And That’s Why They Make Swivel Guns

Look it up: swivel gun. Google should have a few pictures from maritime museums. Try to imagine the fun you could have with your own.

And it’s not just the owners of merchant ships passing the east coast of Africa who might appreciate a brace of ’em. Local boat owners who get sick of other people crowding them out in the marinas…or who are afflicted with saboteurs attacking their vessels while docked. Indeed, the Rottnest ferry would probably benefit as well.

The whalers and fishermen who are pestered by the Sea Shepherd gangsters would also appreciate the devices…after all the maritime nuisances do have a skull and crossbones as a symbol and I think that makes them fair and traditional game for a charge of canister over the taffrail.

For myself, as I do not own a boat, I would settle for just the one…mounted on the driver’s side door of my Suzuki Swift with a friction primer and the lanyard led inside through the window. I would use it in our local shopping centre car park for the drivers who loom up and menace you when you are trying to carefully back in or out. I would not be too mean…perhaps load it with Jaffas instead of grapeshot.

If it’s good enough for Johnny Depp and Geoffry Rush, it’s good enough for me.

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Never Fire With No Target Sense

A long time ago before I was as discrete and wise as I am now…cough, cough, cough…I owned a brand-new muzzle loading rifled musket. It was a beauty, capable of throwing a one-ounce minie ball some 1200 yards. It was a man-killer of the British Army in the 1850’s and was certainly capable of doing it in 1988. The local police were willing to licence it to me, probably not realising what it could do.

Well, I shot it at the local rifle range for months, getting pretty good at short distances. Then I took it to a friend’s farm…legally, as it was on an open license. My friend and I proposed to fire it at a small tree on the farm to see if we could cut it in half with the heavy bullets. After an hour of firing, we succeeded, and then packed it in and sat around smugly.

It was only on my return journey toward the city that I saw the lay of the land and realised that all the bullets that had not impacted in the unfortunate tree had passed whistling over a main road that skirted the property. A main interstate highway…

It is said that heaven protects fools and drunks and I was cold sober all day. Guess which category I belonged in. I learned instantly never to fire with no purpose.

Works the same here in the writing game – if I slope off and just blast away without watching to see where the bullets will land, I am sure to do massive harm. Thus I keep a cooling-off shelf for new articles that allows me to reconsider them before pushing the ” publish ” button. You’ll have missed out on some corkers in the last few years here in the column, but then the overshoot could have been tragic.

My Kinda Social Justice Warrior

I was never much of a fan of revolution until I saw the uniforms. Particularly the ones they gave to the girls. Eugene Delacroix was on the spot to capture the new fashion and I am grateful.

I even approve of the musket, though my experience of the 1777 Charleville .69 calibre arm was mixed. It had a good barrel, and  a convenient set of barrel bands to allow for cleaning, but the stock was woefully short coupled – the French must all have had short arms and tiny physiques. The British Brown Bess was a much more comfortable firearm to use. About the only really clever thing the French did was put a locking ring on the tree-cornered bayonet so that you could withdraw it without having it fall off the barrel.*

The heading image is only part of Delacroix’s painting; ” Liberty Leading The People “- if you google it you’ll get to see the chaps on the lady’s right and the kid with the pistol. The one with the top hat seems to be hefting a blunderbus…which leads one to question who exactly he is, with the fancy clothes and the civilian man-killer. Stagecoach guard? Gamekeeper?

Further to her right is a pirate with a cutlass. He’s also got a pistol aimed at his own goolies.

The kid with the pistol is actually toting two of them, plus an improbably large bag of accessories. It may contain his play lunch.

And they are all climbing over a pile of broken furniture and rubbish. Delacroix has used the caption to suggest a noble purpose for it all, but after looking at this lot, I have come to the conclusion that Liberty is not really leading the people. She’s had a good look at them and is doing her best to get away from them.

I should too. Armed amateurs with no sense of firearms responsibility. Any SSAA range officer would throw ’em out in a minute.

*  When the US Army redesigned the basic musket in 1842 they added more stock and wrist to it and it became a really good battlefield shotgun. But by then the rifled musket was the queen of battle so it was a second-line item.

The Smoking Hole

Or, ” How I Learned The Art of Munitions Defusing From Facebook “.

I don’t blame the manufacturer of the torpedo. They were acting to a government contract and it was wartime and they made a first-class job of the casing and the warhead and the motors. The Navy was a tough customer and they had to satisfy them.

I don’t blame Facebook. After all, that is just a channel. And you have to remember that a  channel can transport shit as well as Shinola, and it is your responsibility to tell the difference.

And really, I cannot blame the people who said to cut the blue wire. They are fine folks, and the fact that none of them have ever defused a Mk 31 is the only thing that disqualifies them from giving advice. If I were to ask them how to fry an egg or chart an aura or howl at the moon I am sure they would be able to help me no end. It is just a case of adjusting the question to the understanding of the listener.

I think, in the end, I must blame myself. I asked people who had no idea what they were talking about to talk, and they did, and I was fool enough to listen. I accepted their bland assurances without checking on whether they were qualified to give them. I’ll just have to backfill the hole, get another workshop, and ask the right people next time.

The Standard Bearer Is The One Who Gets The Bullets

The heading image of this column is the rootin’ tootin’ flutin’ King of Prussia, supposedly striding out ahead of his loyal troops to inspire them. It may have been drawn from fact, or it may just be a German propaganda construct, but it points out the title of our piece admirably. The individual who makes a flag bearer of themselves can attract far more than applause – they can attract lead.

I don’t suppose many of us march into enemy guns these days with flags flying and bayonets charged – though I did just that a couple of decades ago – but we do tend to climb the Facebook ramparts and wave our opinions to attract attention. And in most cases we don’t even have a kingdom to defend by doing it. We appear to be attacking public figures for the sheer joy of it. Fortunately the public figures never notice us and most of the people who do would have no idea how to fire a spud gun, let alone a musket.

The only wounds we suffer are to the ego and the reputation. Grievous hurts, of course, but mostly non-fatal. Friendships crumple up and fall over, and that is perhaps the saddest part of it.

So what to do? I’m sure if you look far enough into Roman and Greek history you’ll find advice to keep yourself from party, as well as from lust or gluttony. If you pay me $200 I’ll tell you what they say about avarice.

I don’t tell people what to think or do – apart from this hectoring column. It is safer not to, and even better if I do not tell them what I think or do either. If it is necessary to throw rocks through their windows after dark it is best not to tell them who is doing the throwing.

Flags do need flying, and causes championed, and virtue signalled – and we can see it every day on our social media feed. But we should glance up at them carefully before we raise the pole. Fred’s got his family and the state on the stick there, and a good many armed Germans behind him – he’ll be fine as long as the French don’t spot him and lay a double canister round his way. Not so our Facebook warriors, who may be flying the flag of many foreign parties – replete with vulgarity and foolish appearance. ” Sharing ” the antics of idiots is allying yourself to them…and sometimes the flag that you think you are hoisting is a disgrace to all.

Note: I could be wrong. Friedrich might have just have taken a snout against his generals and is taking his flag and going home.

Checklist For Anzac Day March

With the recent theatrics of the ” Anti-Australia Day ” march in Melbourne in mind, the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia has prepared a useful checklist for protestors who wish to stage an ” Anti-Anzac Day ” march later in the year. Feel free to download it and add anything that you feel may improve the affair.

a. Remember that it may be a march but it is not in March. Try as you might, you can’t re-write the fact that the assault at Gallipoli really was on April 25. If you come down the main street in town a month early with protest banners and scarves wrapped around your face in anticipation of tear gas, no-one will take any notice of you.

b. When you howl in outrage and curse the 1915 soldiers of the ANZAC you will be safe from retaliation by the original people. They are no more. Their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great etc., are, however, inconveniently alive…in large measure because of the original people’s war service.

That means you are not quite as safe to insult and degrade the memory of old service people as you may think…

c. If you plan to make your protest a step in your political career, be aware that steps can go down as well as up.

d. Likewise, if you plan to make your ” anti ” march a theatre of sexual protest and anti-male propaganda, keep a wary eye out for the ex – servicewomen who are there. If you are too offensive, that eye may collect a fist from one of them…not all aunties are anti.

e. If you plan to complain about the Anzac Day march from the point of view that the Australian forces were harsh to the enemy…well that’s fine. They were, on many occasions, and on a professional basis. That’s why the big chap up the front of the parade is still carrying the Australian flag down the main street of an Australian town a century later…

f. If you plan to protest current wars instead of past ones, remember that you may be seen as espousing the cause of current enemies. If you try to make this clear to all around you with foreign flags and banners, expect unofficial as well as official attention.

g. Don’t wear bogus service medals anywhere on your person during your protest. Not even if you wear them in the correct position. Nothing will earn you more lasting contempt and damaging notoriety.

 

The Sheer Delight Of Setting A Minefield – Part One

HMS ABDIEL, USS TERROR, and the French submarine RUBIS must have been manned by sailors with nerves of steel. They were all mine-layers, and in naval service in WW2. Whenever they sallied forth to do what they got paid for they were chockablock with infernal devices designed to sink ships.  Some of the fields they laid were defensive ones, some offensive, and they all came under fire – indeed ABDIEL was sunk by mines laid by German torpedo boats at Taranto. RUBIS and TERROR survived to old age and the breaker’s yard.

So where does the sheer delight of the title come from? Certainly not out at sea with the Navy and probably not on land with the Army – minefields being bad news for everyone concerned there too. But if you are a civilian in peacetime with nothing but kindness and happiness in your heart, they can be great fun.

All you need are the mines and the targets. They can be actual or virtual; today we deal with the actual. Make sure you select something that is innocent and can be sown with safety. No good setting out dangerous things as that is illegal and can cause you harm. The best choice is books. They are portable, durable, and darned effective.

You can choose books from the entire spectrum of literature, but try to avoid obscene ones – they do no good at all. You can certainly choose controversial, infuriating, sad, dull, or stimulating ones as these all have the desired effect. Economy dictates that if it is a large field you are laying, you must get your mines at a cheap price. Secondhand bookstores are good, but the best of all is the 50¢ public library clear out that happens annually. You can be sure of some top-quality ammunition there, and frequently it is in perfect unread condition.

You must be prepared to launch your mines properly – wrapped up in brown paper parcels with string is the traditional way, though recently a lot of good work has been done with discounted Christmas wrapping. However you encase the mine, it is considered a point of honour to place a label on it forbidding anyone who finds it to open it. This will, of course ensure that they do.

You may also wrap up kitchen utensils that have proven to be ugly or ineffective and sow a field with them – but be aware that using patented vegetable slicers for this purpose will result in someone cutting off the end of a finger in 109% of cases. Do you wish to be responsible for this deplorable consequence…? Think well…

Wrapping decorative objects like ugly vases or souvenir teacups is a variation on the theme that can play very well if the field is sown in the right place. It might be thought difficult to find someone who would be distressed at finding a carved junk figure from Bali in a brown paper wrapping but they are out there – art societies are a good target. If you can succeed in placing the Hello Kitty or Bali object on their own shelves so that it is in full view of others…and eventually of themselves…the shock, horror, and indignant embarrassment is all that one could wish for.

Occasionally you will lay a mine that is a dud. The thing is never opened and just thrown out with the rubbish. Or is spoiled by the rain. Accept a certain percentage of failure philosophically. You’ll also have to accept the situation where the mine is successfully laid, discovered, opened, and then delights the victim. You’ll have to resign yourself to having made someone happy and just move on.

Next post: The virtual mine.