Vanderboegh: M14 - The Three Hundred Meter War
M14: The Three Hundred Meter War
A Chapter of 'Absolved'
by Mike Vanderboegh
Written to the tune of The Connaughtman's Rambles by the Irish Descendants
It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions. This is not so. God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of the best shots. -- Voltaire, Notebooks
"One-Shot Paddy": 25 years before the Battle of Sipsey Street
In Ireland many years ago or so the legend says
Saint Patrick roamed the hills and glens to drive the snakes away,
But now we have another saint that’s bad news for the crown
His name is “One Shot Paddy” and it’s Brits that he will hound!
In the Wild Irish Rose pub on Long Street in Columbus, Ohio, the band was off tempo and the lead singer off key, but they mor e than made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in musical skill. The pub crowd didn't mind. The drunks howled along with the band, making electronic surveillance impossible, so Sean McGrory didn't mind in the least.
The American opposite him at the table didn't mind either.
The Brits are getting worried they’ve all gone underground
If ‘One Shot Paddy’ sees them they know they’re going down
So the next time that you see the Brits with their faces full of fright
Look out for ‘One Shot Paddy’ and his friend called Eamon Wright!
"That wouldn't be you, they're singing about, would it?" the American asked, wondering for the tenth time why he was here.
"Yeah. We're all One-Shot Paddy's these days, the one's who are still alive." The accent was harsh, nasal and Belfast all over. The American didn't know a heck of a lot about the Irish but he knew that. He took the double jigger of Bushmills and dropped it into the pint. Then he grabbed the mug and tossed some down. Beejeezus! No wonder the Irish kill each other.
"So, you asked me here," said the American, "how can I help you?"
Through the hills of South Armagh this gallant hero roams
He’ll wander through the countryside he likes to call his home,
And when he finds a target he will quietly take his aim,
It is then that you will hear the crack and the Brits know who’s to blame!
McGrory didn't hesitate. The American had been referred to him by a local NORAID fundraiser, and vetted by people McGrory trusted. He'd spent plenty of time on the ragged edge of gun running and usually could sniff a set-up. This seemed straight-up, but . . .
The Brits are getting worried they’ve all gone underground
If ‘One Shot Paddy’ sees them they know they’re going down
So the next time that you see the Brits with their faces full of fright
Look out for ‘One Shot Paddy’ and his friend called Eamon Wright!
"I hear you have some items we might find useful."
"A buddy of yours said you're looking for specific hardware. We met at the Ohio Gun Collectors Association Show where I have a regular table. I had a copy of Guerrilla Days in Ireland by Tom Barry I was reading and I guess he keyed on that. We started talking Irish history and politics, and the next thing I know, I get invited to a NORAID benefit."
So if you’re home at night and the newsflash it is red,
Your man from South Armagh’s at work – another soldier dead,
And when it comes to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day cheer,
Remember ‘One Shot Paddy’ and the gallant IRA!
The American looked up at the band, then continued, "Of course, I was smart enough not to go. I figure, hey, if you're needing what he hinted you're needing, we don't want to do our meeting and greeting where the FBI hangs out, right?"
The Brits are getting worried they’ve all gone underground
If ‘One Shot Paddy’ sees them they know they’re going down
So the next time that you see the Brits with their faces full of fright
Look out for ‘One Shot Paddy’ and his friend called Eamon Wright!
McGrory smiled and nodded. "That's right, Yank. Too bloody well right. Ever since George Harrison got pinched in '81, its been pretty tough to transport armaments from the US. And with the seizure of the Marita Ann last month, it's been tougher still. We still get arms from Libya, but their Kalashnikovs are shite fer snipin'. We need something with more range and power."
"Yeah," agreed the American, "I heard about the boat. How much did you lose?"
The band started another song, something ripped off of the Wolfe Tones. They did it as badly and as loudly as One-Shot Paddy.
"Seven bloody TONS. Rifles, pistols, submachine guns, ammunition, explosives. All of it collected in Boston. W e used Boston cops as guards, did ye know? They were always loyal Irishmen before. The FBI put out that they used some bloody great electronic eavesdroppin' on us, even claimed they followed us by satellite, but it was really the old story."
"What's that?" the American half-shouted over the band.
"Paid spies and informers. One of them's not goin' home to mother, I can tell ye. But seven bloody TONS! What we coulda done with that lot." He looked the American in the eyes and the Yank returned his challenging gaze without a blink.
So what was that, the American wondered, a warning not to double cross him? Like I needed it. I may not have ever been across the Atlantic, but I'm not stupid enough to cross the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Still, if he's worried about me double-crossing him, maybe that means he's not going to double back on me either. Maybe. There was a large part of the American that didn't want to be here in the first place.
The Provo continued, "So we're doing this next a bit different, is all." He didn't elaborate, but it meant smaller loads, precise scheduling, moving through different ports of exit and entry. He continued, "What we want are small packages of arms suitable for sniping at distance, with telescopic sights, range finders, binoculars, support equipment, ammunition all included, ready to deliver to the boys at the front."
"I heard you're partial to Armalite 180s," observed the American, "or AR15s."
"Aye, we were. Prefered the Armalites over the Colts. Nothin' beats that foldin' stock fer slidin' it under a coat. But we need more range. The Brits and the Ulsters mostly use SA80s now and they can cover us up with fire. In order to get within the killin' range of an Armalite or a Colt, we've gotta get within killin' range of them. We don't have the ammunition stocks to match 'em round for round, nor the numbers. We've got to shoot and scoot. One shot, one kill, home to mother by supper and I'll see yer friends tomorrow. They own the battlefield out to 300 meters. What we want is something that out-ranges and out-penetrates the 5.56mm round. Something in 7.62 NATO or bigger. Something that can punch through their bloody body armor or the sides of a Rover."
"I thought Tom Barry said you didn't have to be a crack shot at seven yards -- if you were close enough to grab them by the belt buckle," offered the American.
McGrory looked at the American sharply, plainly angered. "Try it sometime Yank. Try it. Tom Barry didn't have to deal with SA80s and body armor and Kevlar helmets. And he never sprang an ambush where he didn't have local superiority in numbers. The problem with grabbin' the Brits by the belt buckles is gettin' 'em to stand still while you run up and do it. If fookin' Tom Barry had been in my boots, he'd-a been dead by now. That's what I know about bloody legendary Tom Barry."
The American nodded. "OK. OK. Our interests coinci de, as they say. I know just what you need, and I can provide it. Not in great numbers and only this once. I don't do it free either. I can't say I believe in your cause all that much. You guys are still socialists, right?"
"Nothing. I just gave all that up when somebody talked some sense into me."
"Yer an American, you can afford to be a bloody capitalist. What I want before economic justice is my country back from a foreign occupier. You'd be a pretty poor Yank if you didn't believe in that."
"Oh, I don't say that the British have a right to be there, they don't. But the bombings . . ."
McGrory cut him off. "I'm not a bomber. I'm a soldier. The only people I've killed were the soldiers of a foreign power standing on my homeland. I'm not wantin' to buy explosives from you, I'm wantin' yer bloody rifles. And I'll pay. Rory told you that much."
The American nodded. "OK. OK. Look, I'll do it for retail plus ten p ercent, and that's as close to charity as I can get. You get a bargain from me now because I'm getting out of the business. My wife's divorcing me and I need every penny I can raise. So think of this as a fire sale. Unless you steal the rifles, you'll never get a better deal. And don't expect another. I'm done after this."
The Provisional IRA man nodded. It was a better deal than he had hoped, even if the American had pissed him off with his compromisable scruples. Sean had some questions though. "What type of rifle?"
"M1A's in 7.62 NATO, the civilian version of the M14 battle rifle, five 20 round magazines each, with Leatherwood ART scopes and mounts suitable for firing at Camp Perry matches."
The Irishman looked puzzled. Ah, thought the American. "That's Bisley matches to you. High power rifle competition."
Sean McGrory nodded his comprehension.
"Plus, let me think," the American paused, "ah, 3200 rounds of M-118 special ball match ammunition, in boxes not stripper clips. That's sixteen cans at 200 rounds per can, four cans to a wire-bound wooden crate, plus another crate of 800 rounds of AP. That's five crates total. I have five rifles and that will give you 800 rounds per rifle. Ought to be plenty to get them sighted in and operational. I'll throw in some repair parts and springs , not a lot but enough. Cleaning kits. I don't have a stock of binoculars or spotting scopes, but I can give you a list of makes and models that will work best with the rifles. You can get them at sporting goods stores anywhere in the States. Surely you've got some locals who can pick them up without drawing suspicion?"
The Provo nodded. This was truly better than he had hoped.
"How much and when can I take delivery?"
The American told h im. It was cheap at twice the price asked, and he could get them headed to Mexico in three days. That gave him plenty of time to check out a contact that had been given him in Texas. The Texan was supposed to have Barrett M82 fifty caliber sniping rifles for sale. If the new smuggling scheme held up, there would be a bumper crop of One-Shot Paddys in South Armagh in three months or so. It was so good a deal, that he decided to sweeten the pot.
"I'll give ye a thousand dollar bonus on the deal if ye can have them to me in 48 hours."
The American grinned. "Sure, it'll just go the lawyers anyway. Every little bit helps." He looked up to see the barmaid headed their way. "You got the tip?"
"Sure as the mornin'."
"OK, I'm going to the john and then out the back door. You've got my contact number. Call it tomorrow and confirm the cash, and I'll get you a rendezvous, which then will get you an escort to the pickup point. You come personally, with only one other friend. Remember, I'm not going to screw with you so don't you try to screw with me. I don't want to piss off the IRA, but I won't be hijacked either. OK?"
Sean McGrory, which wasn't his real name, grinned. "Up the Republic!" he toasted as he held up what was left of his Guiness & Bushmills "Gelign ite cocktail."
"Hell, yes," agreed the American, "Up yours and up mine!" The Irishman laughed, and kept laughing.
I guess he did get the double entendre, thought the American. And without another word, he walked to the rear of the bar. When he hit the john door, somebody was puking out his Irish whiskey -- probably a Jamesons' drinker-- so he kept on going out the back, the thick-armed bouncer nodding goodnight.
When he hit the street, he sucked in the fresh, bitter cold air.20God, he wanted a cigarette. What a time to quit. So he glanced about, and then did what he always did these days when the urge came on him. He took a pen from his pocket and stuck it in his mouth, gripping it in his teeth. A nicotine baby pacifier, he snorted to himself. Then, seeing no one, he cut down the alley, stepped over a drunk by the dumpster and made it to his car a block and a half away. No one followed him.
Kraut Mueller started his beat up Pontiac station wagon and pointed it toward his new home-away-from-home, a roach infested apartment in the University district. His soon-to-be-ex-wife, he knew, was asleep in the arms of her newly-discovered "soul mate" in the place Kraut had paid for -- and was likely to continue paying for -- for some time. He no longer cared about that. He did care deeply about his six-year-old son who was sleeping in the room next to theirs.
As he drove, he pondered the tactical lessons imparted by the Provo gun runner while he hummed "One-Shot Paddy."
The three hundred meter war.
"A decided ballistic advantage": Ten years later, on a ranch near Denton, Texas.
Kraut Mueller looked over at the label to the right and slightly above his head on the OD canvas wall. "Tent, General Purpose, Medium." Then he scanned the men seated informally on folding chairs and cots scattered about. Most wore BDU woodland camo, some were the same uniforms they had worn on active duty. Kraut had never been in the military and he felt decidedly at a a disadvantage. He wasn't a veteran. Yeah, he'd been shot at. Peo ple had tried to kill him. But he had never been a soldier in the service of his country as most of these men had been. His camouflage was jeans and a plaid shirt.
No, he had not been a soldier. He HAD been a traitor to his country during the same war that some of these men were veterans of. He had been, he knew, a traitor to THEM, not that he was going to brag about it here. He had been a communist and an urban guerrilla in the making before Dr. Richter had saved him from that insanity. And even after he had recovered from his "Benedict Arnold period" as he called it, he had been a two bit gun runner for a while. Battle rifles to the Provos, M-2 carbines to the marijuanos. Playing with rearming hand grenades and selling them to Mexican pot growers as booby-traps -- the transactions always made on THIS side of the border in the desert outside Tucson where his cousin tended bar. It was good money but stupid stuff, while his young son grew and his marriage had eroded around him. But that was all many years B.C. now.
But perhaps because he was unconventional in his experience, he could see essential things that the others, steeped in the by-the-book of military experience apparently did not. The question was, could he get it across to them? Could he make a difference?
The truth was that the enormity of the responsibility they had undertaken was beyond any of their experiences. What they were grasping at without really knowing how, was to recreate citizens' militias in their individual states in a fashion that was practical, do-able on slim resources and yet would be recognizable to the Founders, and most importantly, EFFECTIVE. What they were about was fashioning a credible deterrent to the Clintonistas, and in doing so they were trying to build a brick wall with little straw and not much mud. They were trying, in fact, to rebuild the Founders' concept of armed civic republicanism after more than a century of disuse.
Hell, what we're talking about doing here in practical terms is forcing the federal government to back down, to desist from further depredations of life and liberty. And after Ruby Ridge and Waco, everybody understood the costs of failure. They were undertaking, in public, to . . . how was it that somebody had put it? . . . yeah, that's it, to "shake their guns in the tyrant's face."
Well, when you do that, you had better be a credible deterent. Because if you aren't, the tyrant just stomps you dead and goes about his business. So what constituted deterrence?
Nobody knew what they were exactly, but the press accounts made it pretty plain there were hundreds of thousands of us, at least, maybe a million, maybe millions. Let there be millions, Kraut silently prayed. What was it Clausewitz had said? "In military affairs, quanitity has a quality all its own." Well, we are no longer that fabled "nation of riflemen," but we are a nation with riflemen. Count the deerhunters, William Jefferson Clinton. Count them and tremble. Numbers we got. But numbers weren't everything. Sometimes numbers weren't anything at all.
Deterrence was also made credible by resources, logistics, by the capability of the weapons wielded, and the ability to sustain them in the field -- ammo, fuel, even beans and rice.
Kraut was no soldier, nor even an ex-soldier, but he was a student of military history, logistics and weapons. And we're mighty thin on all of those. No air cover, no artillery, no armor, no integral supporting heavy infantry weapons -- no mortars, machine guns, hand grenades -- all those things that the veterans had taken for grant ed when fighting as part of the greatest army with the largest logistical tail and technological prowess of any ever seen. All of which were forbidden to them as citizens by law or else closely restricted.
When he had raised these concerns earlier in the day someone had countered, "If we fight, we fight as guerrillas and we won't need all those things. We'll live off the weapons and supplies we sieze."
"You're presupposing," Kraut had shot back, "that we have the ability to seize anything."
There were men and women who were attracted to the constitutional militia movement who did worry about logistics, at least, but many were infected with the survivalism bug. They had stocked up beans and bullets in out-of-the-way places, worried as much about societal collapse as government tyranny. But running and hiding at the first shot was not a plan for victory, Kraut knew. He tried to tell such folks as he came across, people who were making preparations but were too frightened to train openly -- too afraid of exposing the existence of their carefully hoarded caches to engage in the business end of civic republicanism -- that they would merely end up doling out their precious supplies to those who did. Join, train, grow stronger by association and the power and example of numbers, he had urged them. Then your logistical preparations can be defended. Maybe, they won't even be necessary.
His words, he knew, had fallen on mostly deaf ears. Some people, he had found, not only took counsel of their fears, they hid BEHIND their fears.
OK, so you worked with what you had. So what do we have? We have millions of rifles and we have will.
Will -- which flowed from the combination of the natural anger at bad governmental behavior and the fear that it could happen to all of us. Outrage. Yes, we have that to burn. But that was a fickle thing, Kraut knew. Evanescent. A candle burning brightly but subject to the guttering puff of the first strong wind.
In the end, will was a by-product not only of belief but of military ability -- of competence at the business end of resistance -- and of that they had . . . not so much. Almost none, in fact. Which was why these men were gathered here in this tent, at one of the first national meetings of militia leaders in the country. These were not, for the most part, the posturers and the speech makers, the "militia generals" and conspiracy loons. Those were at=2 0the meeting aplenty, to be sure. But they were, at the moment, outside this guarded tent in the middle of the encampment, speechifying and comparing Trilateralist and Bilderberger notes in heated conversations, selling videotapes and Spotlight subscriptions to one another.
These men, on the other hand, were the unit builders, the trainers, here to hash out the doctrine, strategy and tactics of armed civic republicanism in the last decade of the bloody 20th century, at a time when 99 percent of their fellow citizens could not have told you what that phrase meant. These were the serious men, the practical men, and for every one of them, there were a hundred likeminded leaders scattered across the country who would pay attention to what was said here. Folks who would read what was posted on the Internet about it, sift it according to their own experience, judge it, discuss it with their people and internalize what made sense in their own field training exercises and practice.
"'Well regulated' mea ns standardized," one of the men from Michigan was saying. "We all ought to adopt a common rifle and caliber." He was immediately interrupted from three sides.
"According to whose standard?"
"All my guys are poor volunteers, some of them don't even have deer rifles, just shotguns."
"No, he's right, we ought to standardize on ARs and 5.56 like the military."
"Just about every guy I've got has a different weapon. How do I make them upgrade?"
"Yeah?" challenged someone else, "Who's going to buy them? Uncle Sugar ain't going to reimburse you the thousand dollars it takes to find an AR these days. And he's not going to buy your ammo either."
"All right," said the Wolverine, "then make it SKS's, AK's and the common caliber of 7.62x39. Everybody can afford an SKS."
Half of the men groaned or rolled their eyes. Separate arguments broke out over the eternal gunnie question of 5.56mm versus 7.62x39. AR's were more accurate, AK's were more reliable. What did you want? It was like the old beer commercial. Great taste or less filling? And then there was the corollary dispute, .45 vs. 9mm. And, as if to suggest they didn't have enough to argue about, somebody else brought that up at that moment too. There were many passionate opinions and no compromise was possible. Noise filled the tent.
"GUYS!" a big booming voice cut through the chatter. They all turned toward the big bald headed guy from New Mexico. "We're here to hammer out a common plan. Arguing about caliber is a waste of time because we'll never agree. Let's get back to what we CAN agree on. And you," pointing at the guy who had brought up the merits of .45 vs. 9mm, "I can answer that question."
Squirming at the attention of every man in the tent, the guy from Kansas said, "Uh, OK, how?"
The big New Mexican grinned. "Because I've been shot with both and .45 hurts worse."
The tent exploded in laughter.
"You tell him, Bob!"
Kraut Mueller liked the New Mexican. He had a command presence, a head on his shoulders and little tolerance for horseshit and wishful thinking.
It was decided that standardization, while desirable as a goal, would be left up to individual units to implement, or not, given their own resources. Of course, that was the way it was with just about everything they discussed. Militiafolk were by nature irascible, independent and opinionated. Trying to get them to move in a common direction was like trying to herd cats and chickens at the same time. It could be done, but the least you would get for your trouble was exhaustion and a migraine.
Kraut knew what he'd pick, if asked. When he spoke later with Bob and some of his guys, he told them.
"George S. Patton said the M1 Rifle was the best battle implement ever devised, but that was only because he died before they refined it into the M14. It is absolutely reliable, it is accurate with iron sights and it is hard-hitting. Most importantly, it outranges the standard weapons of our likely antagonists, the federal police agencies. What are they armed with? ARs and MP5 submachineguns. The 5.56mm slightly outranges the 7.62x39 in practical terms, so with an SKS or an AK you've got to get well inside his fire envelope before your fire begins to tell on him."
Kraut paused. He still had their attention, although a couple of foreheads were starting to wrinkle up in argument.
"I met a guy one time who clued me in about trying to fight a superior force with weapons that had the same practical ranges as your enemies. He was a Provo IRA man over here on an arms buying mission and bought M1A's from me. He was real happy to get them. Why? Because the 7.62 NATO outranges the 5.56 by a considerable distance and hits harder when it gets there at any range. And yeah, I know, long range target shooters are getting great results with heavy 5.56 bullets at long ranges, but they're only punching paper, not a man in helmet and body armor firing back at you." Kraut paused again. He could see the words of objection forming. Before they could speak, he continued.
"Sean taught me about two things. The Gelignite Cocktail, which is a double of Bushmills dropped into a pint of Guinness Stout Ale," a couple of the militiamen laughed at that, "and the Three Hundred Meter War. If this comes to shooting, God forbid, it's those three hundred meters you've got to worry about. Nothing is more demoralizing than being harried and bloodied by an enemy you cannot touch. Somebody who shoots and scoots and is gone when you get to where he was. Now that doesn't mean you're not going to close with the enemy. You must. After you driven him to distraction and got him jumpy and going in ten directions at once then concentrate and STRIKE. But even then, what is the harm in carrying the fight to the enemy with a weapon that punches harder than his at any range? A weapon that will penetrate cover better than his. A weapon that is more reliable than his."
"But the AK . . ." one of the men blurted out.
"Yeah, I know the Kalashnikov is even more reliable than the M14. And it's cheaper, and ammo's cheaper and it's what most of us have got. That or an SKS. I own both. So do most of my guys back in Alabama. But we're still just getting together now, trying to get our heads around a problem that only reared its ugly head two years ago at Waco. And I'll concede the point that a man who knows20how to go prone and shoot a $69 SKS with iron sights at practical combat ranges is a greater asset to his unit than somebody with a $2,000 scope-sighted trophy who can't the broad side of a barn without a table and bench, doping the wind and a significant amount of prayer."
"Look," said Kraut, "have any of you read John Plaster's The Ultimate Sniper that came out a couple of years ago?"
"Sure," said a tall sandy-haired fellow from West Texas.
"OK, maybe you'll remember this. I carry it around in my wallet because I'm always having this argument."
As he spoke, Mueller reached around, produced his wallet, slipped a much folded piece o f paper out of it and put his wallet back in his jeans' pocket. He began to read.
"A term cited repeatedly in this book is 'ballistic advantage,' the great benefit you have over potential opponents due to your .308's performance. I coined this term so snipers could clearly understand that at ranges beyond 400 yards, their rifles are inherently more accurate, more powerful, and more lethal than the assault rifles carried by their adversaries. At shorter ranges, an assault rifle's large magazine capacity and high rate of fire give an opponent the advantage. Therefore, think of yourself like a long-armed boxer who keeps his foes at arm's length, where you can pound him and exploit this great advantage. Equally, realize that allowing your foe to come within close range brings mortal danger. Since this is an advantage inherent with the ballistics of these respective rounds, let's examine those relationships exactly. Our first data box compares .308 Federal Match bullet energy against the energy of Soviet Type PS 7.62mm 123 grain and 5.45mm 53-grain rounds fired from an AKM assault rifle . . . From the muzzle, the .308 has approximately two times the energy of its competi tors -- meaning it will strike with twice the force, penetrate media to about twice the depth, and so on. But as we go farther out, the advantage of the .308's heavier boat-tail bullet actually becomes even greater. By the time you're at 600 yards, it's hitting with about four times the force. To keep this in perspective, realize that the AKM rounds generate much less energy at 600 yards than a mere 9mm does at the muzzle, which is about 350 foot pounds . . . Next consider the drift advantage you have when it comes to a 10 MPH crosswind, shown in the next box. Again, the advantage is immediate but becomes more profound with distance. . ."
Kraut paused to clear his scratchy throat. One of the New Mexicans handed him a canteen and he up-ended it with a big swig, only to find it was full of Jameson's Irish Whiskey. He gagged, and whiskey came out his nose and ran down his chin. Choking and sputtering, he gasped "Water!" and another canteen was handed him. This delighted Bob's boys, who leaped up to slam him on the back (which only made things worse) and to call out insults like, "What's the matter, Alabama, never had Irish whisky before?"
"I . . I told you," he wheezed, "I'm a Bushmills man." Then he coughed again. "I never drink any alleged whiskey that comes out of a round bottle."
For the uninitiated, Bushmills' Irish Whiskey, the nectar of the pagan gods of the Celts, comes in a square bottle.
Looking around through tearing eyes, he realized it had been a set-up. "You dirty bastards . . ."
"No, no," they demurred, denying culpability, laughing while trying to appear penitent at the same time. "Go on. Go on."
He looked at the folded xerox and his eyes still teared, unable to focus. Finally, he was able to. Where was I? Oh, yeah.
Again, the advantage is immediate but becomes more profound with distance. . . By the time the AKM 7.62 round has traveled 400 yards, it has blown fully two body lengths off target. Imagine your foe 'guesstimating' when firing 500 or more yards into the wind or shooting against a stiffer crosswind. A round's bullet path tracks its descent from the instant it exits a=2 0muzzle aimed parallel to the earth and indicates the amount a shooter must hold high when firing at longer distances. Here the advantage over a 7.62x39mm is obvious, but the higher velocity 5.45x39mm maintains a trajectory comparable to the .308 Match round."
Kraut paused again, taking another drink of water and verifying it before swallowing.
"Our final comparison is velocity, and here the long-distance .308 advantage clearly shows, despite the initial superiority of the 5.45x39 bullet. Because the heavier better maintains momentum, it overtakes the 5.45 bullet at 400 yards and by 600 yards it's decisively superior to either AKM. Now let's combine these ballistic effects. The .308 Match bullet strikes with considerably more energy, an advantage that increases with distance; it shoots truer and straighter in a crosswind; it is=2 0much flatter shooting than the 7.62x39, and approximately similar to the 5.45x39mm; and the .308 considerably exceeds these rounds' velocity beyond 400 yards. Overall this is a decided ballistic advantage."
Kraut looked up from the paper and handed it the man on his right. "Look at the charts," he said, "Plaster's not wrong. And the 5.56 isn't much better than the Kalashnikov rounds."
"Hell," said one, "everybody wants to be a goddam sniper just so they can get out of training. It's a damn disease."
Kraut looked over at the man, and nodded. "I know what you're saying. I've seen it too. But I'm not talking about making more snipers, I'm talking about making more capable riflemen. I know we can't get there today or even tomorrow. What I'm talking about is the future. We need to recreate Dan Morgan's body of riflemen, with aimed, disciplined semi-automatic fire. Rifles carried by trained, physically fit men who know what to do. Unless I miss my bet, the threat of that is what keeps our opposite numbers in the bowels of the Hoover Building pacing the floor at night. And the M14 series semi-auto is the best tool that is available to us."
"Plus," Kraut added with a smile, "its a marvelous platform for launching rifle grenades."
"Rifle grenades?!?" blurted one of the men. "Who's got rifle grenades?"
"I do," replied Kraut calmly. And before anybody could object, he continued.
"Of course, they're inert training grenades. All perfectly legal, but great to train with. And if there ever should need to be real grenades, don't you think that in a nation of machine shops with a chemical industry second to none that we couldn't accomplish THAT? The important thing is to get your practice time in before if, as and when. Try hitting a 55-gallon barrel with a pound and a half projectile at 300 meters sometime. It's kick-ass fun."
"Tell us more about the rifle grenades," said one. Kraut grinned inwardly. Well, whatever worked. And if the guy you were trying to sell the serviceable used car to was more interested in the chrome, well, wasn't it the best chrome you had ever seen?
"OK," agreed Kraut amiably. "The launching of rifle grenades from an M14 series rifle requires a special grenade blank cartridge, a USGI flash suppressor with bayonet lug and an M76 grenade launching attachment . . ."
The Quarry: Six months after The Battle of Sipsey Street
The first group of Alabama State Defense Force trainees sat on rude wooden benches in the open, arranged in an arc in front of a small raised platform, following the natural contour lines of the punchbowl that was this end of the quarry's principal feature. With the olive drab canopy over it, it looked like nothing so much as a GI roadside fruit stand. The ex-gunnery sergeant of Marines waited while the acting sergeants hushed their squads. Behind him was a free standing bulletin board with a large graphic training aid showing the major assemblies and exploded view of a military rifle.
"All right. My name is Sergeant Major Hafnir. I am the lead marksmanship instructor here. And this," he said, gesturing to the training aid illustration, "is why you're here."
"The U.S. Rifle 7.62 mm M14 is a rotating bolt, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, shoulder fired weapon. It is 44.14" long and weighs 8.7 pounds. With a loaded20magazine and sling it weighs 11.0 pounds. It's maximum effective range without accurizing and using iron sights is 460 meters. That's 500 yards to you apes from Winston County. Adopted in 1957, 1,380,358 M14 rifles were made from 1958 to 1965 by the U. S. Army Springfield Armory, Winchester, Harrington & Richardson Arms Co. and Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge, known fondly forever after to riflemen of all generations as TRW. Thanks to that incompetent swine Robert McNamara, the M14 was replaced as the standard arm of the U. S. Armed Forces by the Poodle Shooter, the Matty Mattel Toy, the ever-jamming, cursed M16, in the mid-1960s. After that, the U. S. Government sold the M14 rifle production machinery to Taiwan and they began making Type 57 rifles in 1969.
Today, there are fewer than 150,000 M14 rifles in the U. S. military inventory, with many of those packed in cosmoline at Anniston Army Depot here in Alabama. At least 450,000 M14s have been transferred to the foreign governments of Israel, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Israel was given 35,000 M14 rifles by the U. S. Government in 1973 at the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Israelis built 10,000 sniper rifles out of these and they remained in service until 1997. Some of these have since returned to the United States for civilian sale. During the Clinton Administration. . ."
There were some boos and jeers from the crowd. Hafnir stopped. His face wore a killing look. The punchbowl got deathly silent.
"I'm going to say this just once. The next GODDAM snot-nosed DUMBASS that interrupts this lecture is going to be carrying one of these rifles over his head on a ten mile dead run around the camp until he pukes his asshole up for inspection. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!?"
"All right. During the Clinton Administration, three quarters of a million M14s were ground up by Presidential Executive Order, destroyed at Anniston for no other reason that I've ever heard except that they made the cowardly SOB nervous."
"However, the M14 rifle remained in use aboard U. S. Navy ships and in Navy SEAL Teams as well as with US Army Delta Forces. You may remember that Randy Shugart, who won a Congressional Medal of Honor for his conduct in Mogadishu in October 1991 carried an accurized M14. With the advent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the M14 was brought back as a Designated Marksman weapon and has given great service, with its added range and hitting power a definite plus. Even so, some problems were experienced with Checkmate production mags and there was also the difficulty of finding serviceable receivers among the few M14s that Slick Willy had left us in the inventory."
The morning breeze whipped a fine grit into the eyes of the assembled trainees. The tarp over the platform flapped slightly.
"As produced, the M14 was capable of both semi-automatic and full automatic fire, with a selector lock that only the unit armorer could free up by means of a special tool. There was a later attempt to make a BAR out of the M14 and the M14E2 was given a straight line stock, pistol grip, forward hand grip and bipod. However, because it lacked the BAR's weight it was not as stable and effective as an automatic rifle, although it did have firepower. Does anyone here know what the classic definition of firepower is, as applied to infantry rifles?"
"More misses per minute, Sergeant!"
"Right. Heard me before, have you?"
"Anyway, what the M14 excels at, what it does superbly in the hands of a rifleman trained to its use, is aimed semi-automatic fire. N ow some of you have the notion that you're going to be big, bad snipers. Most of you have as much chance of becoming a sniper as you do of getting laid in the middle of Governor Marsh's Sunday School class at First Baptist."
One kid from St. Clair County -- and only one -- laughed out loud at that and blurted "God damn!". Hafnir didn't say a word, but you could hear his eyeballs click as he looked at Staff Sergeant Bowles who was standing on the sidelines closest to the poor unfortunate. In an instant Bowles was in front of the trembling kid.
"Name?" Bowles said it softly, but with a deadly import. It would have been more humane to have screamed at him.
"C-c-cartwright, Sergeant." The boy badly wanted to piss his pants.
"Rise and come to parade rest when I talk to you." There was something disembodied about Bowles' voice, like the sibbilant computer-generated hiss of a mechanical snake.
Cartwright leaped to his feet, rigid. At attention.
"I said, at 'parade rest.' I'm an NCO not an officer. Are you hard of hearing, Cartwright?"
"Then you heard what the Sergeant Major said?"
How somebody could sound so reasonable and yet so frightening all at the same time was a mystery to the trainees who heard him.
"Yes, Sergeant," said the miserable Cartwright.
Bowles marched off with the condemned man in tow and was soon lost to view. No one dared to turned to watch him g o.
Hafnir cleared his throat.
"Right. Don't get me wrong, snipers have their place on the modern battlefield. But that place is in support of RIFLEMEN, executing the integrated battle plan of the unit commander. They are not freebooting pirates wandering around the battlefield plundering souls at their own whim. THEY support YOU, the rifleman. And that is what we are going to do in the next week. We are going to make riflemen of you. You will be taught how to use the rifle in defense of yourself, your unit, your family and your state. You will be taught marksmanship and maintenance. You will be taught the use of the bayonet and of the rifle grenade. I will teach you, and not God nor Ray Marsh will help you if you fail. Understood?"
Hafnir turned to the table beside him and picked up a rifle, racking the bolt back, where it locked in place with a clack on the empty magazine. He faced front and hefted it at port arms.
"All right, this is the Taiwanese Type 57 Rifle, an almost exact clone of the US M14 Rifle. Through a magical process which your brains are far too primitive to comprehend, the State of Alabama has acquired a number of these for the maintenance of public order during the present emergency. This little darling and all her sisters come to us straight from the Combined Services Arsenal at Kaohsuing. When you successfully complete your training here, each of you will carry one home with you, along with a new M1956-style H-harness and belt, three magazine pouches, a canteen, cup and cover, a bayonet and scabbard, seven 20 round magazines and a basic load of M80 ball ammunition. If, at the end of the week, you are selected as a Designated Marksman, you will return for another training rotation and will then be issued M118 Special Ball ammunition instead of M80.
Per state law, as interpreted by the Attorney General and supplemented by certain executive orders of Governor Marsh, the Alabama State Defense Force has been remodeled along the lines of the Swiss system."
Those watching marveled that the rifle moved not a millimeter while Hafnir spoke.
"You will note that the rifle issued you has been restamped at the new ASDF arsenal at Montgomery with 'M14SA' and 'Alabama'. The first was done to reduce confusion among us old timers who have never called this beautiful rifle anything but an M14. The 'SA' stands for semi-automatic as all of these rifles have been so modified.
The second was done to remind you that this rifle is the property of the State of Alabama. It is not yours. It is not to be used for ANY PRIVATE PURPOSE WHATSOEVER. It will stay in your gunsafe or closet until it, and you, are called out by the state, for further training or active service. You will be responsible for this rifle, and woe betide you if you lose it. You will wish you had never been born, and at the very least I can assure you that whatever your ultimate fate, you will do that wishing in jail. Understood?"
"Those of you who are familiar with the M14/M1A series of rifles will no doubt also note there are two significant changes to these rifles which were made at the arsenal. These are a Sadlak tactical magazine release latch, here," he pointed, "and a Smith Enterprises extended bolt stop/release, here." He turned the rifle about to point at a piece on the left of the receiver. "Taken together, this modification saves seconds on magazine changes. And20seconds count in combat. Believe me."
Hafnir returned the rifle to the table.
"A few words about the bayonet and the rifle grenade launcher. Every generation since the invention of gunpowder has thought that the bayonet -- the infantryman's spear of last resort -- would become as obsolete as Achilles' shield. It never has. Do you know why? Because the rifleman is forever being called upon to 'restore order.' Sometimes that means just showing our serious intentions without shooting some poor asshole as an example to the rest. Fixing bayonets allows us to announce our intentions. It also allows us to keep disarmed prisoners moving to the rear, or crowds of civilians in line at a disaster recovery center. Because merely showing it is not always enough to prevent its use, you will be taught how to use it in combat. The M14 is an excellent bayonet platform, unlike Mr. McNamara's Mouse Gun which can break in a heartbeat if you buttstroke someone with it.
Now, because we don't want you to have to get that close, we also teach you the art of the grenade launcher. And it is an art. Among other things, we teach you the grenade launcher because it may be necessary to project tear gas grenades for crowd control."
If anybody had any questions about "among other things," they weren't going to risk Cartwright's fate to find out.
"After training, one in four of you -- those who demonstrate aptitude -- will be chosen as designated grenadiers and you will be issued an M76 type grenade launching attachment along with your rifle. You will also be responsible for thi s piece of issue equipment. Grenade blanks and any pyrotechnic grenades or other munitions will be issued to you at times of unit muster, if required. In the meantime you keep that attachment with the rifle at all times. Understood?"
"All right, I guess we'll find out whether Alabama still grows sons capable of being riflemen. Acting sergeants, form your training squads by number and line up to draw equipment. After the equipment is received, you will sign for it. You in-bred rednecks from Walker County can make an 'X' if you need to. You will then form up and your acting sergeants will inspect you and insure that each of his men has everything and it is in working order. After that, you will report back here to the seats you now occupy for the next bloc of instruction."
Hafnir's eyes scanned the crowd.
As they stood and turned to form up, in the distance Cartwright's form could be barely seen, already faltering, as Bowles jogged easily beside him. No one wanted to join them, so no one said a word.
Voltaire and God's will: After Sundown, Instructor Barracks, The Quarry.
"Hey, Schultz," called former Gunnery Sergeant Hafnir, "bring me another beer while you're over there."
"On the way," replied Sergeant 'Schultz,' whose real name was Schwartz. Hafnir had been calling him 'Sergeant Schultz' for more than seven years now, but Schwartz didn't mind. Everybody had to have a nickname and there were worse ones than being called a character from an old sitcom.
The instructor cadre was gathered around a table in the common area, boots up, winding down after a good first day.
"Did you think we'd ever be drilling newbies again in the fine art of the M14 rifle?" Bowles asked, addressed to no one in particular. There were murmured grunts and agreeable nods. They all wore a half-smile on their faces. God, they had missed this. The camaraderie, the sense of purpose, the mission.
Winkler replied, to God as much as Bowles, "I just hope I don't lose my federal pension over this."
Hafnir countered, a little more roughly than he actually felt for the sake of the others, "What're you worried about? At least you got a good-lookin' young wife who can earn her livin' on her back. Look at poor Bowles there. His wife left him years ago and he couldn't get Barney Frank to pay him for a blowjob."
They all broke out in laughter, even Bowles. Even Winkler. He'd only known Hafnir for four years and the older Gunny had been ragging him for three=2 0and a half of those about Marie. Winkler was lucky and he knew it, so he didn't mind. Hafnir's wife had died of cancer the year before and there had been a time when his friends had feared that one morning they'd wake to the news that the ex-Marine had eaten his .45. Not now, though. Now Hafnir, like them, once again had a purpose in life.
Then Hafnir asked, "How's Cartwright, Bowles?"
"He'll be all right. I didn't grind him too bad." (That meant that he was sleeping in his own cot tonight and not in the infirmary.)
"That boy musta had three breakfasts and a midnight snack. He may be stupid and out of shape, but he's got grit. Kept tryin' to keep goin'."
"Hell," Winkler offered, "they're all stupid and out of shape."
"Naw, they're not," piped up Jemison. Unlike most of the other trainers, who had been scout-snipers or marksmanship instructors for the Corps, Jemison was all Army and had been a Designated Marksman in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. At the moment, he was sunk so deep in the shadows of a beat up recliner in the corner that you could barely see him from the table. Like a sniper in his hide.
"Pay attention to a little kid named Flynn. He's a natural, and he's got a common-sense mind that's as quick as a snake. He's attentive, he's patient and he's a tough little monkey. On the evenin' run I'm settin' the pace and they're all draggin', but Flynn's just matchin' me stride for stride and my legs have got to be six inches longer than his. So, I look over at him and he gives me this grin and a wink. And I just busted out laughin'. Couldn't help myself."
"Maybe he wanted a date, Jemison," said Bowles with a leer in his voice.
"Mebbe," said Jemison agreeably, "but he was the first man in his class to successfully field strip and reassemble his rifle. I walked over to him and accused him of doing that before, expecting that he had an M1A or a Polytech M14S at home. The boy got insulted, I could tell. He says, 'No, Sergeant, I just paid attention to what you showed us.' He did too. When I was demonstrating the technique he just sat stock still, taking it all in. Turns out the only military style weapon he's ever owned is a Rumanian AK74."
"An idiot savant," sneered Bowles, adding, "Forrest Gump lives."
"No, I noticed that kid too," said Winkler. "I was going over sight picture, ballistics and the incremental sight setting adjustments between M80 Ball and M118 Special Ball, and he held up his hand and said, 'Sergeant, if the M80's bullet is lighter and travels faster, won't it hit higher on a target than an M118?' Worked that out by himself just looking at the ballistic tables on the wall. I asked him if he'd ever reloaded or done any match shooting and he told me no, but that he liked the peep sight of the M14 over his AK74 because it was easier to adjust and had a longer sight radius so that meant it would be more accurate."
"So he reads Guns and Ammo AND Shotgun News." Bowles was still skeptical, but then skepticism was his default mode.
"Bowles," said Jemison, "you're one deeply flawed human being."
Bowles lifted his beer bottle in a mocking toast. "I'll drink to that."
The TA312 field telephone on the wall clacked. Hafnir reached a long arm over and snagged the handset out of the cradle.
"Instructor Quarters, Hafnir."
He listened for a moment.
"Right. Send them down."
He replaced the handset.
"Company coming. Jack Durer and one friend."
"Shall we clear the decks, Gunny?" asked Bowles, thinking of the beer bottles.
"Naw, it's just Jack. He probably wants to find out how we did today. Relax."
They hadn't seen Durer since the day in the Governor's office in Montgomery when the state's chief executive had hired them for the job of training a modernized ASDF.
Hafnir paused, then added, "And Bowles?"
"Don't try that snake-scary voice on Jack Durer. He'll feed you your larynx."
As they walked down the path leading to the Instructor Quarters with the bare illumination of the smuggler's moon guiding their steps, Jack Durer's friend looked up at the night sky. It was beautiful here, deep in the Alabama piney woods, with barely a light in the camp apart from the main gate at this time of night. Lights out for trainees in the Alabama State Defense Force meant lights out as it did in any other army, and even if it wasn't as yet much of an army -- or really, even an army at all -- the stars still blazed forth in all their glory.
Jack Durer caught his friend's upward glances. "Pretty, is it not?" he asked in Mandarin.
The friend sighed, and spoke slowly, carefully, in barely accented English, "Yes, but not so beautiful as the stars of a home I shall never see again."
"They're the same stars, my friend. Besides, you'll go back one day."
"No, I think not. The world as we knew it is falling apart, Jack. It is as Yeats said. 'The center cannot hold.' We always knew that we lived at the mouth of the dragon's cave. The wonder is that it took so long for the dragon to come out and devour us. Of course, it did not help that the biggest dragonslayer decided to lay down and take a nap." He paused, reflecting bitterly on the many disasters that the election of the current President of the United States had generated so far away from America.
There was nothing Jack Durer could say to that. We're guilty, he thought. Guilty as charged. May God and history forgive us. Not that either was likely.
"No, this is my family's new home. My descendants will be Americans." He paused. "Or maybe just Alabamians. Our fates are now intertwined, you and I."
"They always were, my friend," said Jack softly. "They always were."
Hafnir, his ears dulled by years of small arms fire on the ranges of the United States Marine Corps, didn't hear the two men approaching. Schwartz did. He moved to the window and glanced out, catching the profile of the two men in the illumination of the porch light. "Gunny, he's got Chao-yeh with him."
Hafnir came to his feet instantly. They all did. "Schultzy, get the door."
As Schwartz held the door, General Chen Chao-yeh, formerly Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, entered, followed by Jack Durer, who was toting a gun case. Chao-yeh was impeccably dressed in a Saville Row suit, appropriate for a Washington embassy reception.
The first and last time any of the instructors had seen the General was in the news footage when he was coming down the ladder of his personal jet at Birmingham International Airport along with his wife and extended family. There on the tarmac, he had claimed political asylum and eloquently denounced both the forced takeover of his country by t he Communists and the cowardly political expediency of the United States in allowing it to happen. The rumor was that the Type 57 rifles were his doing.
Forget the clothes, thought Schwartz, you could spot him as a life-long military man from a thousand meters. There was not a spare ounce of fat on the small man, as far as he could see. Schwartz and the rest of the training cadre came to attention unconsciously. The General noticed.
"At ease, gentlemen. We are not here on official business, and as you know I no longer command anything, having been stripped of my rank and property by the transition puppet government of my country. Or, I should say, the country of my birth. This," he gestured around the room and to the woods beyond, "is my new home. As to rank, well, perhaps my new country will find use for me again one day."
The men remained standing, respectful, expectant.
"I'd say it already has," replied Jack Durer, setting down the gun case and moving forward to make introductions. "General, this is Oliver Wendell Holmes Hafnir, retired Gunnery Sergeant of US Marines, currently serving as chief instructor of the Alabama State Defense Force with the rank of Sergeant Major.
The General extended his hand to the big ex-Marine. "I am very pleased to meet you, Sergeant Major Hafnir. I hope you like the scrap metal I have been pleased to provide you."
"Scrap metal, sir?"
"Yes, the Type 57 rifles. You see they were declared surplus to our needs as the so-called Reunification Summit was getting underway and I arranged to buy them as scrap metal before the puppet administration could take over. I bought many things that way. Everything in my former country is for sale or theft these days, and I am afraid that when the Communists finally take us over, they will find only the bones of the chicken left. It will make a poor meal for them, I think." The General smiled sadly.
"I am fortunate that my family has money derived from our long-time shipping interests. This provided not only the cash to buy the scrap metal, but the ship to transport it as well as many of my friends and family retainers to the Port of Mobile, where I arranged to sell the cargo to your Governor, also as scrap at low prices. I am pleased that he has found a use for it. As for my fellow expatriates, your Governor has extended a welcoming hand to all of them. Perhaps one day someone will find a use for them as well. Perhaps," and here the General paused briefly, "perhaps that too will involve scrap metal."
"General," said Hafnir as he smiled broadly, "I can assure you that yours is the FINEST lot of scrap metal that any of us have EVER seen." The instructors arrayed behind the Gunny nodded as one. Jack Durer almost laughed out loud.
Instead he said, "Gunny, why don't you make the introductions all 'round, while I open up this steamer trunk." As the instructors and the General were introduced, Jack Durer lifted the rifle case to the table. Breaking away from the group around Chen Chao-yeh, Bowles swept the beer bottles, empty and not-so-empty, off the table and into a trash can. He began to mop the table with a frayed bar towel when Jack Durer ordered, "Forget it Sergeant Bowles, I think the General and I have seen more than a few empty beer bottles in our time."
The introductions were done, and courtesies preserved, when Jack Durer opened the case. To the men standing around the table, what lay inside was sleek, deadly and more beautiful and alluring than a naked woman.
The General cleared his throat and addressed Hafnir. "Sergeant Major, although we have never met, my friend Captain Durer has informed me of your service to our country and our state."
'CAPTAIN' Durer? thought Hafnir.
The General continued. "In recognition of this, I present to you an example of the craftmanship of the old Republic of China, a T93 Sniper Weapon System in 7.62 NATO caliber. A s you will no doubt notice, it was patterned after your own M24 rifle. It is capable of Point 3 MOA at 800 meters. I am pleased to recall that in my younger years I had a small part in the design and testing of this weapon when I worked overseeing certain programs at the 205th Combined Services Arsenal at Kaohsuing. I have taken the liberty of having the stock replaced to more properly fit American ergonomics, so this example has a greater length of pull than does the production version. I think you will find the fit satisfactory. Please, Sergeant Major, do try it."
Hafnir lifted the weapon from the case. It WAS beautiful, and it fitted his shoulder like a well-worn glove. Inletted into the stock was a small plate, subdued in color but easily readable. "Presented to Sergeant Major O.W.H. Hafnir by Chen Chao-yeh." Below that was the date, and below the date was this sentiment: "God is on the side of the best shots."
"Voltaire, sir?" Hafnir was lucky. It was the only quote from Voltaire he knew.
"Yes, Sergeant Major, Voltaire. But I must confess that I have wondered from time to time how Voltaire, who was an agnostic and a libertine and well versed in the intricacies of sin as are most Frenchmen even today, could have undertaken to enunciate the will of God. Still, for riflemen such as ourselves, it is comforting to believe it to be true, do you not think?"
"Yes, General, I do." What a beautiful killing machine, he thought. "I cannot thank you enough."
"Oh, perhaps one day you will be able to return the favor. I myself am a Christian, but I also believe in the concept of karma. Karma, duty, fate. They are all intertwined. Let us all do our duty and perhaps karma will be sufficient unto the day thereof."
The General paused and looked around the room. "I have also arranged with Captain Durer that each of the rest of you, as well as Sergeant Major Hafnir, will recieve a new Type 57 of your own. These are for your personal use, please understand, not the property of the State of Alabama and you may take them with you when you leave state service. They should arrive in two or three days." The General looked at Durer, who nodded. The instructors stirred, impressed and pleased.
"Gentlemen, I will take my leave now so that you can get some rest and begin your tasks tomorrow with a fresh perspective. I thank you for allowing me to intrude upon your personal time."
As they left, Durer said to Hafnir, "I'll call you tomorrow, Ollie."
When they were gone, Bowles turned to Winkler and asked, "What the hell is karm a?"
Winkler grinned and said, "Bowles, you don't know shit from shinola. Don't you watch TV?" Bowles looked at him blankly.
"'My Name is Earl'?"
"The TV show, idiot."
"Huh? Oh." Bowles didn't watch commercial television.
Winkler explained. "Karma, my ignorant friend, is the mystical Asian philosophical concept that states that what goes around, comes around."
"Oh, shit," said Bowles.
"Exactly," replied Winkler.
For his part, Oliver Wendell Holmes Hafnir, whose initials O.W.H. were widely believed to stand for "Old War Horse," was left wondering just what in hell all that had been about. We've just started training these kids. You can't even say we'll succeed, according to whatever parameters Jack Durer and the Governor judged to be success. It ain't like we just took Mount Suribachi all over again.
So why in hell did an expatriate Taiwanese general just drop a custom rifle that was worth at least five grand on him?
Karma, hell. The General, or more likely Jack Durer, wanted something from him. The question was, what? And would it cost him more than the rifle was worth?
Former Gunnery Sergeant Hafnir had a sneaking suspicion that it would. But, damn, wasn't it beautiful?
As he mused, he caught a furtive movement out of the corner of his eye.
"Bowles, get yer damn greasy, beer-drippin' hands off my nice new rifle."