Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wisdom to Help Prepare for Adversity

The Storm: Ageless Wisdom to Help Prepare for Adversity
From Energy, Money, and Your Future by Vern Meyers

By now we must have arrived at the conclusion that there can be but one end to the present worldwide inflation. That is a collapse of the value of money followed by a collapse in the quantity of money (deflation). Such a collapse usually comes in the form of an exponential curve, rising rather swiftly to a crescendo near the end. We do not know exactly where we stand on this graph today, and there is no means by which we can predict the time of the final blowoff.

But it is not always necessary to predict time. It is often enough for us merely to know that a thing will happen, without exactly knowing when.

Among my earliest memories are memories of the storm. It was a small frame house of perhaps 500 square feet and it sat alone (so it seemed to me) on a vast and endless plain. Far beyond my known horizons lay a town. And in that town you could – if you had money – buy coal and lamp oil, sugar, even some preserves. The town was a reality only when the weather was right. It was a day’s journey. We were as far from the town, in time, as Los Angeles from London.

When the deep winter set in, when the storms came, the town might as well have been London. Anything you needed from the town must have been laid in store long before the storm. You knew the storm would come. And you took it for granted. And you laid in the store of goods, with such resources of money as you had.
Long, long before any sign of snow we were getting ready for the storm. The early frosts brought us to our knees, plucking potatoes from the soil, pouring buckets of red spuds into sacks, and storing these in the dark cellar. There was canning of beans and beets; and even peaches – if we could afford them from the town. As the frosty mornings moved in, and long before the daylight, I could hear the rattle of the wagon as my father set out for the mine to lay in the winter’s store of coal.

When it was all done, it was a pretty safe feeling. There was oil for the lamps, sacks of flour and sugar, dried prunes and raisins. The chicken house had been thatched; the hens were comfortable on the straw. The cows were in the nearby pasture. The barn was ready. When it was all done we read by the evening lamp. And we didn’t worry. We knew the storm would come. We didn’t have to know what day. And we didn’t worry.

When, at length, the sky grew black in mid-afternoon and the wind began to whistle round the eaves and the temperature started to drop we were almost glad. The snow fell. The winds howled. The darkness settled, and the drifts piled high. So high, sometimes, that a boy could not see over them. Even when it went to twenty degrees below, forty degrees below, and the chill factor stood at minus ninety degrees so that three minutes would freeze your nose off, we made our quick trips, as necessary, to the well and the barn. The warm milk was in the pails. The pot-bellied stove glowed it’s heat. And as the storm increased in fury, my father would say: ‘Let her come. We were here first.’ He would say it on the third day, and if need be, say it on the tenth day: ‘Let her come. We were here first.’

The storm always blew out. And the sun shone again. And eventually there was spring. Had we not known the storm was coming, of course, we should have perished. I feel very strongly that we have had all the signals we could ask for in predicting the monetary and economic storm. Already the skies in the north are black, and the winds are rising. The temperature is dropping. This may be a preliminary storm, or it might be the big one. On the farm we didn’t worry if the storm came a little later than we expected. The important thing was to be ready for it. It came when it came. Why should we wish it before it came? Or why should we conclude that because it had not yet arrived, it would not happen at all?

We are now entering the period of winter. If we are ready for it, we need not fret, nor hope that it will happen tomorrow, nor hope sooner or later; because we have no control. Our situation is simply this: To the best of our financial and economic ability we have stocked our cellar, boarded up our house, and we might as well relax. ‘Let her come. We were here first.’

And now we must touch on the most unpleasant possibility of all. That is virtual revolution in the United States.

This book is concerned with the end of an era. That means the end of an era of permissiveness, the end of an era of the spoilage of people, the end of an era of credit and waste, the end of an era of something for nothing, the end of an era to buy now and pay later, the end of an era of dependence on someone else.

Americans aged forty years and younger have become so accustomed to the idea that the country owes them at least a living that the withdrawal of this presumed privilege could result in widespread rioting across the nation. Empty bellies produce inflamed minds. When it comes to considering the possibility of violent protest, it’s difficult to project either the upper or the lower limits. The lower limits could be rioting throughout the large cities. The upper limits could be organized revolution.

In preparation for the time that will inevitably fall upon us – sooner or later – every man must rely upon his own imagination, his own projection, and his own initiative. You will be able to come up with your own solutions particularly applicable to your personal conditions in the storm. One thing is certain. You will see the collapse of this inflation and that will mean the end of the era you have known. But you and your country can still be saved.

The storm can be weathered.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Desert Tactical Arms: DTSS Sound Suppressor

Desert Tactical Arms DTSS Titanium Sound Supressor

Desert Tactical Arms developed the DTSS (Desert Tactical Sound Suppressor) to enhance accuracy, repeatability, and minimize impact shift between suppressed and unsuppressed fire. Testing shows consistent accuracy improvements of nearly 0.25 MOA when shooting with a DTSS. The full titanium construction make the DTSS the lightest .338 caliber silencer on the planet, It weighs only 1.15 lb! We offer both steel and titanium suppressors.

The DTSS Silencer conveniently installs over the SRS-QD Brake. The baffle design tightens the Suppressor as gases impact the baffles which prevents the Suppressor from loosening during high volume fire. Many competitors use a ratcheting lock to prevent their cans from loosening. Distance between ratchet teeth allows minor play even when tightened, which will degrade accuracy.

DTSS are available in .30 and .338 Caliber options and provide a high-to-low compatibility feature that allows the .338 caliber suppressor to attach to both .338 and .30 caliber muzzle brakes and prevents the .30 caliber suppressor from accidentally being installed on a .338 caliber muzzle brake.

In testing the DTSS, we first fired a three shot group unsuppressed with muzzle brake that measured .403" shown in top group. We then attached suppressor and impact shifted down 3" no horizontal shift the suppressed three shot group size .223"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Desert Tactical Arms and Sniper Country

Real World Precision Shooting Sniper Training

You all might remember my comments on the Desert Tactical Arms SRS and how impressed I was with its portability, ergonomics, and most importantly, accuracy. Both the .308 and the 338 Lapua were remarkable and I cleared the plates at 500 meters without any difficulty.

Me and the DT SRS .308

Now, the President of Desert Tactical Arms Nicholas Young,  has created a school for precision sniper training. See the following:

Sniper Country Grand Opening

We are pleased to announce the grand opening of Sniper Country Training Center. Sniper Country was founded February of 2011, by Nicholas Young, President of Desert Tactical Arms. Sniper Country was created to provide a place for shooters and operators from around the world to come and obtain world-class firearms instruction that incorporates real-life scenarios, induces stress and make you a better fighter not just a better shooter.

About Sniper Country


The 55,000 acre training facility incorporates numerous shooting ranges that take advantage of natural terrain features that include high angle shooting, high altitude ranges, Known and Unknown distance ranges with distances from 25 yards to 3500 yards, moving targets, flat ranges, rock climbing, land navigation, all terrain vehicle training, and in all four weather seasons. And best of all premium lodging and food are provided with every class!


On staff instructors are credentialed US military snipers with real combat experience. The course curricula were developed around their experience as snipers and from real world operations.


Basic, intermediate, and advanced level courses are available so whether you are a novice shooter or a hard-core credentialed sniper you will benefit from the knowledge and experience available at Sniper Country.

How to Sign Up

Courses start May 28, 2011. Please visit the Sniper Country Training website to sign up for classes today!

Sniper Country Training

Kyle Craemer, Former Chief Scout U.S.M.C., General Manager can be reached at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Getting a Contracting Job

Getting a contracting job in Afghanistan or the Middle East!
© 2011 Albert A Rasch and
The Range Reviews: Tactical"
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So You Want to be a Contractor

Recently I recieved a very polite email from a young man desiring to become a contractor out here in Afghanistan. He had found several of my posts on Afghanistan and US Government contracting and got in touch with me with some very good questions. I thought it would be interesting to discuss it and perhaps help a few of you out with some pointers.

He wrote:
"I wanted to write to tell you that I've been reading great stories of your life in Afghanistan for the past few days, and I need a sort of mentor to ask a few questions. I stumbled upon your treasure trove of knowledge at just the right time in my life it seems."

(Obviously a man of good breeding and impecable taste...)

"I was wondering if you have any specific tips on how to get HR to notice my resume at DynCorp from the piles of other applicants. I was also curious about your motivations for going over there, how you got your first position, and how bearable the company is to work for.... I have no problem going with the flow. Anyways, I'd love to hear back from you and hope to buy you a beer in the future! Keep up the writing, and stay safe!"

Getting to Afghanistan

Let's get down to the brass tacks of getting out here. First of all accept any job offer, from anyone, for any amount of money.

The reason for that is that getting here is the toughest part of the whole thing. If you don't know anyone in a position to help you, you are pretty much at the mercy of job listings on places like DynCorp, Fluor, Aecom, KBR, etc; and as you have noted, getting noticed is very hard. Now, you're a Chemist, so that's close enough to a bug control man as anything else. That's Vector Control so look that up. There is also ROWPU; (reverse osmosis water purification unit) those contraptions need a tech damn near mounted on them. Look that up. You have to apply for everything you remotely qualify for, and maybe ones that you don't, so don't turn your nose up at, for instance, a force protection gig. (Think highly paid Mall Security guard that gets shot at occasionally.) These jobs get you out here where you can establish relationships with other contractors and the Military. That in turn gets you on the inside of the machine. It's all about the relationships.

I got here initially on a connection. The second time on my own. It was miserable trying to get back, but options started opening up after a few weeks. That was a lesson well learned. Now I always have a back-up job close at hand, and a stack of current connections. Just in case.

If you can get an oportunity to be sponsored for a clearence job, TAKE IT! A clearence is worth whatever bullshit you may have to put up with. It can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year to get your final status, but believe you me, it is worth it. So keep that in mind.

Once you're in Afghanistan

Being away from home, family, and friends can be tough. You may or may not have internet, phones, or even a post office. Coffee sucks, and you have to take malaria pills. But in the end,  YOU determine how well your time is spent here. If you stay positive, turn adversity into a learning experience, expect NOTHING and be surprised when you get something, you'll do well here. If on the other hand you piss and moan about the company you work for, the lousy mattress, the food, dust, bugs, or anything else you don't like, AND don't do anything about it, you will hate it here, be miserable, and likely get fired for being a POS. Let me tell you something and try to remember this, don't come here and be THAT guy that everybody hates because he pisses and moans about everything. If you do that, you won't be able to deal, and your stay will be very short and very uncomfortable. (It's ok to be the guy that everybody hates because you're always positive, because they really don't hate you, they're just jealous!)

And another thing, there are plenty of bad asses here. If you are one, great. If your not, don't act like one because you will be called on the carpet over it and at best loose a few teeth or at worse loose a few teeth and go home. Keep quiet at first, if you can, and learn the ropes. If I managed to keep all my teeth, and earn a little respect, then anyone can.

Overseas Jobs and Recruiters

Getting your resume noticed by recruiters is probably the hardest thing next to trying to build the pyramids out of paper mache and flour glue. Remember, for any given job, there will be hundreds if not a thousand and then some applicants. Unless it is a job that is naturally self limiting like ummm, Environmental Chemistry. Can't be that many ECs that want to suck dust in a God foresaken corner of the world.

Search carefully for references or contacts to recruiters while job hunting. If you get a name then by golly use it. Start with a polite email and back it up with as many phone calls as it takes to get in touch with the recruiter. Have a plan or script in hand with what you want to say. But be flexible; you just don't know what job listings they are trying to fill that day.

Once you have a good prospect, be diligent and don't be afraid to contact them regularly and check in with them. Make your communiques brief and professional, but make sure they remember you.

If you haven't done so already, make sure you go to my article What Do You Need as a Contractor and go through the checklist.

Please feel free to email me, or ask questions on the comment area and I will be happy to expand on the subject.

Related posts:
What Does a Contractor Need in Afghanistan?

Best Regards,
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
In Afghanistan™

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mexico's Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth

The 90% Myth of Mexico's Gun Supply
STRATFOR has kindly given me permission to print the following:

Mexico's Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth
By Scott Stewart

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

By the Numbers

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).
According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.

Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.

This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.

Types and Sources of Guns

To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.

Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico

The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380, .38 Super and .38 Special.

A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. It is not uncommon to see .38 Super pistols seized from cartel figures (a caliber that is not popular in the United States), and many of these pistols are of Mexican origin. Likewise, cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.

It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.

Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.

Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico

Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.

When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.

One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.

Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.

The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.

This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.

In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.

But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.

There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.

To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.

There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.

Mexico's Gun Supply and the 90 Percent Myth is republished with permission of STRATFOR.