often have short grips. Working the trigger with the second finger may also be more comfortable with such a weapon. It would also place the bore-line lower down in the hand, helping to reduce felt recoil and muzzle climb. This technique is sometimes called “Point and Shoot” or “P&S.”


Sadly I do not have access to any firearms at the moment so I had to experiment with a pistol-shaped video game controller. I noticed that gripping with the second finger on the trigger did encourage a firm grip. This is an advantage when using the “Quick Kill” techniques advocated by Fairbairn and Applegate. Snap presentations tended to put the front blade over the target. Using the second finger seems to encourage “squeezing the grip” rather than “pulling the trigger”. This, and the lowered bore-line I suspect will tend to reduce movement of the firearm when firing. Overall the “weapon” seems more stable in this grip.

One the downside I noticed I had a tendency to apply pressure to the trigger with the second finger when I first gripped a gun in this fashion. Your initial experiments with this grip should be made with an unloaded weapon until you become more familiar with this technique. When using a loaded weapon be wary of the possibility of accidental discharges and keep your muzzle orientated in a safe direction at all times. You will also need to learn to keep the second finger off the trigger when not firing.

Ruby used this technique with a pocket revolver. It should work with an automatic providing that there is sufficient depth of the frame. Obviously you do not want your forefinger resting against the moving slide, over the ejector port or beyond the muzzle. It is not recommended for Colt M1911s. The pistol will also sit lower in the hand so there is the potential for “hammer bite” with some weapons. I suspect this is more likely to be a problem with some older designs rather than modern weapons. Finger guards can be constructed or purchased.

There is no reason why this technique should be restricted to pistols. Try it with a rifle or shotgun and see if it makes the weapon present better. A rapid fire technique for bolt-action rifles uses the second finger to work the trigger, freeing the first finger to manipulate the bolt.

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Four Defense Techniques for Women.

When I first started this blog I expected it to feature more techniques than it has. “Attack, Avoid, Survive” was written to be a fairly comprehensive work so between it, the new edition and “Crash Combat” the majority of techniques I might wish to pass on have been covered. On this blog it has been more common to pass on more specialist techniques such as the Fairbairn Thumb Hold.
Following a recent private conversion I thought it might be instructive to look at some defensive techniques in the context of shorter, lighter users. The video shown below has appeared a couple of times on a group I frequent. This is interesting since the group is not about martial arts or specifically for women. Self defence videos span the full range of quality but this is one of the more realistic. My additional comments follow.

The finger jab is a technique in my book and recommended for its speed and ability to distract a foe. Chaining techniques together to maintain initiative is also in the book. Here we see the two concepts logically combined to produce a rapid fire counter attack. I would be inclined to teach this technique alongside the chin jab. The chin jab is well suited to users of shorter height than their attackers and the barrage of finger jabs can create an opportunity to use it.
The knee to the groin is an effective and well known technique. So well known that many attackers will be prepared for just such a move. My best advice here is to be aware that there is a definite window to using this technique. You do not throw it when you feel like it, but when you detect the instant where to attacker is open to it. This is mainly learnt from sparring and practice. This window is spatial as well as temporal. Too far away and your knee will not reach, too close and it cannot access the target. The same mechanics of a good knee strike also teach you the front snap kick, so add this to your arsenal.
Striking the groin is not just a technique for the knees! The palm heel strike can be directed to this region too. After impact dig your fingers deep into whatever you have encountered, grasp with all your strength and throw that hand back over your shoulder. This technique is described in the Vital Points section of my book. In the new edition with give it the aide memoir name of “Monkey steals plums”. Someone I personally know used this technique on a would-be rapist. She pulled so hard one of his testes popped out of his scrotum. Serves him right and good for her!
If some defence courses and books are to be believed someone grabbing your throat with both hands is commonplace. I am sceptical about this but it is something my girlfriend specifically asked me about recently so it is obviously something that concerns women.
Effective counters to the frontal strangle fall into three groups. Those that come up, those that come down and those that come from the side. The technique shown in the video is a side technique. It may be considered to be an abbreviated form of the “ginga-based” technique shown in my book. The latter is more likely to throw an enemy off-balance and places your elbow ready to counter attacks to attempted head-butts and similar.
The upward technique involves clamping your hands together  and using your forearms as a wedge to drive upwards between the attacker’s arms. Swing your joined hands forward to hit towards his face in time honoured Captain Kirk fashion. This is a more strength and surprise orientated technique so may not work. Be ready to follow on with another counter-attack.
An example of a downward technique is that described in my book as based on “Wind through the ears”. Your forearms come together before your face like sliding doors and you put your full weight into your elbows against his arms. You may even jump up to deliver all your weight.
Another sideways technique you may have seen is to reach over the top of both arms with one arm, under both arms with the other. Take a firm hold and twist your waist so your lower elbow is raised and your upper is dropped. This is a technique you can attempt if you are lying on your back.
Unless your attacker has pinned you against a wall moving backwards can weaken the throat grabber’s position. Perhaps you can lead him so that an obstacle such as a chair or counter is between you.
Alternately, hold onto his arms for stability and use your front snap kick to hit his groin, stomach, solar plexus or heart. You may need to add an oblique delivery to access your target, which is why my book also covers the roundhouse kick. Grabbing the arms and kicking is a valid follow-up to the “upward wedge” technique if it does not break the hold.
Having a heavier attacker on top of you is a difficult situation for any fighter. To the advice given in the video I will suggest that if he has his weight on your arms accompany your bucking action by sinking your teeth into his wrist or thigh to distract him and weaken one corner of his stability. More ground techniques in my book.
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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Guns for Commandos

Following my recent look at covert and James Bond firearms I thought a look at armament for more “overt” special operations might be instructive. In addition to special forces this includes the reconnaissance sections of more conventional units and hostage rescue units such as SWAT.
If our TV screens are to be believed special forces always favour unsuppressed MP5s, which will seldom be fired in burst of less than ten rounds. Some MP5s used as props have probably logged more screen time than Richard Jaeckel!
There is no single “best” weapons for such operations so I will limit this post to the subject of suppressed weapons. There are a number of reasons why suppressed weapons might be used. The obvious one is to avoid unwelcome attention. As well as the military advantages of this property it is also welcome for applications such as pest control. In confined spaces gunfire can be deafening and disorientating, which is a reason to favour suppressed weapons for overt CQB operations such as SWAT assaults. Suppressors also protect the hearing of shooters (and that of their dogs) so can be beneficial in situations where more conventional hearing protection is impractical. I recently read a statement that some suppressors make shooting in volatile atmospheres such as drug labs less hazardous.
Below is a British weapon known as a “De Lisle Carbine”. These were built from a number of existing constructions. The action is from an SMLE, the magazine from a Colt 1911, the barrel from a Thompson SMG and the sights from a Lancaster machine carbine. The stock of the folding variant looks like that of a Patchett/ Sterling, a weapon being developed in the same factory at the same time.

Allegedly the loudest noise when firing the De Lisle was the striker hitting the cap! The bolt handle included a rubber pad on the underside to muffle the metallic click of operation. Operating the bolt was the loudest part of operating the De Lisle but being a manual action the user could at least choose to do this when they thought it most expedient. Unlike many of its contemporaries the De Lisle uses the .45 ACP round and is effective to three or four hundred yards. The De Lisle was used in the latter half of World War Two and the Malaya Emergency. It may have been used in Korea, Northern Ireland and later conflicts.

The De Lisle was an excellent weapon for dispatching sentries at relatively long ranges. It was not so useful if you needed to quickly neutralize a guardroom full of enemies. For such missions there was the silenced models of the Owen, Sten mk II and mk VI and later the silenced Sterling L34. These selective fire weapons all use the 9mm Luger round which is supersonic in its standard loading. There are two approaches to this problem, neither really ideal. The first is to port the gun barrel and bleed off propellant from behind the round, reducing the velocity of standard ammunition. The requires a bulkier and more complex suppressor to deal with the bled off gases. The other approach is to issue special subsonic loadings of ammunition, such as the 139gr Nahpatrone ‘08S or the MEN 155gr im 9x19mm. Small quantities of specialist items have a tendency to get lost in the supply system or not reach where they are needed.
For suppressed applications the .45 ACP has a number of advantages. It is subsonic in its standard loadings and is widely available. The bullet is also heavier than that of most subsonic alternatives. If you fire two bullets of similar design at the same velocity it is the heavier that will usually travel furthest and hit harder.
The formative years of the SMG were centred on Germany so designs not in 9mm are rare. Suppressed .45 weapons are even rarer, but not unknown.

One design that has seen some use is the suppressed M3 and M3A1 “Grease Gun”. Below is the wartime version. The OSS Weapons and Equipment Catalogue (p.41) comments that the bolt movement is still noisy but at least the operator is no longer deafened by the clatter of the piece. The weight of the suppressor also counters muzzle climb.

In US hands the suppressed M3/ M3A1 served at least until Vietnam. In the hands of other nations these weapons served even longer. Below are a number of M3s used by Philippine troops. Some appear to have new designs of suppressor and modernized sighting systems. Wisely the operators have camouflaged their weapons.

There are two objectionable features of the M3 as a commando weapon. One is that it fires from an open bolt. The second is that it can only be fired fully automatic. Neither of these features lends itself to medium range precision fire such as eliminating sentries or cameras.

Many years back I proposed that a .45 version of the Sterling would be a very useful weapon. The configuration of the Sterling allows a prone shooter in an OP to stay really low and hidden. Police variants of the Sterling are designed to be fired from a closed bolt. Potentially the bolt could be locked in the forward position, functioning like a slide lock on a suppressed pistol. Noted as a very reliable design Sterlings sold worldwide with 400,000 being produced. Its production and distribution might actually exceed that of the MP5, but Hollywood seldom shows them! Sadly the production lines for the Sterling has long since been scrapped.
Another user of the M3 was the South Korean special forces. When replacements became necessary someone had the smart idea of adapting the Daewoo assault rifle into a suppressed SMG. I think they would have been wiser to have made it .45 rather than 9mm, but they were on the right lines. Several designs of assault rifle such as the AUG and Tavor can be modified into 9mm weapons. There are also other SMG designs that use components of assault rifles, such as the Chilean SAF and the Colt 9mm.

Basing a suppressed SMG on an assault rifle has a number of advantages. Troops need little additional training and supply and maintenance are simplified. Assault rifles generally use closed bolt operation. This can be retained even if the design switches from gas to blowback operation. Many assault rifle designs have non-reciprocating bolt handles which may decrease the mechanical noise of firing. It might be prudent to take a leaf from the PB’s book and construct the suppressor in two parts: a rear section to deal with bled gas and a detachable forward section to handle muzzle blast. The detachable section will make transporting the weapon more convenient and allow the firer to make noise when attention is desirable for signalling or distraction.
The envisioned weapon would have both close range assault application and a medium precision role so might more accurately be termed a carbine. There are some newer subsonic rounds such as the .30 Whisper, .30 Blackout and 9x39mm but I think the .45 still has much to recommend it. Possibly magazines could be compatible with handguns. Some years ago I wrote an article on a “magsub” using the .45 win mag for an unconventional warfare weapon. This is still an attractive idea but would mainly be useful if the round can use heavier subsonic bullets than the .45 ACP. Compatibility with handguns would also need to be investigated.
Below are rather nice images that give an idea what a suppressed .45 AR-15-based weapon might look like. Magazine would be different, of course.

Below is a Chinese soldier armed with the Type 64 suppressed SMG. The standard Chinese SMG and pistol load is the 7.62x25mm Tokarev, an 85gr bullet noted for its high (1,650 fps+) velocity. The Type 64 uses a subsonic load using a bullet of between 187-202gr. One wonders if these are rifle bullets and how bullets of that mass fit in the cartridge case. Allegedly the Type 64 can use standard pistol ammunition but I wonder if any modifications are necessary or loss of performance results.

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