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Silencer Guide with Decibel Level Testing by David Lewis

Silencer Guide with Decibel Level Testing

This project is a massive look at silencers with testing data that shows exactly what difference a suppressed firearm can make on your sound levels while shooting.

If you understand how silencers work and would like to jump straight to the data, here is a quick guide to the sections covered in this project:

  1. How Silencers Work
  2. Suppressors vs. Silencers
  3. Benefits of Suppressors
  4. Are Silencers Legal?
  5. Silencer Decibel Level Testing
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Understanding How Firearm Silencers/Suppressors Work

When you fire ammunition from a gun, the ammo generates hot pressurized gases that need a place to escape.

As these turbulent gases exit the firearm, the dramatic change in pressure causes a loud blasting sound. A silencer’s job is to redirect these heated gases through a system of chambers and baffles to slow down, cool, and limit the pressure and noise emitted from a firearm’s barrel.

a man shooting a .22lr pistol with a silencer

Shooting a pistol chambered in .22lr with a Dead Air Mask HD Silencer

One great example of how silencers work can be seen when looking at car’s muffler. A muffler’s job is to take the hot gases and noise generated from an internal combustion engine and slow them down through a system of tubes and baffles. The result comes out as exiting exhaust within an acceptable audio range.

Just like mufflers, there is no one size fits all solution for silencers. They come in different shapes and sizes. This lets us control how loud or quiet we would like our firearm to sound. Firearm silencers are so similar to mufflers because the inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim, actually helped with a lot of the research for improving automobile and industrial silencers. His company, Maxim Silencers, is still running strong over 100 years later and remains a leader in the industrial noise control market.

Suppressor vs. Silencer

Silencers are continually a hot topic of debate between gun owners and gun control advocates. The debate usually starts when asking what exactly we should call these devices.

The term “Silencer” is really a colloquial term for firearm suppressors, and one of the most misleading aspects of the whole debate. Contrary to the term, “silencers” do not completely silence a firearm.

Similar to the whole Magazine vs. Clip argument, there are staunch advocates in favor of never using the term “silencer” when discussing firearm suppressing devices. Many point to the way silencers are portrayed in the media as basis of inaccurate representation of their capabilities.
Duck season, rabbit season silencer meme
When used in action films, the bad guys are usually running around gunning down their targets, all while remaining undetected due to the whisper like sound levels of their evil guns. While this makes for a great story telling device, the real-world accuracy of how a silencer actually performs is much different than its Hollywood portrayal.

In reality, most civilian-accessible firearms emit sounds ranging from 140-175 decibels. Silencers only marginally suppress a gun blast, bringing the levels down to around 120-150dB. Most of the time, the sound is still very obviously identifiable as a gun shot.

Many gun owners also fear that inaccurate portrayals could lead to even more regulations for silencers/suppressing devices.

For what it’s worth, the ATF uses the term “Silencer” in their yearly statistical update for sales and applications for firearms and other NFA items.

Oh, and Mr. Maxim, the inventor himself, called them silencers. So, in the suppressor vs. silencer debate we’re going to call them silencers out of respect to Mr. Maxim. But, know we’re not advocating the Hollywood portrayal of these tools as accurate.

Vintage Maxim Silencer advertisement

How Effective are Silencers?

When it comes to a silencer’s capabilities, there is a short and simple answer to the question, “How much quieter is a gun with a silencer?”; It depends.

There are many factors that go into how a suppressed gunshot will sound. The type of silencer used, firearm/caliber choice, ammunition being fired, even temperatue and atmospheric conditions can all impact the overall sound a firearm emits.

Silencers mainly focus on controlling the sound level emitted from firing a round of ammunition. But keep in mind, a firearm’s action also creates mechanical sounds when cycling rounds of ammunition. These sounds are in no way changed by the use of a silencer.

Caliber and Firearm Choice

Since silencers can be expensive and a hassle to purchase, many people opt for a model that will work well with multiple calibers. One popular choice is using a .30 caliber silencer to shoot rounds such as .308/7.62 NATO, and 300 AAC BLK, but also using it to shoot smaller .223 and 5.56 NATO rounds.

Even though a .30 Cal silencer will suppress a gun shot from a smaller caliber, the sound isn’t as suppressed as it would if the shooter were using a model made exclusively for the round being fired.

Barrel length can also have an effect on the overall sound levels of a gun shot.

Generally, the shorter the firearm barrel, the louder the blast will be. A longer barrel allows more time for the powders and gases to burn before escaping the end of the muzzle.

A silencer on H&K MP5 SBR

Subsonic vs Supersonic Ammo

Along with the sound of the action, there is an additional insuppressible noise that comes into play, but it has to do with the actual projectile itself.

Since the use of a silencer does not alter the performance or velocity of the bullet being fired, when the projectile breaks the sound barrier you will hear what’s commonly known as a sonic boom or in this case, a sonic crack. This audible confirmation of a high velocity projectile breaking the sound barrier can reach upwards of 150dB, a level that is capable of rupturing eardrums.

Atmospheric conditions like humidity and temperature however do have an affect on the speed at which the sound barrier is broken. That speed usually falls in the range of 1,100 feet per second. Although, the warmer it gets, a greater velocity is needed to break the barrier.

For instance, the following chart identifies temperatures and the corresponding velocity at which the speed of sound is broken:
A chart showing the affect of temperature on the sound barrier

Most rifle ammunition is manufactured to produce supersonic speeds, although there are some exceptions. Pistol calibers on the other hand are usually a better choice to achieve speeds less than 1,100 feet per second, also known as “subsonic”. It’s possible to shoot both subsonic and supersonic rounds through suppressed firearms. Just keep in mind that the sonic crack can in no way be altered or suppressed itself.

Benefits of Suppressing Firearms

Preserving Hearing Health

Even if you’re not an avid shooter or gun owner, it’s easy to understand one simple fact; exploding gunpowder is really loud. It also doesn’t take an Audiologist to understand that constant exposure to loud noises can lead to hearing loss.

Hearing loss and tinnitus caused by over exposure to loud noises are two of the most common medical conditions for recreational shooters and hunters. In fact, WebMD claims hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States.

A decibel level chart with sound level descriptions

The use of a silencer can reduce the deafening sound of gunfire for hunters and shooters by 30-40dB.  This is comparable to benefits of using in- or over-the-ear hearing protection. So why not just wear ear protection all the time? While we definitely recommend using hearing protection, every shooting situation is different and ear-pro may not always be an option.

For example, in a law enforcement shooting situation, an officer may not have time, nor the desire to worry about protecting their hearing. Safety and survival of the officer and innocent bystanders is the key concern.

Shooting in tight enclosed spaces, like in a potential home defense situation, can also lead to permanent hearing damage. The reverberations of a gunshot off of surrounding walls and ceiling can amplify the blast, regardless of the firearm used.

“the only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel.” – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Hunters typically don’t wear ear protection when traveling out in the field, either. For starters, a hunter needs to be able to clearly listen for the game they are after. They also need to have full situational awareness, with the ability to clearly communicate with other hunting companions. And in the case for using electronic hearing protection when hunting, most state laws forbid the use of electronic devices that aid in the locating of game animals.

Research that demonstrates the superiority of silencers over traditional ear protection has been published by Matthew P. Branch, MD. He found, “All suppressors offered significantly greater noise reduction than ear-level protection, usually greater than 50% better. Noise reduction of all ear-level protectors is unable to reduce the impulse pressure below 140 dB for certain common firearms, an international standard for prevention of sensorineural hearing loss . . . Modern muzzle-level suppression is vastly superior to ear-level protection and the only available form of suppression capable of making certain sporting arms safe for hearing.”

Recoil Reduction and Accuracy

It’s very natural to flinch in anticipation of loud sounds or movements, it’s in our genes. This is commonly experienced by many people when shooting a firearm. If you’ve ever spent time at the range or in the field hunting, you probably noticed how your shoulder was somewhat tender the next day due to the recoil of the firearm. Anticipating this harsh recoil, shooters tend to brace for the impact and the blast of the muzzle just prior to pulling the trigger. These additional small movements by the shooter can result in poor accuracy down range.

A man shooting an AR 15 rifle with a silencer

By redirecting and cooling the fired gases, silencers are beneficial in mitigating the overall recoil felt by the shooter. In return, the shooter can overcome the instinct to flinch and achieve better shot placement at the range and more humane kills when hunting.

Muzzle Flash Reduction

By using a silencer or suppressor, you can also greatly reduce, or in many cases eliminate the bright muzzle flash caused by the burning gases exiting the barrel. The bright flash emitted from a gun blast can cause temporary blindness and disorientation of the shooter or others in close vicinity. This is typically only an issue when shooting in low light or night time settings, like during a home defense situation, or a night-time predator hunt.

Noise Complaints

People generally don’t like to be interrupted by unwanted noises. The same principle applies to shooting on personal property or rural gun ranges. Even on large tracts of land, noise ordinances can still come into play and neighboring properties may not want to hear you plinking away all afternoon.

Silencers can help soften these noises from personal and public ranges, as well as hunting properties. And a happy neighbor is well worth the investment, trust me.

Silencers aren’t the easiest firearm accessories to purchase. They are heavily regulated, just like actual machine guns, under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, which falls under the scope of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

A map of the United States showing where silencers and suppressors are legal to own

To legally purchase or possess a silencer you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be a resident of the United States.
  2. Reside in one of the 42 states that allows civilian ownership of silencers.
  3. Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  4. Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a silencer from a licensed silencer dealer.
  5. Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a silencer from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
  6. Be at least 18 years of age to possess a silencer as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
  7. Pass a BATFE criminal background check with a typical wait time of up to 10 months.
  8. Pay a one time $200 Transfer Tax Stamp fee.

At the time of writing this article, the following 42 states allow citizens to own a silencer for personal use: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.

Although legal to own, hunting with silencers is currently illegal in: CT, VT. The hesitation of hunting with silencers in these states allegedly comes from trying to stop poachers from “quietly” killing game animals back in the mid 1900’s. It also seems the local state governments, like many others in the Northeast area, are simply against furthering firearm related legislation.

Mainstream Popularity

Silencers can be somewhat cost prohibitive for most citizens. Depending on the setup, the cost of purchasing a silencer can range from a few hundred to upwards of thousands of dollars. Couple this steep cost with the $200 nonrefundable tax and you can see why some people would like to deregulate these devices.

H&K MP5 Silencer
Despite the extensive regulations and high prices, according to the 2018 ATF Statistical Update, American citizens currently own 1,489,791 silencers. A number that has grown significantly over the past two decades. As of 2018, Texas is the leading state in silencer ownership, with just over a quarter of a million registered devices.
The surge in popularity of these devices has come from modern companies entering the marketplace with enticing advertising. There has also been an increase in education and awareness of hearing loss caused by firearms.
2018 ATF Silencer Ownership Data
However, lately there have been increased efforts by anti-gun groups to try regulate these devices even further. Some groups have even called for a complete and total ban of silencers for firearms. The arguments in favor of bans and confiscations range from how silencers make a firearm “more deadly” all the way to “only murderers use them”.
But, if they’re are so horrible and deadly, why isn’t there a thriving black market for silencers and a plethora of crimes to connect them to?
According to research by Paul A. Clark, from 1995-2005 there were only 153 federal convictions in which a silencer was used during the commission of a crime. Clark also wrote, “The data indicates that use of silenced firearms in crime is a rare occurrence, and is a minor problem. Moreover, the legislative history of silencer statutes indicates that these provisions were adopted with little or no debate”
To fight back against such ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims in recent years, legislation and research have been introduced to try and deregulate the sale of silencers all together. The Hearing Protection Act of 2017Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, and SHUSH Act, although unsuccessful so far, have sought to amend the current laws to deregulate and treat silencers like other firearm accessories.

Silencer Decibel Level Testing

As far as sound measurements are concerned, we can cite decibel(dB) levels all day, but unless we have something to compare them to, the numbers are somewhat useless. With this in mind, we set out to do our own independent sound level testing. We wanted to approach our project as scientifically and accurately as possible, without first having to get a degree in acoustics.

A man testing the audio levels of gun silencers

For our testing purposes, we used a *Larson Davis Model LxT1-QPR Sound Level Meter.

We recorded both suppressed and non-suppressed readings, using the z-weighting method of measuring high pressure levels. This method of measurement is also referred to as linear or unweighted.

Unweighted is a more accurate method of evaluating potential hearing damage and is the best method to use when testing firearms. MIL-STD 1474D is considered the military standard for measuring sound. Following these standards, we placed the microphone 1 meter to the left of the muzzle and 1.6 meters above the ground, with the microphone pointing upward, at a 90 degree angle to the bore. All testing was completed away from any reflecting surfaces, as to not negatively affect the audio readings.

We compared five of the most popular handgun and rifle calibers available on the market today, testing 30 different SKUs of ammunition in the process. Then, we test fired five rounds suppressed and three unsuppressed with each brand of ammo to find an average dB level.

First Round Pop

The first shot out of a suppressor at any given time will generally be louder than the subsequent rounds fired. This phenomena is commonly known as First Round Pop or FRP. This is caused by the burning off of oxygen that has filled the silencer baffles and chambers when the action is left open or the device has not been in recent use. With FRP in mind, we wanted to gather more testing data to find an average suppressed level, compared to our test shots when firing unsuppressed.

Rifle Caliber Testing

Three of the most popular rifle calibers are .308 Winchester, .223 Rem/5.56mm, and .22lr. We chose two different barrel lengths as one of our test variables, one shorter and one longer. It’s reasonable to assume that the longer barreled firearms with have lower decibel readings.

A chart showing the decibel levels of gun silencers

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed .22 Long Rifle

As expected, this smaller load had some of the lowest dB readings for the rifle calibers. The lowest average suppressed measurement of 119.34 dB came from firing 22LR Federal American Eagle Rimfire Suppressor 45gr. CPRN ammo with a 16″ Savage Mk II. Overall, we recorded an average of 119-129dB when firing all ammunition suppressed. These levels are comparable to the sounds you would experience when operating most power tools.

When shooting unsuppressed, this smaller caliber comes in at an average of 145-153dB, just slightly louder than the suppressed .308 rifles. It’s a level most people wouldn’t typically expect to see from these tiny little rounds.

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed .223/5.56mm

Unsuppressed, we recorded an average of 166-171 dB for the 16″ and 20″ AR15 rifles.  When shooting with a silencer, the levels come in at an average of  135-145dB. That’s an average reduction of 36dB between the unsuppressed and suppressed shots.
We observed a change of only 1-4dB between the two barrel lengths, both suppressed and unsuppressed.

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed .308 Win.

Of all the rifle calibers tested, the loudest average unsuppressed measurement of 172.87 dB came from the 18” Ruger American Predator, firing .308 Win Federal Gold Medal Berger 185gr. OTM ammo. The same ammunition fired with a suppressor came in at an average of 148.4 dB.
While it is a reduction of almost 25 dB, the sound of a suppressed .308 load will still result in hearing damage if additional ear protection is not worn.

Pistol Caliber Testing

We tested three of the most popular pistol calibers, 9mm, 45 ACP, and .22lr, with varying barrel lengths.

A chart showing the decibel level of pistol caliber firearms

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed .22 Long Rifle

Similar to the rifle testing, .22lr had some of the lower dB readings for this round of testing. The suppressed Sig P226 conversion gave us an average of 120-128 dB for all ammo tested. When fired unsuppressed, the .22lr rounds came in at an average of 155-161 dB, just under the unsuppressed H&K MP5.
With an average reduction of 41 dB, it’s easy to see why so many people enjoy shooting this caliber with a silencer.

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed 9mm

We chose the ever popular Glock 19 and H&K MP5 for this round of pistol caliber testing. When firing the Glock 19 suppressed, we recorded an average of 134-140 dB, while the H&K MP5 comes in at an average of 133-144 dB. The unsuppressed MP5 registered an average 160-163dB, compared to the unsuppressed Glock 19, with an ear-splitting average of 165-167 dB.
That’s an average reduction of 34 dB when using a silencer with a 9mm firearm.

Suppressed vs. Unsuppressed 45 ACP

We saw comparable results for 45 ACP as we did with 9mm. The average unsuppressed levels, which were some of the loudest results for the pistol calibers, came in at average of 165-167 dB, while the average suppressed levels came in 21-26 dB lower, ranging from 141-146 dB.
Both firearms used for testing in this caliber did have the same barrel length of 5.5″, but are built completely different. There weren’t any measurable differences in the audio levels when unsuppressed, but we did see a 2 dB different when using a silencer.
recording data from silencer testing at the shooting range

If you would like to see all of the raw test data, click the link below:

Silencer dB Level Test Data


There are a lot of reasons for owning a silencer. Some may be about personal rights, others might just be looking for another hearing protection alternative. With a proven reduction of gun shot blasts of up to 30-40 dB, it’s hard to deny the fact that using these devices can and will protect a shooter’s hearing health.
Whatever the reason may be, educating yourself and others will help everyone better understand how these devices, and their potential role as everyday tools, can have an influence on our hearing health, personal defense, and recreational uses.
So where do you stand on the topic? Are you one of the 1.4 Million+ civilians that actually owns a silencer? Let us know about your experience in the comments below and if you would recommend one to someone new to the subject.
Thanks for your support, and as always, happy shooting!

Ammunition Used for Silencer Testing:


Eley Sub-Sonic Xtra Plus 40gr. HP

Federal American Eagle Suppressor 45gr. CPRN

CCI Stinger 32gr. Hyper Velocity HP

Winchester 40gr. Super-X SuperSpeed RN

CCI Small Game Bullet (SGB) 40gr. LFN


Fiocchi 147gr. XTP JHP

Fiocchi 115gr. FMJ

Speer Gold Dot 124gr. JHP

Speer Gold Dot 124gr. +P JHP

Federal HST 124gr. JHP

Federal HST 124gr. +P JHP

Federal BallistiClean 100gr. Frangible

45 ACP

Remington HTP Subsonic 230gr. JHP

Remington UMC 230gr. FMJ

Hornady XTP 200gr. HP

Hornady XTP 200gr. +P HP

Winchester Ranger 230gr. JHP

Winchester Ranger 230gr. +P JHP


Federal American Eagle 62gr. FMJ-BT

Federal Gold Medal 77gr. MatchKing BTHP

Tula 75gr. HP

PMC X-TAC Match 77gr. Sierra MatchKing OTM

Black Hills 36gr. Remanufactured Varmint Grenade HP

Federal Lake City (American Eagle) XM193 55gr. FMJ


Federal Gold Medal Berger 185gr. OTM

PMC Bronze 147gr. FMJBT

WPA Military Classic 145gr. FMJ

Prvi Partizan 145gr. FMJBT

*Correction: It was previously stated that we used the Larson Davis Model 831 Sound Level Meter for this project. The actual model used was the Larson Davis Model LxT1-QPR Sound Level Meter. The two models share a similar user manual, but the Model LXT1 is the correct device to use for firearm level testing.

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How to mount a Rifle Scope by Tom Claycomb

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, Ammoland will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Mounting a scope is an easy job that you can do in less than an hour.
Mounting a scope is an easy job that you can do in less than an hour.

U.S.A. –-( Rather than paying a gunsmith to mount your riflescope, I’d like to encourage you to mount your own! I am by no means maintenance inclined so if I can do it, anyone can. I am about to test some ground squirrel hunting rifles so while it is fresh on my mind, we’ll do this article on mounting a Riton Optics scope on one of those rifles.
For the Ground Squirrel Hunting articles, I’m testing Henry’s .22 mag and a Mossberg M817 .17 HMR and will be using Federal and CCI ammo. I hate to be old school, but it seems sacrilegious to put a scope on a lever action so we’re going to discuss mounting a Riton Optics RT-S MOD 5 6-24x50IR on the Mossberg M817. You may think that putting this nice of a scope on a rimfire rifle is a bit of an overkill but we’re going to be shooting small game and small varmints aren’t we? They have small kill zones so we need to be able to zero in on a small target.
Obviously, the first thing you must have is a base to mount your rings onto. Picatinny rails are super popular now and for a good reason. But this rifle came with some Weaver base mounts so that’s what I went with and I grabbed a set of Riton Optics rings.
When you buy rings, you have a few choices to make. First, does your scope have a 1-inch tube or a 30 mm tube? Next, if it has a larger objective, you may need higher rings. They make low, medium and high rings. You must have tall enough rings so the scope is not touching the barrel of your rifle but I like for my scope to be as close as possible to the barrel. I think they are more accurate that way.

Surprisingly, even though this Riton has a 50mm objective, I was able to use a “low” Riton Optics set of rings.

I’m sure that this will be a point of controversy, but I don’t always use Loctite when mounting a scope. Yes, on your magnums you should. Use the blue Loctite if you do decide to use it. That way it isn’t as permanent as some of the others.


Otis Technology Universal Range Box
Otis Technology Universal Range Box

I’m not saying it is impossible to mount one without a range box but it sure is a lot easier and more stable. I use a Universal Range Box by Otis Technology. I love it. Set it up and put in two-gun vises (Big V’s that hold your rifle steady).

As a kid, I’d prop my .22’s on a pile of blankets and wrestle with putting on a scope. Trust me; it’s a lot easier with the Otis Universal Range Box. You can do a better job plus you’re not as likely to drop a scope or rifle.

Next I screwed the Riton scope rings to the bases. This requires a size 12mm socket. After it is tight, remove the top half of the rings by using an Allan wrench. Lay the scope in the bottom rings and then apply the top rings and lightly screw in the screws. You want them loose. Now, look through the scope and make sure that the eye relief is set correctly. You want the scope positioned so that when you throw it up to shoot, that you don’t have to move your head forward or backwards to have full view through the scope.
Now that the eye relief is set, we need to make sure that the crosshairs are straight. They make levels to aid in doing so but I always just eyeball it. More than likely you’ll have to take the gun outside to set the eye relief and align the crosshairs.
When you have the above two items set, now it is time to tighten down the rings. Place the rifle back in the Otis Universal Range Box. You want to get your screws tight but don’t over tighten and strip them out. In extreme cases you could even warp the tube on a cheaper scope if you over tighten. To alleviate this from happening you can use a Brownell’s Magna-Tip Adjustable Torque Wrench to set how tight you screw it down.

We’re now ready to go sight in the Mossberg M817 and see how it shoots!

About Tom ClaycombTom Claycomb
Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, and freelances for numerous magazines and newspapers. “To properly skin your animal you will need a sharp knife. I have an e-article on Amazon Kindle titled Knife Sharpening for $.99 if you’re having trouble.”

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Some Solid Rules to live by!

The Classics Reloaded: “Rules For A Gunfight by Drill Instructor Joe B. Fricks, USMC”

1. Forget about knives, bats, and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.
2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap – life is expensive. If you shoot inside, buckshot is your friend. A new wall is cheap – funerals are expensive.
3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.
4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.
5. Move away from your attacker and go to cover. Distance is your friend. (Bulletproof cover and diagonal or lateral movement are preferred.)
6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a semi or full-automatic long gun and a friend with a long gun.
7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running. Yell “Fire!” Why “Fire”? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the bad guys, or at least cause them to lose concentration and will…. and who is going to summon help if you yell ”Intruder,” “Glock” or “Winchester?”
9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.
10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
11. Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. Have a plan.
13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work. “No battle plan ever survives 10 seconds past first contact with an enemy.”
14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible, but remember, sheetrock walls and the like stop nothing but your pulse when bullets tear through them.
15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
16. Don’t drop your guard.
17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees. Practice reloading one-handed and off-hand shooting. That’s how you live if hit in your “good” side.
18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. Smiles, frowns and other facial expressions don’t (In God we trust. Everyone else keeps your hands where I can see them.)
19. Decide NOW to always be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.
21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.
22. Be courteous to everyone, overly friendly to no one.
23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than ”4″.
25. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel blows the powder from the flintlock of your musket.” At a practice session, throw your gun into the mud, then make sure it still works. You can clean it later.
26. Practice shooting in the dark, with someone shouting at you, when out of breath, etc.
27. Regardless of whether justified or not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.
28. The only thing you EVER say afterwards is, “He said he was going to kill me. I believed him. I’m sorry, Officer, but I’m very upset now. I can’t say anything more. Please speak with my attorney.”
Finally, Drill Instructor Frick’s Rules For Un-armed Combat.
1: Never be unarmed.
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Are You As Fit As a World War II GI?

wwii soldiers military training monkey bars

Have men these days “gone soft?” Is our generation less manly than past generations? Are we less tough than our grandfathers?
I see guys debate these kinds of questions all the time. Of course it’s hard to quantify “toughness.” But there is one area where we can definitively say we’ve slipped–the Army fitness test isn’t as hard as it used to be.
The Army first introduced a formal fitness test to the troops in 1942. Millions of men were being called up to fight in World War II, and not all of them were prepared for the rigors of combat. To get the men in fighting shape, the Army implemented a systematic physical development program as part of the Combat Basic Training course. And the Army Ground Forces Test was designed to assess whether the program was having its desired effect. The test included squat jumps, sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and a 300 yard run. The emphasis was on functional fitness and giving American GI’s the strength, mobility, and endurance they would need to tackle real tasks on the battlefield.
In 1946, a Physical Training School was created at Fort Bragg with the mission of exploring how to take the goal of functional fitness farther. The training program developed at the school and the fitness test were codified in the 1946 edition of FM 21-20, the Army’s physical training manual.
Basically, Grandpa was doing Cross-Fit before it was cool.
In 1953, the Physical Training School closed, and its focus on combat readiness was lost; in the ensuing decades, the military began to concentrate more on general fitness, focusing on aerobic over anaerobic exercises. The fitness test was revised several times during the 60s and 70s, and standards began to be assessed on a sliding scale based on age and gender.
In 1984, the Army Physical Readiness Test was introduced, and it continues to be used today. It has only three elements: sit-ups, push-ups, and a two mile run. In 1987, General Schwarzkopf became concerned that only 5% of soldiers were able to achieve the highest score on the test, and so the standards were eased and more provisions were made for age and gender.
Also, whereas soldiers who failed the test used to be discharged, this rule has been greatly relaxed.
For the past couple of decades, many critics have said that the physical fitness standards for the troops are too easy, and more importantly, don’t assess the kind of skills soldiers actually need in our current conflicts. In a time of new equipment like body armor, men are humping large loads for long periods, and are much more likely to be sprinting and crouching than running for miles at a time.
When Dr. Edward Thomas, an instructor at the Army Physical Fitness School, re-discovered the WWII fitness test and administered it to soldiers in the 1990s, he was surprised at the result: soberingly low scores. While the numbers of required repetitions for things like push-ups are higher in the modern test than the WWII version, the standard for the precision with which the repetitions must be completed has been relaxed. Consequently, when Thomas tested the modern soldiers, they could only do a fraction of the repetitions required of WWII GIs.
In the last several years, the Army has been changing its physical training program to concentrate more on functional fitness and is currently developing a new fitness test which will be rolled out in the future and incorporate things like a shuttle run and long jump.
Well all that interesting history aside, I thought AoM readers, civilians and soldiers alike, would enjoy seeing how they stacked up against their grandfathers by taking the WWII fitness test. Why take the test? Well as the introduction to the original test itself says, “Tests motivate the men to improve their physical condition. Frequently men do not realize what poor condition they are in. When the tests reveal their deficiencies, they are much more receptive to an intensive physical training program in order to remedy their shortcomings.”
So maybe taking the test will inspire you to get in shape (or inspire you to feel awesome about how in shape you already are).
If you’re a coach, it might be fun to have your guys take the test–seems like it would be a great team-building exercise for your own little band of brothers.
Before we get to the test, let’s go over a couple of guidelines:

  • As mentioned above, the WWII test requires that the exercises be done with strict precision. To get an accurate assessment of how you did, don’t sacrifice quality for quantity!
  • In the chart below, you will see two batteries of tests–one for doing outdoors, one for doing indoors. Pick one of the other–not both. The fifth test in the indoor battery includes two variations–choose one or the other.

The WWII Fitness Test

1.  Pullups 1.  Pullups
2.  Squat Jumps 2.  Squat Jumps
3.  Pushups 3.  Pushups
4.  Situps 4.  Situps
5.  300-yard Run 5A.  Indoor Shuttle Run
5A(1).  60-Second Squat Thrusts


This event requires a horizontal bar.  This may be made of a pipe or gymnasium horizontal bar, or other rigid horizontal support which is not over 1½ inches in diameter. The bar should be high enough to permit the performer to hang at full length without touching the ground.  A height of 7 feet, 9 inches to 8 feet is recommended.
Starting Position.  Hanging at full length from the bar with arms straight. The forward grasp is used with the palms turned away from the face.
how to perform pull ups illustration military manual Movement.  Pull up until the chin is above the level of the bar.  Then lower the body until elbows are completely straight.  Continue for as many repetitions as possible.
Instructions.  The men should be told that it is permissible to raise the legs and flex the hips when pulling up but not to kick or execute a jerking motion with trunk or legs.  The body must be kept from swinging.  The chin must be raised above the bar.  The arms must be completely straight at the bottom of the movement.
Administration and Scoring.  Each time the performer pulls his chin above the bar in correct form, he is given credit for one pullup.  He is not credited with a pullup if he fails to raise his chin above the level of the bar or if he stops to rest.  If the performer does not straighten his arms at the bottom of a movement, if he kicks or jerks, only half a pullup will be counted.  If there are four half-pullups, the performer should be stopped and retested later.  If the performer starts to swing, the judge should stop the swinging with his hands.  Some such aid as a resin-bag or a cake of magnesium carbonate should be available to prevent the hands from slipping.


Starting Position.  Squatting on right heel with fingers laced on top of head, palms down.  The feet are 4 to 6 inches apart with the heel of the left foot on a line with the toes of the right foot.
Movement.  Spring upward until both knees are straight and both feet clear the ground.  Jump just enough to permit straightening the knees without touching the ground.  Do not jump any higher than necessary to accomplish this purpose.  Keep the upper body erect.  While off the ground, reverse the position of the feet bringing the right foot in front.  Then drop to a squat on the left heel.   Keep the knees pointing forward.  Spring up again and continue for as many repetitions as possible.
how to do squat jumps illustration military manual Instructions.  The men should be told that the most common errors are: getting the feet too far apart, forward and backward, and failing to squat down on the rear heel.   The correct position should be demonstrated clearly, and the men should be given sufficient practice to master it.  The action must be continuous throughout.   Before beginning the event, the men should be told that it requires courage almost to the same extent as it requires strength and endurance and that they should not give up until they cannot make another movement.
Administration and Scoring.  The performer is credited with one squat jump each time he springs up from the squat to the erect position and returns.  The movement is not scored if he fails to descend to a complete squat, if he does not straighten his legs completely and reverse his feet while he is in the air, if he removes his hand from his head, or if he discontinues the movement and comes to a stop.  If he loses his balance and removes a hand from his head momentarily, or falls but immediately recovers and continues, he shall not be penalized.  If the performer gets his feet too far apart but comes to a squat on the rear foot, there is no penalty.  Some men cannot squat all the way down on the heel.  If they go down as far as possible they should not be penalized.


Starting Position.  The performer assumes the front leaning rest position with the body straight from head to heels.  His palms are directly underneath the shoulders and elbows are straight.  Fingers pointed forward.  The judge sits on the ground beside the performer, with one palm down on the ground underneath the lowest part of the performer’s chest.
Movement.  Lower body until chest touches the ground (in informal practice), or touches the hand of the judge (in formal testing).  Elbows must point directly to the rear.  Return to the original position by straightening elbows.  Keep the entire body in a straight line throughout.   Repeat as many times as possible.
how to do a proper pushup illustration military manualInstructions.  The performer is told: that the arms must be straight at the start and completion of the movement; that the chest must touch the judge’s hand; and that the stomach, thighs, or legs must not touch the floor.  Hands and feet must not move from their positions.  He is also told that the whole body must be kept straight as he pushes the shoulders upward; that is, the shoulders should not be raised first, and then the hips or vice versa.  The judge uses his free hand to guide the man in case he is raising his hips too much or raising his shoulders first.  In the first instance, he taps the man on the top of the hips to straighten them out; in the second case he taps underneath the abdomen to make him raise his abdomen with the same speed as his shoulders.
Administration and Scoring. The performer is credited with one pushup each time his arms are completely straightened and the exercise is performed in acceptable form.   There is no penalty for the hips being slightly out of line if the whole body is moving upward at about the same speed. The men may proceed but may not stop to rest.   If a man violates any of the instructions given above, he is credited with a half-pushup.  If and when the performer is no longer able to hold a correct front leaning rest, the test is terminated.


Starting Position.  Performer lies on his back with knees straight, feet approximately 18 inches apart and fingers laced behind head and elbows on the ground. The scorer kneels on the ground at the performer’s feet and presses the performer’s ankles firmly down against the ground.
Movement. Raise upper body rotating it somewhat to the left, and then forward far enough to touch the right elbow to the left knee.  The knees may bend slightly when sitting up.  Lower the body until the back and elbows again touches the ground.  Again sit up, but this time rotate the trunk to the right and touch left elbow to the right knee.  Again lower the body until the back touches the ground.  Perform as many situps as possible in two minutes.  Rest pauses are permitted during the test but count toward the 2-minute period.

how to do sit-ups illustration military manual Instructions.  The performer should be warned that he must keep his knees straight until he starts to sit up; that he must touch his knee with the opposite elbow; and that he may not push up from the ground with his elbow.

Administration and Scoring.  Performer is given credit for each situp completed within the 2-minute period.  No score is given if he unclasps his hand from his head, if he pushes up from his elbow, or if he keeps his knees bent while lying back on the ground.  He is not penalized if the elbow misses the knee slightly.  He must, however, sit up far enough so that the elbow almost touches the knee.  Time should be announced every 20 seconds.  At the end of 2 minutes, the timer calls: STOP and the judge counts the full number of situps completed before the stop command.


A course 60 yards long is laid out on flat level ground with lanes 4 feet wide for for each runner.  Both ends of the course have cross-marks at right angles to the lanes.  The cross-mark at one end serves as a starting line; the one at the other end, as a finish line.  In the middle of the cross mark at either end of each lane is a stake which is at least 1½ feet high.  If possible the lanes should be marked out in lime.  If there are no lanes, it is recommended that the stakes be numbered or painted different colors.  Each performer must run around his stake without grasping it.

Starting Position.  Standing behind the starting mark in the lane with rear foot braced by another man’s foot placed crossways behind it.

Movement.  At the starting signal, run to the stake at the farther end of the lane.  Run around the stake at the finish line.  Then return and run around the stake at the starting line.  Continue until five lengths of the course, or 300 yards have been run.  Make each turn from right to left.  The run will finish at the opposite end of the course from which it started.

Instructions.  The men should be told to run about 9/10ths full speed, to run straight down the lane, to turn around the far stake from right to left without touching it, and to return running around the stakes one after another until they have traveled five full lengths.  The men should also be instructed to walk around slowly for 3 or 4 minutes after completing the run.  Recovery will be much more rapid if they walk than if they lie down.

Administration and Scoring.  Each runner has one inspector, or judge, who stands at the finish line.  The judge watches his runner to see that he makes the turns properly and observes all the rules.  This inspector also holds the man’s card and records his performance.  A timekeeper stands on one of the lines in the middle of the course, 20 feet away from the finish line.  The men are started by the starter with ordinary signals of: “Get on your mark; get set; go.”  Since the timer starts his watch by the “go”, the starter should also use a hand signal.
When the first runner is about 30 yards away from the finish line, the timer begins to count the seconds aloud using “hup” for the half-seconds.  For example, he counts “44, hup, 45, hup, 46, hup, 47, hup, 48, hup …… etc.”  The judge for each man listens to the count and at the same time watches his runner.  He then records the last full second or half-second, which was counted before the man reached the finish line.  After the inspector records the time on the man’s scorecard he returns the card to him.
A course 25 yards long is laid out on the gymnasium floor with a lane 4 feet wide for each runner.  The lanes should be marked on the floor with water-solvent coloring, chalk, paint or adhesive tape.  Turning boards are placed at both ends of the course.   Each turning board is placed at a 45º angle, facing inside the lane and toward the runner.  The turning boards must be firmly braced and made of heavy material.   They should be from 12 to 16 inches in width.  The lower edges of the turning boards are flush with the end of the lines of the running area.  The number of each lane will be painted on the face of its board.
Starting Position.  Ready for a sprint start, with one foot braced against a turning board and the other foot and the hands extended into the lane.
Movement.  On the starting signal, run to the turning board at the other end of the lane.  Touch board with foot or feet.  Turn and continue running until completing ten shuttle trips or laps (for a total of 250 yards).  Touch the turning board at the end of each lap, except the final one. At the end of the final lap, the runner will continue across the turning board.  Any footwork may be used in making the turn provided the foot or feet touch the turning board each time.
Instructions.  Each runner must stay in his own lane.  Any method may be used in making the turn, although it is recommended that the forward foot touch the block on the turn.  In the event a runner falls or is hindered by another participant entering his lane during the progress of the run, he may be permitted to repeat the run later in the same period.
Administration and Scoring.  This event is administered and scored as the 300-yard run.  The time of the run is taken as the runner’s body passes beyond the turning board on the final lap.
When it is not possible to employ the indoor shuttle run as a substitute for the 300-yard run the 60-second squat thrust should be used.
Starting Position.  Attention.
Movement.  Bend at knees and hips and, squatting down, place hands on ground shoulder width apart.  Keep the elbows inside the knees.  Thrust feet and legs backward to a front leaning rest position.  Keep body straight from head to heels.   Support weight on hands and toes.  Recover to the squatting position.   Then recover to starting position.
how to do burpees squat thrust illustration military manual Instructions.  The men should be told that in executing this movement for speed the shoulders should be well ahead of the hands when the legs are thrust backwards.   Extending the legs too far backward, so that the shoulders are behind the hands, makes it difficult to return to the original position with speed.  On the preliminary practice, the performer is told he will score better if he does not make a full knee-bend, but bends his knees only to about a right angle; and that he should keep his arms straight. It is not a failure if he bends his arms but the performer will not be able to score as well.
Administration and Scoring.  A score is given for the successful performance of each complete squat thrust.  No score is given if: the feet start backward before the hands are placed on the ground; the hips are raised above the shoulder-heel line when the feet are back; or the performer does not fully recover to the erect position on the fourth count.  The judge should not count aloud as this is apt to confuse other nearby judges.  If the man is performing the event incorrectly, the judge should coach him, or stop him and have him repeat the test after more coaching.
How Did You Do? Check the Score Sheet.
Future of the APFT
TSAC Report
FM 21-20

Allies Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad Leadership of the highest kind Soldiering The Green Machine Useful Shit War Well I thought it was neat!

For all the Folks who wonder why we Lost in Nam – Some interesting thoughts to ponder upon

Why America Is Losing Its Wars

William Slim

William Slim

Daniel N. White.  Introduction by William Astore.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the U.S. military has embraced special forces (SEALs, Green Berets, and the like) and has been deploying them globally to at least eighty different countries.  There’s an allure to special forces and the special ops community captured in the country’s admiration of SEAL Team 6 and Hollywood productions like Act of Valor
Yet some of history’s finest military leaders haven’t been as enamored of special forces as Hollywood and the American public.  Count William Slim among their ranks.  Slim was a British field marshal who rescued Britain from certain defeat in Burma during World War II, a man deeply respected within military circles for his leadership and wisdom. 
Slim, as Dan White shows, has a lot to teach the US military about the danger of placing too much faith in special ops, especially when larger political and strategic purposes are misguided or lacking.  W.J. Astore
Why America Is Losing Its Wars
Daniel N. White
There are two big reasons why the US military continues to lose its wars.  The first is an uncritical embrace of special forces; the second is a complete lack of clear and achievable political and military objectives.  Both reasons are best exposed through the writings of one of the great military leaders of the 20th (or any other) century: Field Marshal Viscount William Slim.
Let’s take the first point first.  Currently, the US military is undergoing an unprecedented boom in special forces manpower.  Special forces now number a stupendous 63,000 (with expansion plans to 72,000) when the US Army numbers only 546,000.  This push to create a huge special forces establishment and to make it the apex of the US military’s operational forces has gone largely unnoticed and uncommented on.  And that’s a shame, since it’s perilous both for our military and our country.
In this conclusion I’m supported by Field Marshal Slim.  Slim led the Imperial British forces in Burma, a composite army of more than a dozen nationalities, from defeat in 1942 to an overwhelming victory in 1945.
Americans celebrate our defeats of the Japanese in World War II, but our battles—tough as they were—were against Japanese forces outnumbered and cut off from supply and reinforcement on Pacific island battles.
Slim inflicted the largest defeat ever in the history of the Japanese military, and did it on an open battlefield with no great superiority in men and materiel with a defeated army he personally rebuilt and retrained.
Slim’s thoughtful critique of special ops, based on hard-won military experience, is worth quoting at length:
Special forces, according to Slim, “formations, trained, equipped, and mentally adjusted for one kind of operation only, were wasteful.  They did not give, militarily, a worthwhile return for the resources in men, material, and time that they absorbed.”
“To begin with, they were usually formed by attracting the best men from normal units by better conditions, promise of excitement, and not a little propaganda.
Even on the rare occasions when normal units were converted into special ones without the option of volunteering, the same process went on in reverse.  Men thought to be below the standards set or over an arbitrary age limit were weeded out to less favored corps.
The result of these methods was undoubtedly to lower the quality of the rest of the Army, especially of the infantry, not only by skimming the cream off it, but by encouraging the idea that certain of the normal operations of war were so difficult that only specially equipped corps d’elite could be expected to undertake them.”
“Armies do not win wars by means of a few bodies of super-soldiers but by the average quality of their standard units.  Anything, whatever short cuts to victory it may promise, which thus weakens the Army spirit is dangerous.
Commanders who have used these special forces have found, as we did in Burma, that they have another grave disadvantage—they can be employed actively for only restricted periods.
Then they demand to be taken out of the battle to recuperate, while normal formations are expected to have no such limits to their employment.  In Burma, the time spent in action with the enemy by special forces was only a fraction of that endured by the normal divisions.”
“The rush to form special forces arose from confused thinking on what were, or were not, normal operations of war…The level of initiative, individual training, and weapon skill required in, say, a commando, is admirable; what is not admirable is that it should be confined to a few small units.
Any well trained infantry battalion should be able to do what a commando can do; in the Fourteenth Army they could and did.  The cult of special forces is as sensible as to form a Royal Corps of Tree Climbers and say that no soldier who does not wear its green hat with a bunch of oak leaves stuck in it should be expected to climb a tree.”
Let’s recap.  We have the US military, the Army in particular, embarked on an unprecedented explosion of special forces within its ranks.
One of the great military leaders of the 20th century says that special forces are expensive in resources and generally don’t deliver on what they promise.  This doesn’t look good.
It looks worse when you consider that this explosion of special forces has coincided with two military defeats against what charitably must be called third rate opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Slim provides additional reasons why our military’s excessive reliance on special forces contributed to these defeats:
“The question of control of these clandestine bodies is not without its pitfalls.  In the last war among the allies, cloak-and-dagger organizations multiplied until to commanders in the field—at least in my theater—they became an embarrassment.
The trouble was that each was controlled from some distant headquarters of its own, and such was the secrecy and mutual suspicion in which they operated that they sometimes acted in close proximity to our troops without the knowledge of any commander in the field, with a complete lack of coordination among themselves, and in dangerous ignorance of local tactical developments.
It was not until the activities of all clandestine bodies operating in or near our troops were coordinated and where necessary controlled, through a senior officer on the staff of the commander on the area, that confusion, ineffectiveness, and lost opportunities were avoided.”
Special forces, with their unique and often secretive lines of command, generate severe operational problems in the field, a problem which the US military has experienced in its own, most recent, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Slim’s critique supports the notion that the US military’s recent rush to special forces has contributed to its defeats of late.  The question is why this rush to special forces occurred.   The major reason is our confused thinking about war.  Any war as incoherent and objectiveless as a global war on “terror” must inevitably spawn confused thinking about what normal military operations are in such a war.
The US military simply has no coherent military or political objective for these wars.  I’ve written elsewhere about this, see HERE and HERE.
For the US military, confused thinking at the higher echelons provided special forces enthusiasts with their chance to expand beyond all necessity because they claimed (falsely) to have all the answers for the current uncharted seas we were sailing. They had a plan when others didn’t, and that’s a large part of the rush to special forces—no firm hand was on the tiller.
Here again we should turn to Slim, because he brings to the fore the dire consequence of fighting without coherent objectives:
“For the poor showing we made during the first phase of  the war in Burma, the Retreat, there may have been few excuses, but there were many causes, some of them beyond the control of local commanders.
Of these causes, one affected all our efforts and contributed much to turning our defeat into disaster—the failure, after the fall of Rangoon, to give the forces in the field a clear strategic object for the campaign….
Yet a realistic assessment of possibilities there and a firm, clear directive would have made a great deal of difference to us and to the way we fought.  Burma was not the first, nor was it to be the last, campaign that had been launched on no very clear realization of its political or military objects.  A study of such campaigns points emphatically to the almost inevitable disaster that must follow.  (Italics mine)   Commanders in the field, in fairness to them and their troops, must be clear and definitely told what is the object they are locally to attain.”
Future discussions of why the US has been defeated in its two most recent wars should use these words of Slim as the starting point for any explanation of US failure.  The US military’s rush to special forces is a contributing factor to our current military defeats, but the lead cause is as painfully obvious as it is almost completely ignored: the total lack of clear and coherent political and military objectives for our wars.
The US military’s mania for special forces bothers no one in Washington’s political circles, let alone within the Pentagon.  But from what Slim has taught us, it’s all going to end badly.  Just how badly depends on our future military adventures.
We will certainly have a less effective military because of our special forces mania.  In peacetime that’s regrettable but not fatal.  But come wartime we will ask too much of our special forces and they will fail.  Meanwhile, the regular military, weakened by years of special forces mania, may fail as well.  It’s a sure-fire recipe for defeat.
Unlike Slim, the US military—weakened by structural faults driven by special forces mania and befuddled by a lack of clear and achievable objectives—won’t be able to turn defeat into victory.
Daniel N. White has lived in Austin, Texas, for a lot longer than he originally planned to.  He reads a lot more than we are supposed to, particularly about topics that we really aren’t supposed to worry about.  He works blue-collar for a living–you can be honest doing that–but is somewhat fed up with it right now.  He will gladly respond to all comments that aren’t too insulting or dumb.  He can be reached at