This is the second camouflage uniform for the Navy in less than 10 years, and replaces the oft-mocked blue, black and grey “blueberries” deployed to the force in 2008 to the tune of $224 million.
The new Navy Type IIIs look pretty badass and come with all the whistles and bells of previous combat-style uniforms, including shoulder pockets, velcro tabs for all your merit badges and flags and a collar designed to protect against body armor chafing. The camo pattern is a lighter green version of the Marine Corps forest MARPAT and, if you look closely, the have the Navy Anchor, Constitution and Eagle, or “ACE,” embedded in the pattern.
There’s also a desert digital version that’ll be only for sailors operating in arid climes abroad. The new Navy Working Uniform Type III is set to be rolled out Navy wide Oct. 1 and will typically be worn by sailors at home stations.
While the new green digital Type IIIs look a darn sight better than the Type I “blueberries,” they trace their lineage to some of America’s most elite warriors. Now all sailors can have a little of the “operator” spring in their step thanks to their brother frogmen.
In the mid-2000s, as special operations forces were fighting pitched battles against al Qaeda terrorists worldwide, Naval Special Warfare operators were refining their kit to better suit the environments they were fighting in. About the time Army Special Forces and Rangers cast their gaze at Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern, sailors in SEAL Team 6 were testing out a modified version of the Corps’ MARPAT.
What came out of the battlefield research were two patterns dubbed AOR1 and AOR2. AOR1 was a slightly darker version of the Corps’ desert digital pattern but ran more vertically than horizontal, and AOR2 was a brighter green-hued woodland MARPAT, perfect for SEAL operations in places like the Philippines where they were hunting al Qaeda affiliates.
The uniform was the exclusive province of Naval Special Warfare operators for several years, who wore tactical duds in those patterns manufactured by outside vendors like Beyond Clothing. They didn’t become standard Navy issue until 2010, when the service opted to field the AOR2-patterned uniforms to “expeditionary” sailors — typically Seabees, EOD technicians, riverine troops and others who operate closely with ground-based forces overseas.
Interestingly, at the time the Navy precluded sailors other than SEALs from wearing the desert AOR1 pattern, opting instead to keep sailors in the desert wearing the old tri-color analog pattern.
Fast forward to 2016 and the service announced it would field the DevGru-approved AOR2/Type III green-camo uniforms across the force, casting the cartoonish blue Type I patterned uniforms to the dustbin of history.
Guess now there’s another reason to buy that SEAL a drink.
In a post-COVID world of streaming movies and digital premieres, Amazon’s The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt is a solid summer blockbuster. The sci-fi action film can be likened to Interstellar crossed with Edge of Tomorrow with a healthy dose of Chris Pratt being Chris Pratt. For a Hollywood production, The Tomorrow War gets a surprising amount of things right when it comes to gear. Of course, there are plenty of movie sins in it as well. This article will be mostly free of spoilers, but we make no guarantees, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
1. BCM Carbine
Let’s get the “not so awesome” out of the way first. Over the last decade, Bravo Company Manufacturing has become a go-to brand in the firearms industry. Best known for its high quality AR-15 parts and builds, BCM has gained widespread popularity in both military and civilian shooter circles. In The Tomorrow War, the primary weapon of the human resistance is a tricked out short-barreled BCM carbine.
Although it looks futuristic and cool to the average viewer, anyone who has handled the AR-15/M4 platform knows that the weapon is a pretty poor choice. The short barrel significantly reduces the effectiveness of the 5.56x45mm round that it fires, explaining why the humans are losing the war. Despite the linear compensators, all those short barrels firing full-auto in the stairwell would have left everybody with some serious hearing loss too. While the Trijicon ACOG and canted red dot look cool, the short barrel means that the weapon really doesn’t have the range to make use of the magnified optic and no one seems to ever use the canted red dot. Plus, it’s not like the Whitespikes are hard to see so the 4x zoom isn’t necessary for identification at range. Chris Pratt and his crew would have been better served with a larger caliber weapon like SOCOM’s MK 17 SCAR-H or the Sig NGSW.
2. Kimber Warrior SOC
Maybe Pratt’s character knew about the inadequacies of the standard-issue carbine after all. Before reporting for duty, he retrieves his personal .45 ACP Kimber Warrior SOC from his home safe. Used by elite units like LAPD SWAT and Marine Force Recon, Kimber 1911-style pistols are considered to be some of the best .45 sidearms money can buy. While militaries and law enforcement agencies have largely made the switch to the smaller 9x19mm cartridge in 2021, a full-power .45 is probably a better choice against the aliens seen in The Tomorrow War.
3. IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX
Speaking of big-bore pistols, J.K. Simmons’ character carries one heck of a hand cannon. Playing Pratt’s father in the film, Simmons’ character is a Vietnam veteran with a taste for big guns. His sidearm of choice is an IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX chambered in .50 AE. That’s the kind of slug you want to be throwing at a gigantic armored alien. A .45 is great, but a .50 is a .50. Naturally, the film features a bit of father-son verbal jabbing regarding the size of the pistol, but it proves its worth in the end.
4. F&D Defense FD338
Matching his Desert Eagle, Simmons’ character carries an equally heavy-hitting rifle. Made to order with a lead time of eight weeks, the FD338 has a base price of $5,450 according to F&D Defense’s website. The .338 Lapua Magnum that it fires hits with about five times the force of 5.56x45mm and has more consistent and predictable ballistic performance than the legendary .50 BMG. This kind of performance in an AR-style rifle is unparalleled in the firearms industry and Simmons’ character puts the FD338 to good use in the film.
5. Beretta 1301 Tactical
One weapon that stands out from the others is the shotgun used by Edwin Hodge’s character. His Beretta 1301 is a 12-gauge gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that deals serious damage to the armored aliens at close range. While it doesn’t have anywhere near the reach of the FD338, the 1301 excels in close quarters and Hodge’s character uses it to great effect. Hopefully he had it loaded with something crazy like tungsten slugs to make the most of his shotgun’s raw power.
With a sprinkle of holy water and a protester condemning the late Mikhail Kalashnikov as a “manufacturer of death,” Russian authorities have unveiled a monument to the designer of the widely used AK-47 assault rifle.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and the head of state-run military-industrial conglomerate Rostec were on hand for the dedication of the monument to Kalashnikov on the Garden Ring road in central Moscow on September 19.
The statue — not far from monuments to renowned poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin — was unveiled by Kalashnikov’s daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova.
Minutes before the ceremony began, a man unfurled a sign saying, “the manufacturer of weapons is a manufacturer of death.” He was quickly detained by police and taken away from the site.
The weapon Kalashnikov invented is the most widely used assault rifle in the world and has been fired in nearly every conflict around the globe for the last 50 years.
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov is an embodiment of the best features of a Russian person — extraordinary natural giftedness, simplicity, honesty, organizational talent,” Medinsky said, adding that “the Kalashnikov assault rifle is truly…a cultural brand of Russia.”
The head of Russia’s Udmurtia region, Aleksandr Brechalov, spoke at the ceremony, praising Kalashnikov for his contribution to “Russia’s glory and defense.”
Kalashnikov lived and worked for many years in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are still made.
A Russian Orthodox priest then prayed for Kalashnikov and sprinkled the monument with water sanctified by the church.
But Kalashnikov — who was born into a peasant family during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and died in 2013 at the age of 94 — voiced mixed feelings about his achievements and his legacy late in life.
Several months before his death, he wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he said: “The pain in my soul is unbearable.
“I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I…am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov Group’s headquarters in Izhevsk.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historical Society — which is chaired by Medinsky — and by Rostec, whose CEO is Putin ally Sergei Chemezov. Rostec is the majority owner of Kalashnikov.
The monument was unveiled on a state-mandated professional holiday honoring Russian arms makers going back to tsarist times.
Kremlin critics say that Putin, who has involved Russia in wars in Syria and Ukraine and touts Soviet and imperial-era battlefield achievements to promote patriotism, focuses on military affairs to draw attention away from domestic troubles.
To develop Sailors with character and professional competence, who possess integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness, Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, administers a final exam that is designed to evaluate the proficiency of critical warfighting skills.
The final exam is called “Battle Stations-21.” It is a graded evolution held on board USS Trayer, a 210-ft replica of an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile Destroyer, in which recruits must earn the right to be called a “Sailor” and graduate basic training. They spend the night loading stores, getting underway, handling mooring lines, standing watches, responding to incoming attacks, manning general quarters stations, and combating shipboard fires and floods. It is as close to being underway as a recruit can get before reaching their first ship.
Facing sensory overload from compartments full of smoke, blaring alarms, periods of low visibility as well as disorienting flashes, recruits are required to overcome the stress, self-organize and tackle each scenario with little-to-no intervention from instructors. Their Battle Stations-21 grade is comprised of 75% individual proficiency and 25% team proficiency. Failure in either category, or an overall score below 80%, results in training remediation which impacts recruit graduation dates.
Part of the new hands-on learning curriculum, designed by RTC’s senior enlisted instructors to develop tough, more qualified Sailors through realistic training, the Battle Stations-21 grading requirements measure warfighting proficiency during the Sailor development process.
“Battle Stations-21 is the standard for testing the effectiveness of recruit training,” said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Kevin Barrientos, one of the RTC instructors responsible for running USS Trayer. “Scenarios include ship replenishment, sea and anchor detail, firefighting, damage control, crew casualties and various deck, bridge, engineering and navigation watch stations.”
To prepare for Battle Stations-21, recruits conduct hands-on training that is focused on the critical warfighting skills of watch standing, seamanship, force protection, firefighting and damage control. In the classroom, applied labs and practical trainers, recruits conduct more than 30 hours of seamanship training and more than 40 hours of firefighting and damage control training before reaching their final exam.
Recruits also maintain an around-the-clock watch rotation, simulating various watch stations as they are manned in the Fleet. They also have the opportunity to earn their M9 Service Pistol qualification during small-arms familiarization training.
“Our hands-on learning curriculum enforces repetitive and deliberate practice of each skill,” Barrientos said. “This type of training motivates recruits to rise to the challenge at Battle Stations-21, and prepares them for service in the Fleet.”
Recruits fight all night long to keep USS Trayer operational and battle ready. If they embrace their training, they will pass their final exam, earn their Navy ball cap, and advance to graduation. Trayer is then reset for the next division of recruits who hope to become the Navy’s newest Sailors.
Recruit Training Command is approximately eight weeks long and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
The bow often takes center stage in period pieces any time before the invention of gun powder. From modern portrayals in the Hunger Games series to those in a Roman epic, the bow is a weapon that has shaped the course of human history more than any other weapon. You would be hard-pressed to find a roleplay video game without one. Even Greek Gods wielded them in battle. The family tree of this weapon grows at the crossroads of human warfare.
Origin of the bow and arrow
Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.
Like other weapons of war, the bow started with the humble beginning as a hunting tool. It was invented in Africa 71,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found bows on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. The Native Americans in North America are believed to invented the bow and arrow independently and it spread south to the rest of the Americas. Arrows are expensive and only wealthy countries could reasonably keep their armies equipped. This was true until the bow took its logical next step in its evolution.
The Long Bow
The Longbow first arrived in Europe around 3,000 B.C. and appeared in the battle of Somerset, England in 2,690 BC. The weapon gets its name from, well, being long. At six feet, it was as tall as the archer wielding it. It had a max effective range of 320 meters. They were the armor-piercing rounds of their day, able to penetrate anything up to and including plate armor. The weapon has become synonymous with the English although it was invented by the Welsh. It is romanticized in literature, movies and video games because it is a good weapon. Its biggest disadvantages were that it took years for a soldier to learn to use effectively and the cost of training.
The Composite Bow
Composite bow is a type of traditional bow made of horn, wood, and sinew which are laminated together and is similar to the “laminated bow” which is made only of layers of wood. Most of the composite bows are recurve bows (when not stringed they curve opposite of the archer) that have wooden core with horn on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back. Wooden core is made of multiple pieces, joined with animal glue in V-splices. Horn is used on the inside because it can store more energy than wood in compression. Sinew, placed on the back of the bow is soaked in animal glue. It is obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer and is used because it will stretch farther than wood which again stores more power.
The invention of the composite bow is believed to have been ushered in the 1700s B.C. by the Shang Dynasty in China. Parallel thinking and engineering saw a proliferation of composite bows across the Mediterranean and Europe. The Mongol composite bow changed the course of history in one fell swoop in the hands of Genghis Khan. His version of the bow was designed to be shot on horseback. Everything in the Mongol culture was centered around the horse. The world wasn’t ready when the Great Khan forged the largest empire in history with it. You could either join the Mongols or have total war upon your people: The original “Plata o Plomo”.
The crossbow, leading missile weapon of the Middle Ages, consisting of a short bow fixed transversely on a stock, originally of wood; it had a groove to guide the missile, usually called a bolt, a sear to hold the string in the cocked position, and a trigger to release it.
There is a lot of debate whether crossbows are bows in the modern era especially when it comes to hunting. In the United States, some hunting seasons in different states prohibit the crossbow when bows are allowed. Other states restrict them to when rifles are allowed or restrict them altogether. Historians are also conflicted on when a crossbow was a bow and when it split into two separate categories. Crossbows are usually just as regulated as firearms and bows are considered sports equipment.
So, at this point in the evolutionary timeline of the bow, we can see it has become something new. While it may not fall under archery perfectly because even though it is a kind of bow, it is not a bow itself. It shares more history with the bow but the function of a crossbow is closer to rifle – with matching laws. Crossbows also have a PR problem across borders. In Brazil they’re considered a toy yet in the U.K. they’re associated with poachers but in America they’re used for hunting or zombies.
Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.
As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.
Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.
Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.
And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.
But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.
What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?
Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?
For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.
Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.
For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.
Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.
If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.
As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.
Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?
Marines train the way they fight, even if that means potentially suffering injuries in the process. Since many Marine units are known for their amphibious capabilities, they must conduct training that prepares them for any watery hazards that might come their way.
One such deadly situation that Marines must ready for is a helicopter crash landing into the ocean. Although it’s unlikely, Marines must be ready to escape a watery grave by successfully evacuating a flooding aircraft within a matter of moments.
As you might expect, Marines practice their escape by facing the real hazard in a controlled environment. After jumping into a pool while wearing most of their combat load, Marines swim their way onto a mock helicopter that’s already halfway submerged in water.
Once they’ve strapped into their seats, they are blindfolded with fogged-out goggles for added stress. The helo dunker is then hoisted up into the air.
Once the instructors give the order, the helo dunker is lowered into the water and spun about to disorient the blindfolded Marines within. Each Marine is instructed to take one last breath as they feel the aircraft hit the water’s surface and plunge beneath.
The windows in various transport and cargo helicopters are designed to be removed in a hurry. Once a Marine successfully negotiates the closed-window obstacle, they are free to evacuate the dunker and swim to the surface for some much-needed oxygen.
The helo dunker isn’t the only tool used in training for an underwater escape. Marines also train in single-man cages. Instructors roll Marines about and observe as disoriented troops attempt to free themselves from the helicopter’s seat belt system.
Photos courtesy of UAA Archives, Curiosandrelics/Wikimedia Commons, and NPS/Josh Spice. Composite by Matt White/Coffee or Die Magazine.
On Dec. 21, 1943, Lt. Leon Crane was conducting a flyover of the Alaska interior when one of the engines of his B-24 Liberator malfunctioned and caused the aircraft to spiral out of control. Crane grabbed a parachute and dove from the open bomb bay doors into the frigid Alaska wilderness, the lone survivor of the crew.
Despite his initial good fortune, Crane would endure another 84 days in the wilderness before being rescued. Initially, Crane had only a Boy Scout knife and some matches as survival equipment and fashioned a makeshift bow to hunt game. The bow was largely ineffective, and after nine days of failed hunts, Crane was nearly dead.
He set out and, by luck, managed to find a trapper cabin that had food, supplies, and most importantly a rifle. Crane used this rifle to hunt game, which sustained him long enough to be rescued. Had he not found a firearm, he surely would have perished in the brutal Alaska interior.
Firearms are important tools when it comes to survival. Used for both sustenance and defense, a rifle can be the defining factor for surviving long stretches in the wilderness. The United States Air Force has made many attempts over the years at providing aircrews with a rifle suitable for such a task, and we’ve compiled a list of some of those purpose-built survival rifles.
Here are five survival rifles used by Air Force crews.
1. Savage-Stevens Model 22-410 — A combination rifle utilized by the US Army Air Corps as a survival weapon for aircrews during World War II. Introduced in 1938, the basic model in .22 LR over .410 gauge weighed 7 pounds and had two 24-inch barrels, with an overall length of 41 inches. The upper rifle barrel could also be chambered in .22 WMR, .22 Hornet, .222 Rem., .223 Rem., .30-30 Win., .357 Magnum, or .357 Max; the lower shotgun barrel, in 20 or 12 gauge.
2. Harrington and Richardson M4 — Designed after World War II, this bolt-action .22 rifle was specifically developed as a survival weapon for downed aircrews to utilize for hunting small game. In an attempt to optimize the firearm for storage on an aircraft, the M4 was fitted with a removable 14-inch barrel and utilized a sliding wire buttstock similar to that on the M3 “Grease Gun.” With the stock collapsed and the barrel removed, the overall length was less than 14 inches and its overall weight was approximately 4 pounds.
3. M6 — In 1952 the Air Force approached the Ithaca Gun Company with a request for a new survival weapon for its aircrews and was presented with the M6. A combination rifle similar to the Stevens 22-410 but with a modern construction similar to the M4’s, the M6 was built predominantly of stamped steel and featured two 14-inch barrels. It had a “trigger bar” under the wrist to allow firing while wearing heavy gloves and a storage compartment in the stock for spare .410 shotshells and .22 rounds.
4. AR-5 — The AR-5 is a lightweight bolt-action takedown rifle, chambered in .22 Hornet, that Armalite developed for the Air Force in 1954. The Air Force put out a request for a compact and lightweight rifle to outfit survival kits for its new XB-70 manned bomber, as the M4 and M6 rifles were no longer in production. It officially adopted the AR-5 in 1956. The rifle was made from lightweight plastics and aluminum alloys, and all working parts could be broken down and stored within the hollow plastic buttstock. When stowed in this manner, the rifle was able to float. Unfortunately, the XB-70 fleet was canceled, and the Air Force never received funding for more than a dozen test models of this rifle.
5. GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon — Known as the GAU-5A, the 7-pound, semi-automatic rifle is similar to the M4 carbine and was designed by the Air Force Gunsmith Shop as additional firepower for downed aircrew. This compact and capable rifle is able to be broken down to fit in an aircraft ejection seat survival kit (in a compartment measuring 16 by 14 by 3.5 inches) with four spare magazines. It can be assembled and fired in 60 seconds with no tools. The rifle utilizes standard 5.56 mm rounds and is capable of hitting a man-sized target at 200 meters.
Some of the greatest businesses of the 21st century started in a garage: Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, just to name a few. In the firearms industry, one of the most prolific manufacturers of accessories is Magpul. Today, it is a leading innovator and supplier to both the military and civilian markets around the world. And the company started in — you guessed it — a garage.
In 1991, Richard Fitzpatrick was a Recon Marine in Alpha Company, 3rd Recon Battalion. It was during this time he began thinking of ways to improve a battlefield improvisation going back to the Vietnam War.
For infantry in the heat of battle, keeping your weapon going is one of, if not the most important, things you can do. Reducing the time needed to reload your weapon also reduces the time that you are out of the fight. To help with this, troops used to improvise loops out of duct tape and paracord and attach them to the bottom of their magazines. This made them easier to pull from pouches and control during a reload. Taking this tried and tested concept, Fitzpatrick sought to improve it.
At first, he tried glueing pieces of rubber together. However, the design wasn’t up to Fitzpatrick’s standards. Still, he kept toying with the idea. In 1997, a few years after he left the Marine Corps, he found the solution. Fitzpatrick made a magazine puller with a dual friction band and had his eureka moment.
He used his life savings to patent the idea and buy a small injection mold to start making them. From his garage in Erie, Colorado, Fitzpatrick produced and sold his new rubberized magazine pullers. He christened his new product Magpul and bet it all on its success.
In 1999, Fitzpatrick introduced the Magpul at the NDIA Small Arms Symposium. Although there was much interest in the new product, no orders were placed. While Fitzpatrick did not initially receive a military contract like he had hoped for, the Magpul quickly became popular with individual units. Discretionary unit purchases and individual sales started to come in on Magpul’s website.
Through the early 2000s, Magpul’s notoriety expanded. The company’s growth was due in large part to its focus on education over direct marketing. Every package of Magpuls came with a booklet titled “Advanced Tactical Reloading.”
“It had over 60 illustrations in it and was very detailed,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “Because of this detail, users became experts on the product and went on to become ambassadors for Magpul.” Today, Magpul even has a dedicated training division.
As the company grew, so did its product line. In addition to Magpuls for M4/M16 STANAG and other weapon magazines, the company made other accessories like grips and stocks. They also designed a self-leveling follower for their magazines to reduce the likelihood of jams. In 2006, after years of individual sales, Magpul received its first official NATO Stock Number.
The next year, the company introduced the PMAG 30 for the AR-15/M4 platform. In contrast to the standard aluminum magazine used by the military, the PMAG is made of a composite polymer. This allows the magazine to flex under pressure that would otherwise bend the feed lips or crack the body of a metal magazine. Moreover, all PMAGs include the aforementioned self-leveling follower. All of this resulted in increased reliability over traditional metal magazines.
An export version of the PMAG, called the EMAG, was introduced in 2009. The next year, Magpul won a contract to supply 1 million EMAGs to the UK Ministry of Defence. Meanwhile, the company diversified even further with products like back-up iron sights, conceptual firearms, and even phone cases.
In 2016, Magpul hit the jackpot when it was awarded an exclusive contract to manufacture magazines for the U.S. Marine Corps. Two years later, the Army followed with a formal announcement allowing all units to acquire PMAGs with procurement funds.
Today, all branches of the U.S. military field PMAGs in their weapon systems. Moreover, Magpul’s accessory attachment system, M-Lok, was selected by SOCOM as its standard system. Although not standardized, troops commonly accessorize their weapons with Magpul grips and stocks as well. In just over 20 years, Magpul has changed the face of the firearms industry and worked its way to the top.
In 1967, Israel fought the Six-Day War. Also known as the June War, the Israeli Defense Force was armed with the FN FAL battle rifle against the AK-47s of the Arab coalition. In the desert sand and dust, the Israeli FALs were prone to jamming and malfunctions. Moreover, the rifle was considered long and heavy. Israel needed a new rifle.
In the 1960s, America was replacing France as Israel’s primary ally and weapons supplier. The Israelis were offered the M16A1 to replace the FAL. While the new rifle was lighter and accurate, early M16s (and the accompanying ammunition) were not reliable enough for the IDF.
During the Six-Day War, Israel captured thousands of AKs. The IDF found that the stories of the rifle’s legendary reliability were true, but found its accuracy lacking. What they needed was a weapon that combined the accuracy of the M16 with the reliability of the AK-47.
Uziel Gal, designer and namesake of the iconic Uzi submachine gun, submitted a design for the new rifle. However, it was determined to be too complex and unreliable. Yisrael Galil, a British Army veteran of WWII, entered a competing design.
Galil’s rifle was based on the Finnish Valmet Rk 62. The Valmet uses the same 7.62x39mm cartridge as the AK-47 and is based on the Polish licensed version of the AK. However, Galil modified the Valmet to fire the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge from the M16. Not only was the smaller American round more accurate, but it was readily available to Israel from the United States. The rifle, named Galil after its designer, was declared the winner and Israel’s new primary rifle.
Designed for the specific needs of Israeli soldiers, the standard service rifle version issued to infantry units had some special features. Designated as the Automatic Rifle Machine-gun variant, the Galil ARM was fitted with a bipod. This allowed troops to fire the weapon from a more steady position in the prone. The bipod hinge also functioned as a wire cutter. This reduced the time needed for IDF troops to cut through the wire fences common in rural Israel. Finally, the bipod latch could be used as a bottle opener. Civilian reservists often used the magazine feed lips of the Uzi to open bottles which resulted in damaged magazines. The Galil came with a bottle opener built right in to prevent this.
However, in 1973, Israel was caught off guard with the Yom Kippur War. The Arab coalition launched coordinated surprise attacks on the Jewish holiday and the IDF was forced to rapidly mobilize. This war delayed the production and issuance of the Galil. Additionally, most Israeli conscripts preferred the lighter, but less reliable, M16.
By 1975, 60,000 M16A1s from the United States were issued to the IDF. Compared with the high cost of domestically producing the Galil, the M16 was simply a better option to arm the majority of the IDF. The introduction of the even lighter, more versatile, and more reliable M4 and new 5.56x45mm NATO ammo sealed the Galil’s fate and it was phased out of standard-issue by 2000.
Although its use by the IDF was limited, the Galil saw extensive service overseas. Many third world countries adopted the Galil in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x51mm NATO for its rugged reliability and use of NATO ammo. Licensed as the Vektor R4, the Galil is a favorite of the South African military and police. The Galil was even reportedly used by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team in California. The Galil ACE is a modernized version of the rifle that comes in more calibers and configurations than its predecessor. The ACE has been adopted by the Chilean Army and People’s Army of Vietnam. However, it lacks the famous bipod with its wire cutter and bottle opener.
In October of 1983, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft took to the skies under cover of both physical and metaphorical darkness. This new jet, dubbed the F-117 Nighthawk, would revolutionize America’s approach to air warfare, pivoting away from the higher and faster mantra that had dominated much of the Cold War, and toward the doctrine of stealth. As of its introduction in 1983, being sneaky became more important than being powerful in military aviation. While this technical frontier was first explored by the U.S. Air Force, by the time the Nighthawk was on duty prowling the sky, the U.S. Navy wanted a stealth platform all their own.
Eventually, Lockheed would pitch the idea of a significantly more capable F-117N Seahawk, based on their first-of-its-kind Nighthawk. But the Seahawk wasn’t the Navy’s first pass at a carrier-capable stealth attack aircraft. Ten years before the Seahawk proposal would reach Navy desks, the Navy was already getting started on their Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program. The ATA initially sought to replace the Grumman A-6 Intruder by the mid-1990s. The Intruder had been in service for the U.S. Navy as a ground attack platform since 1963, and the Navy saw a replacement program as the perfect opportunity to get into the stealth game.
On 13 January 1988, a joint team from McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics was awarded a development contract for what was to become the A-12 Avenger II, not to be confused with Lockheed’s proposed A-12 of the 1960s, which sought to arm an SR-71 sibling jet with air-to-air weapon systems. Once completed, the Navy’s A-12 would have been a flying wing-design reminiscent of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit or forthcoming B-21 Raider, though much smaller.
A new aircraft for a new approach to air warfare
Intended to serve aboard carriers, the A-12 Avenger II was to be slightly more than 37 feet long, with a wingspan of a few inches more than 70 feet. These dimensions would have made the A-12 significantly shorter than the nearly 55-foot-long Intruder, while boasting a far wider wingspan that extended just far enough to allow two A-12s to sit side-by-side on adjacent catapults on a carrier flight deck. In fact, the A-12’s wingspan would have even dwarfed the F-14 Tomcat’s extended sweep-wings by a good six feet.
Although the A-12 Avenger II utilized a flying wing design, its overall shape differed from the triangular B-2 Spirit under development for the Air Force. The sharp triangular shape of the A-12 eventually earned it the nickname, “the flying Dorito.“
Despite the width of the A-12 Avenger II, however, the aircraft itself was only meant to carry a comparatively small 5,150 pounds of internal ordnance, which would outperform the Nighthawk’s paltry payload of just two 2,000 pound GBU-27 laser-guided bombs, but was nowhere near the 18,000 pounds offered by the Intruder.
However, like modern stealth aircraft in operation today, the A-12 Avenger was never intended to scream into the fight with its teeth bared. In the minds of many defense officials, its ability to strike targets without warning in highly contested airspace was more useful than a massive payload. In yet another example of how military aviation was rapidly changing throughout the Cold War, blanketing an area with munitions was no longer considered the most effective means of engaging the enemy. Instead, stealth combined with highly accurate precision munitions would allow the A-12 Avenger II to surgically strike enemy targets where it hurt most.
More of a stealth fighter than the “stealth fighter”
Despite clearly serving in an attack capacity, Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk had been given the “F” designator (and the informal moniker of “stealth fighter”) intentionally. The F-117 possessed no air-to-air capability whatsoever–a defining characteristic for a “fighter” aircraft–but Air Force officials hoped the concept of a “stealth fighter” would attract the sort of highly-skilled fighter jocks this new attack aircraft would really need.
The Navy entertained no such chicanery in their own stealth jet, planning to saddle their new platform with an “A” prefix to demonstrate its use against ground targets despite actually having the ability to engage air targets with its two internally-stored AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. In other words, the A-12 Avenger II would have actually been America’s first stealth fighter.
However, the A-12 wouldn’t have been well suited for fighting the powerful and acrobatic fourth-generation fighters being fielded by national opponents like the Soviet Union and post-collapse Russia at the time. With a top speed of just 580 miles per hour and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet, this subsonic aircraft may have been armed with the missiles it would need to take down on enemy jet, but logic would dictate that it rely on stealth, rather than firepower, if enemy fighters were in the area.
The A-12 Avenger II would have led the way into battle
Aside from its two air-to-air missiles, the A-12 Avenger II was also intended to carry 2 AGM-88 HARM air-to-ground missiles that had entered service in 1985. The AGM-88 was an anti-radiation missile, meaning it could home in on the electromagnetic waves emanating from early warning radar arrays and surface-to-air missile platforms. In other words, the A-12 Avenger II would have been able to serve in a similar capacity to today’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in contested airspace. The A-12 would hunt down air defense systems and eliminate them to clear the way for less-stealthy and more weapon-laden platforms that could follow.
When not on the hunt for enemy radar, the AGM-88 HARM missiles could be swapped out in favor of unguided or precision bombs for continued action against ground targets.
At one point, the Navy had plans to purchase 620 A-12 Avenger IIs, with the Marine Corps ordering another 238, and even the Air Force mulling over an order of 400 modified A-12 variants to replace their outgoing F-111 Aardvarks. It’s important to note that only 59 operational F-117A Nighthawks were ever built — so the A-12 Avenger II promised to become America’s premier stealth aircraft for years to come, with a total of 1,258 aircraft in American stables. If all of these orders had been filled, the A-12 Avenger II would have become one of America’s most plentiful aircraft, second only to the U.S. Army’s massive fleet of UH-60 Black Hawks.
For some time, it seemed as though the A-12 Avenger II program was going off without a hitch, but then, seemingly without warning, it was canceled by Defense Secretary (and future Vice President of the United States) Dick Cheney in January of 1991.
An unceremonious end
For some time, the A-12 Avenger II program seemed to be progressing smoothly, and Cheney had repeatedly reported as such when pressed about the program by Congress. The truth is, as far as Cheney knew (according to some accounts), the program did seem to be going smoothly, as officials within the Navy, the Pentagon, and both McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics all seemed intent on sugar-coating the program’s woes.
Unbeknownst to many, the aircraft, which had yet to fly by the beginning of 1991, was already significantly overweight, 18-months behind schedule, and massively over budget.
In an article published by Air Force Magazine in April of 1991, three months after the A-12 Avenger II program was canceled, Pentagon investigators had come to place the blame on four separate and significant factors (as outlined at the time by David Montgomery):
“Overly protective Navy officials, who didn’t want to endanger the plane by pointing out problems. A Pentagon analyst first detected a possible cost overrun two years ago, but the Navy program manager continued to describe the A-12 as being on track until after a major Pentagon review last year.
A “don’t-rock-the-boat” segment of the Pentagon bureaucracy, which was aware of the problems but apparently reluctant to buck its superiors to press its case. In one incident, a report noting A-12 problems was tucked away and forgotten.
Overly optimistic A-12 contractors, who miscalculated the extent of the technical difficulties in producing such a plane and shielded the problems from the government. An inquiry by Navy Deputy General Counsel Chester Paul Beach found that General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas discovered “increasing cost and schedule variances” but did not alert the Navy in a timely fashion.
Excessive secrecy, which blanketed the project and prevented examinations that might have brought problems to light. Officials assigned to Secretaries Cheney and Garrett were kept away, standard reporting procedures were abandoned, and information was transmitted verbally rather than in writing.”
In the years that followed, the United States government and the A-12 Avenger II’s contractors, McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics, would go through repeated litigation over breach of contract, eventually reaching as high as the Supreme Court. In January of 2014, Boeing, which had absorbed McDonnell Douglas, and General Dynamics agreed to repay the government $200 million each for failing to meet the requirements of the initial contract.
When sailors hit the Navy SEAL training grinder, they’ll undergo what’s considered the hardest military training on earth in attempts to earn the Trident. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training uses the sandy beaches of Coronado, California, to push candidates beyond their mental and physical limits to see if they can endure and be welcomed into the Special Warfare community.
Roughly 75 percent of all BUD/S candidates drop out of training, leaving many to wonder what, exactly, it takes to survive the program and graduate. Well, former Navy SEAL Jeff Nichols is here to break it down and give you a few tips for finding success at BUD/S.
SEAL candidates cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, California.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
Diversify your training
According to Nichols, the ability to sustain yourself through various types of physical training will only help your odds of succeeding at BUD/S. Incorporate various exercise types, variable rest periods, and a wide array of resistances into your training regimen.
When candidates aren’t in training, it’s crucial that they heal themselves up. Massages improve the body’s circulation and can cut down recovery time. That being said, avoid deep-tissue massages. That type of intense treatment can actually extend your healing time.
Vice President Joe Biden places a hand on the shoulder of one of the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) candidates while speaking to them on the beach at Naval Special Warfare Center during his visit to San Diego, Calif.
(Photo by MC2 Dominique M. Lasco)
Find sleep wherever possible
If you can avoid staying up late, you should. Nichols encourages candidates to take naps whenever possible. Even if its only a quick, 20-minute snooze, get that rest in as often as possible.
Stay away from smoking and drinking alcohol
Both substances can prevent a candidate from performing at their best during their time at BUD/S. Smoking limits personal endurance. Alcohol dehydrates — which is especially harmful in an environment where every drop of clean water counts.
Know that nobody gives a sh*t
Ultimately, the BUD/S instructors don’t care if you make it through the training. Don’t think anyone will hold your hand as the intensity ramps up.
Sailors enrolled in the BUD/S course approach the shore during an over-the-beach exercise at San Clemente Island, California.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau)
Surround yourself with good people
It’s easy to quit BUD/S and it’s challenging to push yourself onward. Surrounding yourself with good people who are in training for the right reasons will help you through the darkest moments.
Take advantage of your days off
Although you only have roughly 2 days of rest time, take advantage of them to the fullest and heal up as much as you can. Eat healthily and clear your mind by getting off-base as much as possible.
A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL instructor is about to show a member of BUD/S Class 244 just how hard it can be to rescue a drowning victim when the “victim” comes at you with a vengeance during lifesaving training at the Naval Special Warfare Center.
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey)
Trust the BUD/S process
According to Nichols, the BUD/S process doesn’t fail. Listen to the instructors as they tell you how to properly negotiate individual training obstacles as a team. They all have proven experience, you just need to listen.
Don’t take anything personal
The instructors will slowly chip away at your self-confidence with the aim of getting you to quit. Brush off those remarks. Remember, this is part of the test.
BUD/S is considered a fair environment
Nichols believes that the program is a fair method of getting only the strongest candidates through the training and onto SEAL teams. It’s up to the SEAL instructors to put out the best possible product.
The current theme of special operations weapons seems to be small and quiet. I can’t blame them. Small, lightweight weapons with suppressors are quite comfortable for a wide variety of roles. When you have a far-from-average job, you need far-from-average equipment. That’s where guns like Sig Sauer’s LVAW come into play. LVAW stands for Low Visibility Assault Weapon, and it’s become well-represented in the hands of the men of the Army’s elite Delta Force, the Navy’s famed SEAL teams, and other JSOC commandos.
The LVAW offers selective fire capability and is only available to police and military forces. From the military perspective, this rifle is a submachine gun (SMG) killer. For the longest time, suppressed 9mm SMG platforms dominated the quiet-riot role. Capable as these weapons can be, however, they’re limited by the ammunitions. The 9mm round offers pretty poor penetration when compared to most standard rifle calibers. Weapons like the SIG LVAW were designed to provide an extremely quiet and compact weapon that brings rifle cartridges to the table, making them a superior alternative to an SMG is just about every way.
At Its Core
At its core, the SIG LVAW is a SIG MCX rifle designed and modified to fit a specific mission type. The MCX rifle from SIG Sauer is a short-stroke piston gas-operated rifle series. While the classic Stoner design has been proven to work extremely well, they tend to lose reliability when barrel length is limited to under 10.3 inches.
Short stroke gas piston guns work extremely well with short barrels, and the LVAW has one of the shortest rifle barrels on the market. It features a 6.75-inch barrel, which, I should point out, is absurdly short for a rifle. The SIG MCX design uses an upper and lower receiver that mimic the famed AR 15 and M16 series of rifles. This ensures the controls of the LVAW perfectly match the service rifles operators grow up on in service. This lowers the training time required to get familiar and proficient with the weapon and allows for a retained standard manual of arms across platforms.
Since the gun uses a short-stroke gas piston, there’s no need for a buffer, buffer spring, or buffer tube. In order to make things even more compact, SIG installed a simple folding stock that allows the gun to maintain even lower visibility when stored or stashed.
SIG also equipped the weapon with a modular handguard and industry-standard optics rail. Commandos can attach optics of all kinds, as well as PEQ-15s, lights, and whatever else they may need to make the LVAW better suited to its environment. It’s a short and lightweight weapon; however, tracking down official measurements has proven difficult.
Into the LVAW
The super-short barrel seems odd for a rifle, but keep in mind the LVAW was designed from the outset to be used with a suppressor. In fact, without a suppressor, you could actually damage the rifle’s handguard. The handguard encompasses the barrel and a portion of the suppressor. Without the suppressor, the muzzle blast can damage the handguard. While the suppressor likely can be removed, it seems feasible that it might be only for maintenance purposes.
The suppressors obviously reduce the signature of the gun while fired (though certainly not to the extent depicted in movies). It also acts as a means to lengthen the barrel and increase the velocity of the round, which is important due to the super short 6.75-inch barrel.
In terms of sound reduction, the SIG suppressor brings the sound of the LVAW down to a level that almost matches the MP5SD. The MP5SD is a 9mm suppressed submachine gun that’s widely considered one of the quietest options available for its purpose, which put the LVAW in good company. The suppressor also eliminates muzzle flash and helps control muzzle rise and recoil; making the user harder to spot during an engagement and making it easier to put their second and third rounds on target respectively.
All this makes the LVAW an extremely capable Close Quarters Battle (CQB) weapon. Its quiet operations allows the operator to engage threats without causing an alert. But lowering the volume does more than that. When the gun is used inside a vehicle or in extremely close quarters with teammates, operators can still communicate with each other and avoid causing serious hearing loss, as is prone to happen when using un-suppressed weapons in tight situations.
It’s hard to overstate just how loud gunfire can be in an enclosed space. The noise can permanently damage the hearing or those nearby and significantly reduces an operator’s situational awareness. But the LVAW design doesn’t do it all by itself. It functions so silently due, in part, to its round of choice: the 300 Blackout.
Into the 300 Blackout
The 300 Blackout cartridge is relatively young when compared to most of its military peers. This cartridge was developed for a very specific purpose, and that purpose includes exactly what the LVAW does. The 300 Blackout was designed to functioned extremely well when fired from a rifle with a short barrel.
On top of that, or maybe as a part of that function, the 300 Blackout was also designed to function well with suppressors. It can utilize both supersonic and subsonic rounds without needing any internal parts swapped out. Subsonic rounds, for those who aren’t ammunition savvy, don’t break the sound barrier, eliminating the supersonic crack that makes up a fair portion of the audible bang when the weapon is fired. Using subsonic rounds in a suppressed weapon makes for a very quiet day.
The downside to subsonic ammo is that it’s really only useful at short ranges. So LVAW users can use subsonic ammunition when they need to remain sneaky and quiet, and then swap magazines for supersonic rounds when they need to extend their range on the fly.
As a rifle cartridge, the 300 Blackout provides better penetration and range than any pistol round. It beats soft armor and deals more damage to hard armor. It’s extremely effective, and the 300 Blackout makes the LVAW one highly versatile firearm.
The Low Visibility Assault Weapon
SIG’s LVAW strikes a certain chord with the special operations community, and it comes as little surprise that it’s been seen in the hands of DEVGRU (colloquially known as SEAL Team 6) and Delta commandos. Specifically, it seems to be a very popular weapon for personal security details. General Austin Miller’s bodyguards were seen carrying these firearms in Afghanistan, and it’s easy to see why. They’re small but capable and work well, both in and out of buildings and vehicles.
The LVAW likely won’t ever be a general issue service rifle; it just wasn’t designed to be. However, in its niche, it’s tough to find a better option. It’s a low-issue item used for specific mission sets, and a fascinating design that seems to be popular among the elite of the elite.