I tested at least ten handguns and found the Heritage Rough Rider to be the best cheap but good handgun.
I got into guns in my early 20s, which meant I didn’t have much money to spare. I learned everything I could about determining a gun’s true value and the best places to find the lowest prices. With proper preparation, you can find many affordable handguns perfect for target shooting, home protection, and more.
The Heritage Rough Rider is fun to shoot and easy to maintain. It’s also suitable for home defense because you don’t need much physical strength to aim and shoot it at close range accurately.
It’s not the only cheap handgun that you’ll want to know more about. Other options I found have additional safety features, increased durability, and more features you might be surprised to find on firearms in this price range.
Keep reading to learn more about real cheap but good handguns:
The best cheap but good handguns
While always keeping the price in mind, I also considered ease of use, quality of construction, suitability for target shooting and defense, and other relevant factors.
Inspired by classics from the Old West, Heritage’s Rough Rider is affordable, accurate, and easy to shoot. It’s reliable and powerful enough for home protection but fun and lightweight enough for a day target shooting at the range.
It’s a 22 Long Rifle revolver with a micro-threaded, machined barrel, an authentic flat-sided hammer, and a cocobolo grip. The handsome combination of wood and steel has a true Western-style that turns the gun into a true work of art you’ll be proud to show off.
Ruger’s Wrangler is an awesome and affordable gun for shooters of any experience level, including total beginners. It’s not only easy to grip and shoot, but it’s also loaded with safety features, including a transfer bar mechanism and loading gate interlock.
Every component used is precisely engineered and durable. It has a Cerakote finish, a proprietary blend of ceramic and polymer that protects against scratches, dings, and weather damage.
The barrel is cold-hammer forged for precise rifling that results in reliable accuracy. Additionally, aiming is made even easier with the front blade and integral notch rear sights.
Weighing 10 ounces with a 2.8” barrel, the Taurus Spectrum 380 is one of the cheapest concealed carry pistols around. It has a low profile with fixed sights, allowing it to stay hidden but also delivering quick accuracy when drawn.
Additionally, the extended mag holds an additional round, giving you a capacity of 6 + 1. It also extends the surface area of the grip, making the small pistol surprisingly comfortable to hold.
Easy to conceal
It might be hard to hold if you have large hands
Guide To Cheap But Good Handguns
I’ve purchased cheap guns that turned out to be awesome and others that were total duds. Here’s my advice to find great guns every time.
Features To Look For In A Cheap Gun
Finding a good cheap gun does require some flexibility because some features are limited. Here’s a look at what to expect:
Size – Cheap guns are generally small, with many concealable options.
Type – You’ll find a fairly robust selection of both revolvers and compact automatics.
Caliber – Most cheap revolvers at .22s while most cheap automatics are 380 Autos (ACP)
Magazine – Cheap revolvers typically hold six shots. With an automatic, look for an extended mag, which holds seven rounds.
Here’s a video with more information on cheap guns:
New Vs. Used
You can buy a cheap handgun either new or used. While a used firearm can have low prices, it’s not always the best value in the long run. A used gun’s longevity depends on how well it was cared for.
Determine the used gun’s value by carefully examining it for damage. Also, try to fire it at a range if possible. If you’re familiar with guns, and can find a used one in good condition, you can save.
However, if you’re part of the record-setting trend of first-time gun buyers, I recommend you buy new instead of used. A new gun includes a manufacturer’s guarantee and won’t have any potential damage due to neglect or age.
All of the cheap guns listed have value far beyond their price tag. They’re great for target shooting, display, and even provide some ability for personal defense. Plus, they’re easy to conceal and maintain.
My absolute favorite is the Heritage Rough Rider revolver. It’s a blast to shoot, and it has a classic cowboy style that looks great on the mantle. However, if you’re looking for something more concealable, I recommend the Taurus Spectrum.
Which gun is your favorite? Check out the following links for more information, or to buy these guns for yourself:
A quite interesting and somehow weird demo took place on Nov. 21, 2019, on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, hosting the 2019 Atlantic Future Forum (AFF) at anchor off Annapolis, Washington D.C., during UK’s largest aircraft carrier’s deployment to the US.
Ex-Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning flew with a jet-powered flying suit from the aircraft carrier and welcomed journalists on a boat carrying journalists before returning to the landing platform adjacent HMSQE.
A video of the demo was shared on the Instagram account of Gravity Industries, a British aeronautical innovation company founded by the former Royal Marines reservist.
The view from the yacht is also pretty impressive. Take a look at it:
The Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy are currently involved in the Westlant 19 cruise off the East Coast of the United States to test the F-35B in an operational environment aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. After the initial carrier qualification during daylight, the pilots are now undergoing the night carrier qualification process.
The demo was conducted during the AFF 2019 event, a full day conference “bringing together the brightest minds and most influential thinkers-from defence and beyond-to strengthen the US-UK special relationship and encourage collaboration between the public and private sector.”
Browning is not the only one to fly around with a sort-of jet pack. In July 2019, during Bastille Day festivities in Paris, inventor and jet skier Franky Zapata flew a hoverboard in front of French President Emmanuel Macron. Zapata carried a rifle during his demo over French military forces parading down the Champs-Élysées.
When you hear the word “military,” without a doubt your mind paints a very specific picture. It may involve weapons, it may have a few brush strokes of physical training, but there is one part of the picture that is simply inescapable: the uniform.
For most of America, the picture is painted for you through media glamorization – and no uniform has been more glamorized than the USMC Blue Dress A!
That thing is absolutely f*cking beautiful and for those of us that don’t get the privilege to don that glorious masterpiece it can leave us quite envious – but the greatness of the Blue Dress A cannot be argued.
The Marine Corps has authorized everyone ranked E-4 and above to wear some type of sword. Non-commissioned officers are issued the NCO sword while officers get the Mamaluke sword.
The only sword I ever saw in the Air Force looked like it belonged on Final Fantasy VII.
4. Women love it.
The Blue Dress is downright sexy. It’s tailored to the individual Marine like a fine cut Italian suit. It’s so beautiful that it is considered equivalent to a civilian black tie affair.
3. It’s way cooler than ours.
I’m 100% sure you’ve seen the USMC blue dress. It is insanely popular. It’s literally the uniform you conjure up in your head when you think “military.”
I’m also pretty sure you have no idea what the Air Force equivalent looks like. Just think this: 1960’s flight attendant.
2. It’s iconic.
As I stated, the blue dress is literally the picture we have in our head of “military.” It is one of the most recognized symbols of the American military. Ever. It’s damn near a celebrity all by itself!
While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.
“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”
Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.
Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:
In 1961, the United States military was ordered to try to make a single airframe serve the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. That project was called the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project. It later became the General Dynamics F-111, known affectionately as the Aardvark.
As just about any military aviation buff can tell you, the results were not what the then-Secretary of Defense had been hoping for. The F-111 made an excellent all-weather attack plane, capable of delivering 31,500 pounds of ordnance onto a target. If anything, had there been another round of modernization in the early-to-mid 1990s, allowing the Vark to use GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off Weapons or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, it might still be carrying out that mission today.
The efforts to fill the needs of the other services didn’t go so well. The close-air support versions for the Marines and Army never happened. The Navy’s F-111B, intended as a fleet air-defense plane, just didn’t work, prompting Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly to tell a Senator, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!” The results of Connolly’s career-ending honesty included the Navy developing the F-14 Tomcat, which proved to be very effective as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.
But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all ended up using a common airframe from the 1960s to the 1980s. It just wasn’t the airframe many would have picked to be a joint strike fighter before there was ever a thought of having a Joint Strike Fighter.
The iconic McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom started out as an all-weather interceptor for the Navy. Equipped with four AIM-7 Sparrows and four AIM-9 Sidewinders, this Mach 2 plane had a combat radius of almost 370 miles, and was also capable of carrying almost 19,000 pounds of bombs. The Marines also bought the plane as well.
The Air Force, looking for a new fighter-bomber, tried out the F-4. Very quickly, the Air Force realized that the Phantom was working out very well, and soon they, too were buying hundreds of F-4s. The Air Force was even able to add an internal M61 cannon to the plane – something the Navy never really got around to.
The Phantom saw service in the Vietnam War – and it was the plane flown by America’s aces in that conflict: Randy Cunningham, Willie Driscoll, Steve Richie, Charles DeBellevue, and Jeffrey Feinstein. The Phantom shot down 147 enemy planes in the Vietnam War. It also saw service with numerous American allies: including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Iran, Egypt, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. It still remains in service, now as a fighter-bomber.
The F-35 seems to have taken a few pages out of the F-111’s playbook; notably, the three versions have similar missions – even though one is intended for use from normal air bases, the other is V/STOL, and the third is carrier-capable. But the F-35 program is now pushing 15 years since Lockheed won the Joint Strike Fighter competition) — twice as long as the F-111’s.
The F-35 also shares something in common with the F-4: The Air Force version is the only one with an internal cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps versions (as well as the one used by the RAF) don’t. And whether the F-35 can become a classic like the Phantom is something that only time will tell.
The Army is testing an exoskeleton technology which uses AI to analyze and replicate individual walk patterns, provide additional torque, power, and mobility for combat infantry, and enable heavier load-carrying, industry officials said.
Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance-enhancing soldier technologies.
Using independent actuators, motors, and lightweight, conformal structures, lithium ion battery-powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
“We’ve had this on some of the Army’s elite forces, and they were able to run with high agility, carrying full loads,” said Keith Maxwell, senior program manager, exoskeleton technology, Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed engineers say FORTIS could prove particularly impactful in close-quarters, urban combat because it enhances soldier mobility, speed, and power.
It is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of movements.
“We were showing a decrease in the metabolic cost of transport, the measure of how much energy is required to climb uphill,” said Maxwell.
FORTIS uses a three-pound, rechargeable BB-2590 lithium ion battery.
Developed by Lockheed with internal research and development funds, FORTIS is designed to help soldiers run, maneuver, carry injured comrades, and perform a wide range of combat tasks while preventing hyper-extension of the knee.
Engineers report that FORTIS reduces the amount of energy required to perform a task by nine percent, using on-board AI to learn the gait of an individual soldier. The system integrates an actuator, motor, and transmission all into one device, intended to provide 60 Newton meters of additional torque, Maxwell explained.
Any advanced technology is almost indistinguishable from magic. Qore Performance, and its innovations to enhance the capability of soldiers, meets the magical criteria. The products of Qore Performance focus on improving the performance of the military’s most important asset: the soldier. Accomplished via a focus on heat management and hydration solutions, Qore products and accessories are adaptable to 99% of the market.
As a veteran with the 75th Ranger Regiment and knowing the never-ending battle with heat management and hydration, I was excited to get my hands on two of their flagship products: IceVents, and the IcePlate.
About Qore Performance
A former officer with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, Qore Performance co-founder Justin Li was no stranger to working in the heat. Serving in the California desert, with long hours, and wearing lots of protective gear, Justin knew there must be a better way to remain cool and improve endurance. Witnessing the innovation of the ‘cooling glove,’ and combining his knowledge of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), Li began early prototyping that set Qore Performance upon a journey that continues today.
Our body is a master at homeostasis; we have a physiological process by which maintains a balance and stable equilibrium between interdependent elements. In other words, when it gets extremely hot outside, our body sweats to cool itself down. That is homeostasis at work. But what happens if our body remains hot for an extended period of time? We deplete our hydration stores and eventually overheat, unable to continue a task.
Excessive heat is an all too common problem for soldiers. The environments where we operate have high temperatures, the clothing and equipment we wear traps heat, and the physical demands of the job produce heat. Heat contributes to increased breathing and heart rate, which leads to dehydration and decreased performance. Beat the heat, and you can increase endurance.
Qore Performance’s fundamental mission is to prevent, and delay, the exhaustion of hydration stores through cooling innovations. Look no further than their hallmark hashtag of #stayfrosty. The problem statement is clear: soldiers are overheating on the battlefield. The solution: cool them down. We look at two examples of how their products accomplish this effort.
When asked how IceVents were created, Li replied, “IceVents were invented on my Honeymoon. I still can’t tell if that makes my wife happy or sad.” Li goes on to describe, “I started dreaming about how poorly designed traditional plate carrier and backpack shoulder pads are. They absorb water/sweat and they trap heat because they use old-school foam. Foam is also not good at distributing load which contributes to fatigue. Anyone who has ever humped a ruck of almost any weight knows this combination of factors sucks.” Li returned from his honeymoon and began prototyping, ultimately creating IceVents.
IceVents are composed of a “proprietary Supracor Stimulite impact-absorbing hexagonal honeycomb thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) technology.” Say that five times fast. This honeycomb looking design provides a unique channel of ventilation. It essentially creates a microclimate, providing space for heat to dissipate.
Initially created as a new technology for load carriage shoulder straps, IceVents can be universally applied to many products. Ear protection headsets, gun belts, tool belts, and even backpacks can all be integrated with IceVents. I put the IceVents in a couple of different carriers I own made by First Spear, and Crye Precision and they worked great. Easy to assemble, and super comfortable on a run or ruck march. Qore Performance has a list of all the compatible carriers on their website.
Qore Performance IceVents are currently being used by some of the West Coast Naval Special Warfare (NSW) groups, AFSOC, MARSOC, 1st Recon, and many other individuals across the country.
If you have worn body armor in a hot environment, you know what a pain cave it can be. IcePlates, and the newest innovation of IcePlate Curve, are an amazing solution for heat management and water storage. IcePlate Curve is essentially a water bottle that can hold approximately 50 ounces of water, weighs less than 1 pound, but in the form factor of a medium-sized ESAPI plate.
The IcePlate is worn close to the body to keep you cool. Every IcePlate is configured with a hose so you can drink the cold water inside, removing the need to carry a cumbersome water carrier on your back. Not only does the cold plate keep you cool, but it eliminates the need to store water elsewhere on your person. It’s just a much more pragmatic and functional design. No longer do you need to carry water bottles or even a Camelbak.
Talking with Li, one of the most interesting applications for the product was with public safety. At a Chick-fil-A store in Scottsdale, AZ, staff would take orders from customers outside in the drive thru. With high temperatures, staff were overheating and becoming exhausted. Thus, a new safety application emerged. Qore Performance outfitted the staff with plates to help keep them cool throughout the day, and the results were amazing. Watch the video HERE. IcePlates have expanded into many commercial customers to include Dutch Bros Coffee, Boeing, Costco, and many more.
IcePlates have tremendous applications in military, law enforcement, and safety applications. If I can’t convince you to wear an IcePlate, just read the dozens of glowing reviews from military, police, and safety officers. If you have ever been overheated wearing body armor, then you need to make this purchase. Stay Frosty.
The sun was fading behind Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush mountains the evening of June 27, 2005, as a team of four U.S. Navy SEALs walked up the ramp and into the back of U.S. Army Captain Matt Brady’s MH-47 Chinook helicopter on Bagram Air Base.
Tasked with inserting the SEAL special reconnaissance (SR) team deep into enemy territory in unforgiving terrain, Brady knew the SEALs — Lieutenant Michael Murphy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz, Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Axelson — had a difficult mission ahead. Marines in the area knew it was an extremely dangerous place filled with Taliban fighters.
Brady had no way of knowing at the time, but it would be the last time anyone at Bagram would ever see three of those four Americans alive.
The Afghanistan mountains and forest from the valley where soldiers searched for the remains of the three SEALs who were killed in action. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
The Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is known for having some of the most skilled aviators in the world, who fly the most elite special operators into some of the most austere environments on earth using the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. They are famous for the roles they played in both the Battle of Mogadishu and the mission to kill Usama Bin Laden but are revered throughout the special operations community for acts of valor that often never see the light of day due to the classified nature of their work.
As a pilot in the 160th, Brady was the air mission commander for the operation. He and some of his fellow “Night Stalkers” felt the SEALs’ plan was too risky.
The mission was to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander. The three-phase plan called for inserting a four-man SR team the first night, then inserting the second element of SEALs the following night to establish an isolation zone around Shah. Finally, 150 U.S. Marines would come in to establish blocking positions for the SEALs’ assault on Shah’s compound.
The Night Stalkers’ job was to insert the SEALs on a ridgeline where the terrain left few options for landing zones. The commandos would have to descend from a rope — fast-rope — while the helos hovered high above the trees. That meant if the SEALs got into trouble, extraction would potentially require the use of a hoist to pull the SEALs out, which was a time-consuming and dangerous option.
As he approached the insertion site, Brady could see lights dotting the mountains below through his night-vision goggles.
An MH-47 Chinook with 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and a KC-130J Super Hercules with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conduct aerial refueling during Exercise Yuma Horizon 19. Photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg, courtesy of DVIDS.
“This was a desolate part of the Hindu Kush, and at night, you wouldn’t really expect to see much,” Brady told Coffee or Die. “Not really sure who they were, but there was more activity than I expected.”
As the pilots climbed the last 1,000 feet of elevation, the AC-130 crew providing overwatch on their destination radioed to say they had to leave their position due to a mechanical issue. Brady knew that surveillance aircraft going off station without backup was supposed to result in aborting the mission.
He asked the AC-130 crew for one final report on the four potential landing zones the Night Stalkers had identified for the mission.
“We’ve got two military-aged males, possibly armed, on the northernmost LZ,” the crew reported. “Primary and secondary zones appear to be clear of potential threats.”
Believing the gunship could make it back on station in time for the insertion, Brady made the call to continue the mission.
From left, SGT Carlos Pacheco (3/160 medic, former 3/75), SFC Marcus V. Muralles (Legend – 3/160 medic), MAJ Sam Sauer (3/160 flight surgeon), SFC L.E. Shroades (medic R/160), SGT Dan Bell (E Co/160) during during the timeframe of Operation Red Wings. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
Approaching the insertion point, the pilots flared the Chinook and came into a hover. As the lead aircraft descended, it became clear the LZ was on a steep slope of the mountain, making descent difficult due to the front rotors approaching the mountainside faster than the rear of the aircraft.
“Hold your right and left; hold your front and rear,” came the internal radio traffic from the flight engineer to Brady.
There were 100-foot-tall trees on all sides of the Chinook, and they were so close the pilots had no room to sway as they descended.
“When you hear all four directions, everyone gets pretty tense,” Brady said. “It means you can’t drift any direction without crashing.”
The pilots descended to the point where the Chinook’s front rotor was just a few feet away from the mountainside with tall trees all around the aircraft. The flight crew kicked out the ropes, and the SEALs fast-roped down.
When the crew chief tried to pull the rope up, they found it was entangled below. After several tense moments of struggling to bring in the rope, they decided to cut it loose. The odds of enemy fighters hearing the echo of the dual-rotor helicopter increased every second it remained in a hover. The SEALs did their best to hide the rope and keep their presence on the ridgeline hidden from enemy fighters.
It wasn’t an ideal insertion, but the Night Stalkers had accomplished their mission. They ascended and flew back to Jalalabad to link up with another group of SEALs and standby as a quick reaction force (QRF) in case the SR team was compromised.
At Jalalabad, Brady was approached by SEAL Commander Erik Kristensen in the command operations center. Kristensen confronted him about the decision to cut the rope at the LZ and asked if the Night Stalkers would go back and retrieve it.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 1-228th Aviation Regiment conducting hoist operations. Photo by Spc. Steven K. Young, courtesy of DVIDS.
“We would have to drop a man down with a hoist in that hole of an LZ,” Brady explained. “Hoisting a man at that altitude on that kind of terrain at night is a dangerous operation. Once on the ground, they’d have to pick up the rope, hook it to themselves, and get hoisted back up. Hovering for that long over the same spot would burn the LZ and likely alert the enemy to the SR team’s presence.”
Kristensen agreed with Brady’s evaluation, and after the SR team radioed that they would be laying down for the day in their hide site, Brady and Kristensen called it a night.
Walking toward the flight line, the SEAL commander quipped, “What made you want to fly such ugly helicopters?”
“They’re not much to look at, but they get the job done,” Brady fired back. “Kind of like SEALs.”
They shared a laugh as they loaded up for the flight back to Bagram.
At the Bagram operations center, Major Stephen Reich approached Brady urgently, asking why he didn’t follow abort criteria and fly back with the SR team after the AC-130 had to leave the airspace.
Brady said he estimated the AC-130 would only be off station briefly and that the crew had reported no hostile activity on the LZ. He told Reich pushing the mission back would allow Shah to continue his terrorist activities, likely leading to the death of locals and U.S. military in the area.
“Good,” Brady recalled Reich saying. “I’m glad you’re a thinking air mission commander and not simply one that takes a black-and-white view of the situation.”
With that, they retired to their rooms to rest for phase two of the operation the following night.
Some of the Night Stalkers hanging out in the B huts they slept in, enjoying much needed down time. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the Night Stalkers slept, the SR team was discovered by a numerically superior force of enemy fighters. They engaged in a fierce firefight, and at some point the task force lost contact with them.
Brady’s maintenance officer woke him and said the SR team was in trouble and the Night Stalkers had orders to spin up and pull the team out.
“That’s not possible,” Brady replied, confused at how quickly the SEALs had become compromised. “They’ve got their own quick reaction force. We’re completely separate commands. It doesn’t make sense.”
But he knew and lived by the Night Stalkers’ promise to every customer: “If we put you in, we’ll stop at nothing to get you out — even if it’s technically someone else’s job.”
Brady rushed to the operations center where Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Eicher was telling the task force commander that they should wait until dark before sending the QRF because going in during daylight would subject them to more danger. The 160th had only lost helicopters during daylight missions at that point — they’re called Night Stalkers for a reason.
The commander explained that the ground force commander had already rejected that plan and didn’t want to wait any longer.
Brady ran over to where his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Mike Russell, was sleeping and updated him on what had unfolded.
“Are you serious?” Russell replied.
Russell went to work right away getting the crews together to prep the aircraft for the mission.
Three of the 160th’s MH-47D Chinooks on the flight line in Bagram, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Back in the operations center, leaders were busy trying to figure out the SEALs’ last known location and calculating how many soldiers each helicopter could fly with. They finalized plans and sent the Night Stalkers on their way.
As Brady approached the Chinook he’d be flying, he noticed the tail number: 1-4-6. The bird’s call sign was Turbine 33. Kristensen and his SEALs were waiting on the ramp, standing in a circle.
“Our plan of action is for you to get us to the high ground as close to the troops in contact as you can, and we’re going to fight our way downhill,” Brady recalled Kristensen saying.
Since the SEALs weren’t sure where exactly the compromised team was located, Kristensen believed inserting at a position of tactical advantage was the best option.
“Drop us on the high ground, and we’ll make our way to our swim buddies,” Kristensen told Brady.
Navy SEALs operating in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. From left to right, sonar technician (surface) Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, of Cupertino, California; Senior Chief information systems technician Daniel R. Healy, of Exeter, New Hampshire; quartermaster Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, of Deerfield Beach, Florida; hospital corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell; machinists mate Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, of Boulder City, Nevada; and Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, New York With the exception of Luttrell, all were killed June 28, 2005, by enemy forces while supporting Operation Red Wing. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
As Brady climbed into Turbine 33 and started strapping in, Reich tapped his shoulder and asked what the plan was. Reich, who had been designated mission commander for phase two of the operation, felt the QRF was his responsibility.
“We argued for what seemed like 10 minutes but was actually about 30 seconds,” Brady recalled.
But Reich cut the debate short. “I don’t really care, Matt,” he told Brady, “just get your stuff and get off the airplane. This is my mission.”
Brady said he pleaded with Reich to at least let him come with and act as an extra gun and set of eyes.
“Nope, I want you to take my spot as the operations officer and monitor from here,” Reich replied.
Disappointed, Brady followed the order and got off the aircraft. As he watched the two Chinooks taxiing onto the runway, he locked eyes with Russell, his platoon sergeant.
“He had a look of competence and professionalism — like he was ready to live out the Night Stalker creed,” Brady said.
He walked back to the operations center to monitor the situation and provide support from Bagram.
Matt Rogie, left, and Matt Brady having jovial conversation in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The two Chinooks — Turbine 33 and Turbine 34 — were packed with 16 SEALs each, plus the Night Stalker pilots and crewman. Flying toward Jalalabad en route to the last known position of the SEALs, they received word from Bagram on the number of men they could have on board each aircraft and still fly at the extreme elevation. They would have to offload eight SEALs from each helicopter before continuing.
“A lot of guys really wanted to stay on the mission,” recalled Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tim Graham, one of the pilots on Turbine 34.
The plan was for the SEALs to fast-rope onto the ridgeline above the original LZ. The Night Stalkers would then circle back and pick up the remaining SEALs who offloaded at Jalalabad.
During the flight, the Night Stalkers passed two Apache gunships whose pilots asked if they wanted to slow down so they could provide surveillance and support for the operation. Not wanting to burn valuable time waiting on approval from the task force commander for the audible, the Night Stalkers continued on without the Apaches.
Tim Graham standing by in Bagram. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
Arriving at the insertion point on the ridgeline, Turbine 33 descended into a hover. Graham watched from Turbine 34 as Turbine 33’s ramp lowered and the crewman walked onto it to observe the landing zone below. Graham’s aircraft pulled off to the right to circle around and insert their payload of SEALs after Turbine 33 moved off to allow their entrance.
That’s when Staff Sergeant Steven Smith, the flight engineer in the rear of Turbine 34, saw a smoke trail emerge from the tree line directly toward Turbine 33. The projectile flew through the open ramp of the Chinook and exploded inside. Turbine 33’s nose dipped down, and the aircraft slid to the left, appearing to almost recover. Then the helo’s blades started hitting each other, and the aircraft rolled to the right before inverting as it descended to the mountainous terrain below.
Smith and the others in Turbine 34 watched helplessly as the Chinook full of their fellow aviators — their friends — crashed into the mountain and erupted in a ball of flames.
“Al and Kip were on the ramp when the RPG impacted,” Smith, who witnessed the horrific event, recalled. “They rode it all the way in that way.”
Soldiers sit on the rear deck of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over southern Afghanistan Oct. 19, 2010. Photo by Cpl. Robert Thaler, courtesy of DVIDS.
Graham and his co-pilot whipped their Chinook around to look for survivors. As they were turning around, Graham saw five Black hawks performing a star-cluster evasion. Turbine 34 started taking heavy gunfire from unseen fighters below. They broke off and flew out of reach of the enemy fire.
Graham reported the situation back to Bagram. Receiving the transmission, Brady couldn’t believe it. He would have been on that bird were it not for the last minute change. He asked Graham to repeat, unable to register what he had just heard.
One of Brady’s soldiers in the operations center was asking him a question, but Brady was momentarily frozen with shock. Then the realization hit: He was now in charge.
Brady told his operations NCO to give him a minute to gather more information to get the next plan of action in place. He walked out of the operations center and found Eicher.
“Chris, Turbine 33 has just been shot down,” he told Eicher, who earned the nickname “Iceman” for his always cool demeanor.
Eicher looked at Brady and said, “Nah, they probably put down for maintenance.”
Brady persisted with the details. He and Eicher hurried back to the operations center.
The two Apaches had arrived on station, drawing heavy gunfire, but nonetheless giving Turbine 34’s crew back in the operations center a good look at the crash site.
“It didn’t look like there was any way anybody could have survived,” Graham said. “You hope they could. It just didn’t look good.”
The crash site of Turbine 33. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
They ascended back into orbit and remained there for an hour until the task force commander ordered them back to Jalalabad. Not wanting to leave their brothers, the SEAL team commander hatched a plan with the Night Stalkers to insert higher up on the ridgeline and fight their way down to the crash site so Turbine 34 could fly back to Jalalabad, pick up as many SEALs as he could, and fly back to reinforce the eight SEALs. The task force commander denied the request and ordered Turbine 34 back to Jalalabad. Frustrated and angry, Graham followed the order.
Smith said everyone on the Chinook was angry. One of the SEALs even drew his pistol and attempted unsuccessfully to force the Chinook to land so they could try to save their friends.
Graham made a stop at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) just outside of Jalalabad. After landing, Graham saw the same five Black Hawks that had peeled off earlier parked on the runway. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but many years later he found out a new platoon leader came into their company within the 160th and was responsible for those Black Hawks.
Each of the five Black Hawks was loaded with Marines and had flown out thinking they were the QRF for the SR team. When Turbine 33 was shot down, they received orders to fly back along with Turbine 34 and the Apache gunships until the next phase of the mission was developed.
Flight line view of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. Photo by Mark C. Olsen, courtesy of DVIDS.
After refueling, he continued on to Jalalabad and off-loaded.
“When I met him there on the ground in Jalalabad, Graham was fairly shaken to say the least,” Brady recalled.
The task force commander debriefed the men and then focused on planning their next steps.
Smith said he saw a line of armored vehicles full of troops.
“I could see a lot of vehicles with troops armed to the damn teeth,” Smith recalled. “They rolled out with a convoy and with some vengeance, and they fought their way up that mountainside, all the way up to the crash site.”
The remaining Night Stalkers prepared for a rescue operation. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and other Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) personnel loaded onto five Chinooks. All the men were anxious, angry, and ready to retrieve their brothers in arms.
The Chinooks took off toward the mountains once again, but as they climbed in elevation, severe weather rolled in. Thunder boomed as lightning struck all around them.
“So the enemy is one factor, but the terrain and weather are now a huge factor, and they’re starting to overtake the enemy in terms of danger to the force,” Brady said.
He said visibility got so bad that he couldn’t see the heat glow of the engines from the Chinook in front of him. The order was given to again abort the mission and return to base. It was a gut-wrenching decision for everyone on the mission, as they knew the original SEALs on the SR team were fighting for their lives and one of their own aircraft and crew was burning on the side of a mountain.
Back at Jalalabad, the commanders decided they had no choice but to wait for better weather and try again the next night.
Troops searching for the KIA and survivors. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
As the storm raged, the members of the task force — haunted with thoughts of their brothers on the mountain — tried to sleep.
As the next night approached, the task force went to work, planning another insertion onto the deadly ridgeline. The Night Stalkers again loaded their Chinooks with Rangers and SEALs and took off toward the mountains.
Arriving on site, the task force members fast-roped in. The extreme height of the trees made the full length of rope — approximately 90 feet — necessary. Many of the men suffered scorched hands from gripping the rope through gloves for such a long descent.
Once on the ground, they started their search for casualties, potential survivors, and sensitive equipment.
As the Night Stalkers flew back to Bagram, the JSOC ground force that had convoyed to the crash radioed to the task force that they had secured the site. There were no survivors.
The JSOC troops, along with their newly arrived reinforcements, went to work recovering those killed in action as well as sensitive equipment that could not fall into enemy hands. They then used explosives to clear out a large enough area for Chinooks to land when they came back.
Explosives were used to chop down trees due to width of the trees being too big for chainsaws. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Matt Rogie arrived in Bagram just before the Night Stalkers came back after dropping off the recovery force. Assigned to replace Eicher as senior flight lead, he was trying to learn as much as he could before hopping into an aircraft and joining the mission.
Rogie met Eicher on the flight line when he landed after returning from the mission.
“I’m glad you’re here because I am spent,” Eicher told him.
The Night Stalkers flew back to their newly forged landing zone the following night. The weather was turning bad again as they offloaded Marines to assist with security.
“I could see the grass being blown by the rotor wash and all the remains bags being lined up in a row — 16 of them,” Rogie recalled. “There was still some smoldering from the crash site, and I could see the glow from the heat through my night vision.”
Some of the fallen members of Turbine 33 prior to being flown out. Photo courtesy of Steven Smith.
One by one, the Rangers and SEALs loaded the fallen onto the Chinooks and headed back to Bagram with their brothers. The flight back was pure silence. The loss weighed heavy on the men.
As the Night Stalkers approached Bagram they could see what looked like everyone on base standing outside, showing their respect for the fallen.
“When we landed, we just saw a row of Night Stalkers and Rangers and SEALs for as far as I could see, lined up and ready to help transport the remains off and take them to the mortuary affairs section,” Brady recalled.
When the ramp lowered, the Night Stalkers on the Chinooks stood tall and proud for their fallen brethren as task force members boarded and began solemnly moving each remains bag to the mortuary affairs building.
“All of us were pretty broken up at that point,” Rogie said.
Pastors from the task force lead the caskets onto the C-17. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The C-17 sat on the runway with the ramp down, waiting to receive the 16 interment cases containing the fallen warriors. Brady stood next to a SEAL commander — both had to take command of their respective units when Reich and Kristensen were killed on Turbine 33. Their war-weary faces were chiseled stone as they watched the task force solemnly load 16 flag-draped internment cases into the C-17.
Brady said it seemed like the whole base turned out to give the fallen a proper sendoff. As the cases were being loaded, a SEAL ran up to the new SEAL commander and placed a written note in his hand. The note said that Marcus Luttrell was alive at a nearby village. The SEAL commander broke down and cried at the desperately needed positive news.
The fallen Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR included:
Staff Sergeant Shamus O. Goare
Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature
Sergeant Kip A. Jacoby
Sergeant First Class Marcus V. Muralles
Major Stephen C. Reich
Sergeant First Class Michael L. Russell
Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III
Soldiers and Sailors from the Task Force saying their final goodbyes. Photo courtesy of Daniel Bell.
The members of the task force said their final goodbyes. The C-17 closed its ramp and taxied down the runway and took flight. The fallen warriors were now on their way home.
The lone C-17 aircraft lumbered through the sky after departing Germany, a necessary stop on the way back to the United States. The back of the aircraft contained the flag-draped coffins of 16 great Americans: the fallen Night Stalkers and SEALs from Turbine 33.
Children of varying ages ran around the coffins, playing and yelling, not yet old enough to understand the sacrifices these warriors made. A Taliban high-value target (HVT) sat tucked into the corner away from them all, guarded by other soldiers.
Three war-weary escorts — one of them a SEAL and the other two Night Stalkers Daniel Bell and Chris Eicher — sat off to the sides, grimly staring off into space. They were exhausted and angry with the mistake the U.S. Air Force had made when they allowed Space-A seating to be filled on this leg of the flight home.
The men of the task force saying their final goodbyes to the fallen before they are flown home to their final resting place. Photo courtesy of Matt Rogie.
The rescue operation, known as Operation Red Wings II, continued for weeks. Almost every variety of special operations troops in the U.S. military inventory participated in a coordinated effort through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and austere terrain during the search for their brothers — both alive and fallen.
Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor from the initial four-man SEAL reconnaissance element.
For the Night Stalkers of the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the war on terror continued.
Though a lot of the weapons used by US troops today chart their lineage to decades-old designs, they’ve changed a lot since they were first introduced. The M16, for instance, has gone from having iron sights to using holographic optics. The M1A2 SEP v3 is a much deadlier tank than the original M1.
The M270 MLRS is another prime example of increasing lethality and firepower over the years. When it entered service in 1982, it was designed for the purpose of removing a grid square with 12 M26 rockets, each carrying 644 M77 submunitions that it could fire at targets up to 20 miles away. In essence, it was like dropping a bunch of cluster bombs without help from the Air Force.
During Desert Storm, the MLRS performed well, often using the baseline M26 rocket. But longer-range rockets were developed that could reach out to 28 miles, and they still carried the M77 cluster munition.
Then the M77 warheads were replaced with the newer M85s, which pack the same punch, but which reduced the dud rate from about 5 percent to 1 percent. Then, the M30 gave this ground-launched cluster bomb precision guidance.
Today, though, the state of the art is the M31 guided unitary rocket. According to a Lockheed Martin e-brochure, this rocket replaced the M85 bomblets with a 200-pound high-explosive warhead. This rocket has GPS and inertial guidance systems, enabling it to hit within 30 feet of its target – and it can fire its rockets from as far as 44 miles away.
In essence, this makes the MLRS a sniper with a 44-mile reach.
Lockheed is also offering a “GMLRS Alternative Warhead” which could potentially replace the ones that are essentially cluster bombs. One thing for sure, the MLRS will be around for a long time, so who knows what other rockets will be developed.
Britain Lockhart, the teenage treasure hunter and American history preserver behind the YouTube channel “Depths of History,” recently made his most important and dangerous discovery to date — a live 20-pound Civil War-era Parrot artillery shell.
The teenager found it while scanning for bullets and canister shots left behind by Union and Confederate soldiers in the Tennessee countryside. He nearly missed his discovery because he’d dug so deep that he wanted to quit.
“I got about 20 inches, and I was like, I gotta give this hole a break,” Lockhart said in his video. “I went over there and dug up one more bullet, and I was like, okay we can come back to it.”
“So I removed a rock, then we went into another field and started hunting, and I came back to it and ya’ll can’t even believe this,” the excited teen added. “I think I have a whole shell down in the hole.”
Lockhart was right; the shell was 3 feet under the earth. He pulled the entire live round to gasps of astonishment from onlookers off camera. “That’s the biggest find out here,” said an off-camera voice.
Worried that the round could explode, Lockhart took it to expert Steve Phillips to defuse and preserve the shell. Phillips is a relics legend who has defused over 2,000 cannon balls, according to Lockhart.
“People think that if they drill one under water, it can’t blow up,” said Phillips. “That’s not true, people have been blown up under water while drilling them with their hand.”
While cautiously preparing the shell to drill, Pillips wisely summed up his experience, “you just have to think it might blow up.”
This YouTube video shows how Britain Lockhart finds, defuses, and preserves a Civil War-era artillery shell.
U.S. Army aviation leaders offered details on Oct. 10, 2018, about recent solicitations to industry designed to advance the attack-reconnaissance and advanced drone aircraft programs for the service’s ambitious Future Vertical Lift effort.
Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is the Army’s third modernization priority, intended to field a new generation of helicopters such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2028.
The FARA will be designed to take targeting information from FVL’s Advanced Unmanned Aerial System and coordinate “lethal effects” such as long-range precision fires to open gaps into a contested airspace, Rugen said.
Released Oct. 3, 2018, the RFP for the FARA asks industry to submit proposals for competitive prototypes.
“All the offerors will basically get us their designs by Dec. 18, 2018; we will down-select up to six in June 2018 and, in 2020, we will down-select to two,” Rugen said.
The Army plans to conduct a fly-off event in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 to select a winner, he added. “It’s a tremendous capability … that we think is going to be the cornerstone for our close combat control of contested airspace.”
UH-60 Black Hawk.
The service also released a Sept. 28, 2018 Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems RFP for industry to present platforms to conduct demonstrations for Forces Command units.
“Future Tactical UAS is really something that we have been asking for; it’s a [Brigade Combat Team]-oriented UAS,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd III, commander of Program Executive Office Aviation. “It isn’t necessarily a replacement for the [RQ-7] Shadow, but it could be, depending on how it goes with industry … so we are ready to see what you’ve got.”
The Army plans to pick three vendors to provide “future tactical UAS platforms to FORCOM units, and they are going to go and basically demonstrate their capabilities,” Rugen said, adding that the Army is looking for features such as lower noise signature and better transportability.
The service plans to “do a fly-off in the next couple of months and down-select in February,” he said. FORCOM units will then fly them for a year in 2020.
The results of the demonstrations will inform future requirements for the FVL’s Advanced UAS, Rugen said. “If it’s something we really, really like, we may move forward with it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.
But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.
The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.
Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.
Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.
Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.
These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.
But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking force was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.
Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.
Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.
This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.
But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.
But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.
(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)
This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.
The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff said on Oct. 8, 2018, that its 6.8mm, next-generation weapons, slated to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine, will be able to penetrate any body armor on the battlefield.
“It will fire at speeds that far exceed the velocity of bullets today, and it will penetrate any existing or known … body armor that’s out there,” Gen. Mark Milley told Military.com at the 2018 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. “What I have seen so far from the engineers and the folks that put these things together, this is entirely technologically possible. … It’s a very good weapon.”
Milley’s comments come on the heels of an Oct. 4, 2018 draft solicitation announcing the Army’s plans to “award up to three prototype Other Transaction Agreements … with each offeror developing two weapon variants and a common cartridge for both weapons, utilizing government-provided 6.8 millimeter projectiles,” according to the solicitation posted on the federal contracting website FedBizzOpps.”The weapons include the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR).”
The Army also intends to make follow-on production awards for “250,000 total weapons system(s) (NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, or both), 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support,” the solicitation states.
Pfc. Tyler Kramer, a mechanic with I Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division qualifies on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a range Feb. 1, 2018, at Fort Stewart, Ga.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ian Thompson)
The awards could be worth ” million the first year and 0 million per year at the higher production rates,” it adds.
The contracts were the result of a prototype opportunities notice the Army posted in March 2018 for the small-arms industry to submit ideas for the NGSW-AR, an effort to replace the M249 squad automatic rifle, made by FN America.
Milley would not comment on the recent prototype contracts, but said that there were “several prototypes that were advanced forward.”
He added that the Army will likely not “speak too much about its technical capabilities because our adversaries watch these things very closely.”
“It’s a very sophisticated weapon, a very capable weapon. It’s got an integrated sight system to it, and it also integrates into the soldier’s gear and other equipment that we are fielding,” Milley said. “And not surprisingly with a weapon like that, it’s probably pretty expensive. We expect it to be expensive so we are probably not going to field the entire Army with this weapon.”
He explained the service will likely field these cutting-edge weapons to infantry and other close-combat forces.
“The bottom line is we are committed to a new rifle and a new squad automatic weapon,” Milley said. “We hope to be able to shoot it on ranges down at Fort Benning, [Georgia], hopefully … maybe sometime next year late summer.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.