Thursday, April 30, 2020

A McLaren sports car versus an F-35?

I was amused to discover this video clip from the British TV program Top Gear.  In it, a McLaren Speedtail sports car is pitted against one of Britain's STOVL F-35B strike aircraft.  It's a lot of fun.

Boys and their toys indeed . . .


You learn something new every day

Yesterday I was glancing through novelist Nevil Shute's autobiography, "Slide Rule", in a brief moment of inactivity.

He's a fascinating character.  He was an aeronautical engineer by profession, and spent much of World War II designing secret weapons.  He was one of the designers of the R100 airship (shown below) during the inter-war years.

He used the term "goldbeaters-skin" when describing the building of the hydrogen gas bags that provided lift to the airship.  I'd never heard of it, so I looked it up.  Wikipedia informed me:

Goldbeater's skin is the processed outer membrane of the intestine of an animal, typically an ox, valued for its strength against tearing. The term derives from its traditional use as durable layers interleaved between sheets of gold stock during the process of making gold leaf by goldbeating, as a batch process producing many "leaves" at the same time. In the early modern production of airships, application of its high strength-to-weight ratio and reliability were crucial for building at least the largest examples.

To manufacture goldbeater's skin, the gut of oxen (or other cattle) is soaked in a dilute solution of potassium hydroxide, washed, stretched, beaten flat and thin, and treated chemically to prevent putrefaction. A pack of 1,000 pieces of goldbeater's skin requires the gut of about 400 oxen and is 1 inch (25 mm) thick.

Up to 120 sheets of gold laminated with goldbeater's skin can be beaten at the same time, since the skin is thin and elastic and does not tear under heavy goldbeating. The resultant thickness of gold leaf can be as small as 1 μm-thick.

. . .

Large quantities of goldbeater's skin were used to make the gas bags of early balloons created by the Royal Engineers at Chatham, Kent starting in 1881–82 culminating in 1883 with "The Heron", of 10,000 cu ft capacity. The method of preparing and making gas-tight joins in the skins was known only to a family from Alsatia called Weinling who were employed by the RE for many years. The British had a monopoly on the technique until around 1912 when the Germans adopted the material for the internal gas bags of the "Zeppelin" rigid airships, exhausting the available supply: about 200,000 sheets were used for a typical World War I Zeppelin, while the USS Shenandoah needed 750,000 sheets. The sheets were joined together and folded into impermeable layers.

There's more at the link.

To my surprise, I learned that goldbeaters skin is still used to this day, not only for goldbeating, but also in the manufacture of hygrometers, the repair of vellum manuscripts, and to seal oboe mouthpieces.  One would have thought that so relatively primitive a substance would have been replaced by a synthetic alternative by now, but apparently that hasn't happened.  Perhaps the market for it is too small to justify the expense.

One learns something new every day.


The central business district may not be so central for much longer

Earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, I speculated:

Think about it.  If you're a business that until now has rented, say, a couple of floors in an office building to house your administrative functions, but you now learn to do the same job with most of your admin workers telecommuting from home . . . why go back to renting that space?  Why not continue to have them work from home, and save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in rental every year?  It's a no-brainer.  Landlords should already be factoring that into their considerations for the future - and getting concerned.

Looks like I'm far from alone in thinking about that.  The BBC reports:

Having thousands of bank workers in big, expensive city offices "may be a thing of the past", Barclays boss Jes Staley has said.

About 70,000 of Barclays' staff worldwide are working from home due to coronavirus lockdown measures.

This had led to a rethink of the bank's long term "location strategy", Mr Staley said.

. . .

In recent years, banks worldwide have shifted staff away from expensive skyscrapers in financial hubs, but Barclays and its rivals still have busy offices in places such as London's Canary Wharf.

But Mr Staley said his bank was re-evaluating how much office space it needed, as it was now being run by staff working "from their kitchens".

He added that in the future retail branches could be used by investment banking and call centre workers, hinting at an end to long commutes for some workers.

"There will be a long-term adjustment to our location strategy," Mr Staley told reporters. "The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past."

There's more at the link.

The implications of such a decision, spread across thousands of companies currently taking up office space in cities' central business districts (CBD's), are staggering.  Consider:
  • What about the transport infrastructure that's been built up to ferry people in to work and back home again?  Railways, buses, even the roads themselves - what if the historical network suddenly falls to a much lower level of use or occupancy?  Budgets will have to be adjusted, plans for expansion curtailed, vehicles and rolling stock mothballed, staff laid off.  I don't think anyone's looking at that yet.
  • What about businesses created to support businesses in the CBD?  Cafes, restaurants, food carts, dry-cleaning outlets, gift shops - there are thousands of businesses set up to cater to and for office workers.  If those workers aren't there in the numbers they were before, what's going to happen to those businesses?
  • The biggest losers in the business world may be landlords.  Hugely expensive office buildings may become financial millstones around their necks.  (For example, One World Trade Center cost almost $4 billion to construct.)  Loans to build more such buildings may dry up altogether if banks can't be sure of a return on so large an investment.  Rents will probably have to be drastically reduced in an effort to persuade tenants to remain, and/or to persuade tenants to move from one landlord's premises to another's.  Competition to sell office space might become much more cut-throat than has been normal up to now.
  • Cities will be faced with a massive reduction in rates and taxes from a shrinking CBD.  How will they make up for the shortfall?  What about the money they've spent to build up a transport network to support the CBD?  Many such networks have "featherbedded" contracts with trades unions.  If demand for their services falls, can the city lay off workers, or is it contractually obliged to keep them, at vast expense?  What will the unions have to say about it?

All these are questions that will have to be answered, and soon.  Frankly, once companies see how much money they can save by having employees work from home, I can't see them keeping up such large offices any longer than they have to.  They can always bring in staff once a week to smaller premises, staggering work days so that a central office receives, say, one-fifth of the employees and/or corporate divisions every day to brief them on developments, ensure everyone's working to the same script, and do the necessary administrative work.  Even one day a week may prove to be more than is necessary in the long run.  How will companies reorganize their operations and structure to take advantage of the "new normal"?

This will bear careful watching.  I think it's going to affect a great many white-collar workers before long.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A monster container ship is collecting . . . empties?

One of the biggest container ships in the world, the MSC Anna, recently visited California.  Here's a video report about her arrival.

What I found most interesting was the comment that she'd come to collect empty containers, and take them back to China.  This is a vitally important part of re-establishing international trade.  With the shutdown across the globe, containers that were en route to their destinations were delivered - and then just sat there, with no way to get them back to the factories that sent them.  Without those containers, the factories couldn't pack goods for export, even if they got their production lines running again.  There was basically a complete, almost unbridgeable disconnect between producer and consumer, particularly when most container shipping shut down.

It's encouraging to see so large a ship filled with thousands upon thousands of empty containers.  May they soon be filled again!

(The ship itself is an absolute monster, posing all sorts of challenges to pilots and port staff.  You can read about that in this article.  I found it very interesting.)


Bailing out the states: the momentum - and the prospect for violence - builds

Regular readers will know that for years, I've predicted that the failing states in the Union - failing because of their feckless, fiscally inept and terminally greedy politicians, plus the cronies to whom they pour out largesse from the state budget - are going to demand that the federal government bail them out, and assume responsibility for their catastrophically large, otherwise unpayable debts, deficits and overheads.

I was right.

As I reported last week, Illinois Democrats have asked for over $41 billion in financial aid, ostensibly related to the costs of the coronavirus pandemic, but in reality specifically earmarked to make up the shortfall in state pension funding, pay off the state's deficit, and basically cover their overspending for the past decade or two.  The money has little or nothing to do with the coronavirus, but everything to do with ensuring that their past misdeeds are paid for by the taxpayers of the entire United States, not just those in Illinois.  What's more, you and I know full well that if they succeed, they won't change their spendthrift ways.  Within a few years, they'll have dug themselves into yet another fiscal hole, and demand to be bailed out yet again - citing this bailout as precedent.

If you want to know some of the facts underlying Illinois' predicament, read this article.

Our analysis at shows that an Illinois family of four now owes more in unfunded pension liabilities ($76,000) than they earn in household income ($63,585). In a state of 13 million residents, every man, woman, and child owes $19,000 — on an estimated $251 billion pension liability.

Our auditors discovered 110,000 public employees and retirees who earned more than $100,000 last year.

We found tree trimmers in Chicago making $106,663; nurses at state corrections earning up to $277,100; junior college presidents making $491,095; university doctors earning up to $2 million; and 111 small town managers who out-earned every governor of the 50 states ($202,000).

There's more at the link.

It's becoming clear that almost every state and major city that's in similar self-inflicted dire straits is hoping for a similar bailout.  Democrats are demanding it;  Republicans are pushing back.

Democratic leaders on Tuesday doubled down on their demand for $500 billion in aid to states to help with the coronavirus crisis while rejecting a suggestion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that some struggling states may need to declare bankruptcy.

“Right now the House is hard at work for the next bill CARES 2, which must contain robust funding for state and local government to pay frontline workers,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a call with reporters. “Governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats, are crying out for support.”

. . .

"In terms of funding we may have two packages, one for states and one for locals," Pelosi said. Later she clarified: “It looks like we’re going to need 500 [billion] for the states and we may also need a very big figure for counties and municipalities."

. . .

On Monday, President Trump appeared open to signing such a bill, but also asked why taxpayers should bail out “poorly run states.”

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?” Trump tweeted Monday. “I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?”

Again, more at the link.

New York City is trying to get in on the act as well.

The word “absurd” doesn’t even begin to describe this ridiculous demand by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as he publicly says he wants the federal government to replace all of the missing revenue from the COVID-19 economic shut-down.  This is bonkers.

If the federal government was to even consider taking such action it would essentially be promoting all states and cities to remain shut-down forever; because, in the mind of those who live from the government trough, there would be no need to reopen.  The mental disconnect here is incredible. I think the needle on my ‘nope-meter‘ just broke off.

While private citizens, private companies and private workers are forced –by government– to remain locked in their homes; unable to earn a living and on the cusp of financial despair, or face arrest; the NYC Mayor wants the government system and workers to be isolated from any economic impact via a federal bailout.

Sundance, blogging at The Last Refuge, believes this is part of a deliberate wider strategy by Democrat-controlled cities and states to prolong the economic impact of the pandemic for as long as possible, hoping that the misery it inflicts will bring them votes in November.  It's hard to disagree with him.  Bold, underlined text below is my emphasis.

It is being reported the San Francisco Bay area will remain in a state of forced lock-down with an extension of the stay-at-home orders throughout May.  Considering this is the home of Speaker Nancy Pelosi,… this decision highlights an expectation that the federal government will bail out local and state governments.

We anticipated this type of approach where Blue states & Blue regions will keep their economies closed as long as possible to inflict maximum political damage.  Simply, if San Francisco were not confident they will gain a federal bailout they would not be keeping their economic system closed for another entire month.

. . .

It is likely that Democrat governors and Democrats in the House have organized a specific media allied approach to demand the federal bailout.  There is simply no way any state or local region would remain shut down unless they were confident of funding.

Any bailout would only help the local and state government. It would not help the private sector, or private sector workers. By using federal taxpayer funds to replace missing tax revenue, the Blue states/regions would be protecting their own big government ideology.

The three step plan seems predictable:

  1. Get out ahead of President Trump.
  2. Defy the ‘all clear’ and shape economic benefit to their political allies.
  3. Then use Fauci’s upcoming dossier to hit the administration for heartlessly opening the economy too early.
This is going to be one hell of a battle.

Essentially we are looking at a Spring and Summer conflict, an economic civil war between Blue states/regions and Red states/regions.

More at the link.

Essentially, many state and local governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to suspend constitutional rights and liberties, and govern by decree.  They're now trying to extend that to the federal government as well, by making it dance to their fiscally irresponsible tune.  As the American Spectator points out, "Now that officials have learned they can suspend our civil liberties by edict, expect such “emergency” measures any time there’s another crisis, real or perceived."  I expect that'll apply to bailouts as well.

I don't think those agitating for a federal bailout, using the economic misery generated by the pandemic as a lever to apply pressure, have thought this through.  If their residents find that government largesse is no longer flowing (at least in the amounts they want);  and if they believe (or have been told, loudly and repeatedly, by their politicians) that they're entitled to such largesse;  then they're going to get out of control and try to take what they want.  The results are likely to be catastrophic for law and order, and civil society.

I think the ordinary people of America realize this.  After all, that's why they bought more guns in March than any other month in previous US history.  They're getting ready to defend what's theirs - and I believe they're right in anticipating the need to do so.  Again, bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

"Simply put: I wanted peace of mind when it comes to the safety of my family," Eaton said.

. . .

"To me, it's all about protecting my family, and if a gun makes that easier, so be it," Scott, a California tech worker with a wife and daughter, said.

Many of the new gun owners cited concerns about personal protection as states began emptying jail cells and police departments announced they would no longer enforce certain laws. Jake Wilhelm, a Virginia-based environmental consultant and lacrosse coach, purchased a Sig Sauer P226 after seeing Italy enact a nationwide lockdown on March 9.

"[My fiancée and I] came to the conclusion in early March that if a nation like Italy was going into full lockdown, we in the U.S. were likely on the same path," Wilhelm said. "Given that, and knowing that police resources would be stretched to the max, I decided to purchase a handgun."

. . .

"I think a lot of people were afraid of exactly what's happening now," Viden said. "They're afraid if it continues to go on longer, things are going to get worse."

. . .

The fear extended past the disease to how communities would bear the strain of job loss, lockdown orders, and law enforcement policies adopted in the wake of the spread. One Tampa inmate who was released over coronavirus concerns has now been accused of murder, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Brian, a 40-year-old living near Tampa, lost his full-time bartending job in March but was concerned enough about deteriorating public safety that he dipped into his savings to purchase a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

"My biggest fear is that our local police force comes down with the virus," he said. "If the good guys are all out sick, who is going to stop the bad guys? When people have no hope, they get desperate. And we fear the worst is to come."

More at the link.

You want to know why my friends want me to upgrade their rifles?  You want to know why I've been warning about COVID-19 as a threat to personal security, and suggesting ways to keep your shooting skills honed, even during the lockdown?  You want to know why I wrote my recent three article series about personal defense rifles?  Look no further.  To quote a sixties trope, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."  As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the grasshoppers are already coming after the ants.

I expect that problem to become exponentially worse during the next two to three months.  Other observers are even more pessimistic than I am.  (Try this one as an example:  "The economy is dead on arrival, the pin to the grenade has already been pulled, the majority of Americans simply don't realize it yet.")

I don't think it's going to be as bad as that, but it's certainly going to be a very difficult few years ahead.  I can only hope and pray that the worst expectations and predictions are wrong.


Oh, I wish . . .

. . . this wasn't just a comic!  Click the image to be taken to a larger version at the "Pearls Before Swine" Web page.

The only improvement I can think of would be to have the CEO try to call 911 to complain - only to find it's been outsourced to India, and the staff there speak English with an accent so heavy it's almost indecipherable.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Voting by mail will be "The Most Massive Fraud Scheme in the History of America"

That's the opinion of lawyer Jim Bopp Jr., who's filed suits in more than one state to prevent unsupervised, check-and-balance-free postal balloting.

“I don’t use the word ‘voters,’” he says, “I use the word ‘people on the registration rolls’ because many of them are ineligible to vote. They’re not voters. They’re people that are on the registration rolls that are ineligible to vote.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation, Democratic officials and activists began pushing states to switch to voting by mail, eliminating in-person voting altogether — and probably permanently.

But organizations that have spent years reviewing the voter rolls in many states estimate that more than 20 million of the names nationwide are duplicates, people who have moved away, are deceased, non-citizens or felons who have not had their voting rights restored.

“Democrats have been trying to register everybody in the country and then fight purging the rolls of ineligible people, and now they want to mail ballots to every single one of them,” says Bopp. “It’s just like, talk about the most massive fraud scheme in the history of America. Makes Tammany Hall looks like a bunch of pikers, or the Pendergast Machine in Kansas City look like they didn’t even know how to steal elections.”

. . .

All-mail voting is not the same as absentee voting as voting absentee involves the voter requesting an absentee ballot, usually by mail, with a signature.

Some states have more stringent requirements than others. In Kansas, for example, people requesting an absentee ballot are required to send a copy of a driver’s license or State ID with the application for an absentee ballot.

“Part of the problem with this discussion is, we are familiar with absentee ballots, and that does involve quote mailing a ballot, end of quote,” says Bopp, “but there are numerous safeguards, the most important of which is the prior application. You have to apply.

“You have an audit trail, and all sorts of things. And that’s why a lot of these Democrats and liberal activists don’t like absentee ballot,” he says. “They want wholesale mailing out without application because it eliminates half the fraud protection.”

There's more at the link.

Equally dangerous, IMHO, is the push to legitimize so-called "ballot harvesting".  That resulted in all the Congressional districts in Orange County, CA - previously solidly Republican - turning Democrat in the last election, due solely to a flood of mail-in and absentee ballots "collected by volunteers".  Republicans used similar shenanigans to win an election in North Carolina.  The problem isn't limited to one political party.

I think there's likely to be absolutely massive electoral fraud this November as Democrats try to ensure, by hook or by crook, that they retain the House, take back the Senate, and defeat President Trump.  They've never forgiven him for defeating Hillary Clinton last time, and they want to make him a one-term President to exact revenge.  If they can't do that, they at least want to emasculate his policy agenda by controlling Congress.  Endangered Republican incumbents will be sorely tempted to indulge in shady tricks of their own to defend their seats, or unseat key Democrat players.  I think Mr. Bopp's warning needs to be taken very seriously indeed.

Perhaps we need to throw out every incumbent, irrespective of their party affiliation, and elect fresh blood?



Er . . . oops?

The Russian Mil Mi-26 helicopter is the largest in the world, able to lift up to 20 tons (the same cargo capacity as a Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft) or over 100 passengers.  It's almost as big as a Boeing 737 airliner.

An Mi-26 was coming in to land on the Yamal peninsula in Russia a few days ago when something went wrong.

Looking at the fragments of its massive eight-bladed rotor flying around, I'm glad I wasn't anywhere nearby!  There's no word on casualties, but it landed tail-down, and the fuselage looks relatively intact, so I hope those inside managed to get away with only minor injuries.


The personal defense rifle, part 3: choosing ammunition

In our previous articles on this subject, we examined what equipment to add to our rifles, and answered questions from readers.  Today I'd like to tackle one of the most controversial issues:  what ammunition to select for defensive use.  Perhaps inevitably, the quick answer is, "It depends".

There are many factors affecting our choice of ammo.  In the case of the AR-15-style rifle, it's complicated because the cartridge it fires (usually the 5.56x45mm NATO round, or the .223 Remington lower-pressure civilian version of that round) is a compromise.  It does some things more or less adequately, but seldom does all of them exceptionally well.  You can read about why it was adopted here.  Briefly, it was initially designed to provide military personnel with a round that would be effective at "typical" combat ranges (100-300 yards), with less recoil and greater controllability (particularly in full-auto fire) than its predecessors (the 7.62x51mm NATO round - .308 Winchester in civilian guise - and, before that, the venerable .30-06 Springfield).  It also had to be substantially lighter than its predecessors, so that an infantryman could carry more ammunition and thereby stay in the fight longer without needing resupply.

The initial military-issue round, as used in the Vietnam War, has become known as the M193;  a 55-grain bullet traveling at approximately 3,100-3,200 feet per second.  The first iteration of the M16 rifle had a rifling twist rate of 1-in-12 (i.e. the rifling made one complete turn every 12 inches of barrel length, or 1.67 times in the 20-inch length of the rifle's barrel).  This stabilized the 55gr. bullet enough for accuracy, but allowed it to "tumble" in flesh soon after entering the body.  It caused serious wounds in the first few inches of penetration.

Some years later, the military decided that it was desirable to shoot accurately at longer range, and penetrate a typical Soviet-issue steel helmet at a range of up to 600 yards.  This led to the development of the M855 round (NATO designation SS109), a 62-grain green-tipped round incorporating a steel penetrator.  It offered much better penetration and long-range accuracy, but required a tighter twist rate to stabilize it, and seldom tumbled in flesh.  It often made a neat "knitting-needle" type hole, straight through the body, and therefore did not disable opponents as quickly or effectively as the earlier M193 round.  (There are numerous combat reports of enemy fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq absorbing 6-8 solid torso hits with M855, but still being able to fight back until blood loss, or a more effective central nervous system hit, took effect.  You'll find a more in-depth comparison of the M193 and M855 rounds here.)

Combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq led to many experiments over the past couple of decades to find a round with greater long-range accuracy and terminal effectiveness, plus greater disabling effect on enemy personnel, to stop them shooting back.  Demand was driven by special forces units in particular.  Their needs and input led to the development of the Mk. 262 round;  a 77-grain bullet with a so-called "Open Tip Match" (OTM) hollow point that was not designed primarily for expansion, but to shift mass to the rear of the bullet, promoting long-range stability.  (You can read more about its development here.)  A cannelure on the projectile guarded against bullet setback, and promoted fragmentation and tumbling in flesh.

Versions of this round are now produced by several manufacturers in the USA, and by IMI in Israel.  It's not ideal for barrier penetration (of which more later), but it offers excellent long-range performance compared to its predecessors, and superior terminal ballistics against human targets.  However, such heavy-for-caliber bullets require a tight rifling twist to stabilize them:  1-in-7 or 1-in-8 inches is typical.  If your rifling is looser than that (1-in-9 or less), your barrel may not fully stabilize those rounds, resulting in reduced accuracy.  Test them in your firearm before deciding whether to buy a good supply of them, and if necessary replace your barrel with a tighter-twist one (something that's easy to do with AR-15-pattern rifles, and relatively inexpensive).

Two other approaches were adopted for military ammunition.  The US Marine Corps developed what it calls the Mk. 318 Mod 0 round, designed to penetrate barriers better while remaining capable of inflicting disabling injury on the far side.  It's an open-tipped match round like the Mk. 262, although it's 20% lighter.  (It appears very similar in its effects to the new FBI round, of which more below.)  Meanwhile, the US Army put a lot of effort into improving the standard M855 round, producing the lead-free M855A1.  It operates at significantly higher pressures than M855, which has led to reports of increased wear on rifles firing it;  but it's claimed to offer better penetration through barriers, and much improved terminal ballistics in flesh.  Neither the Mk. 318 Mod 0 or M855A1 are sold on the civilian market, although some examples appear to have "fallen off trucks" and made their way into private hands now and then.  For training purposes and outside combat zones, both the Marines and the Army are still using the standard M855 round by the truckload.

Law enforcement requirements have led in a different direction.  Cops usually have no choice but to take on a bad guy, to stop him injuring others.  They mostly can't choose when, where or how to engage.  Therefore, they need a bullet that can both penetrate cover (e.g. auto bodies or glass, doors to buildings, etc.) and inflict disabling injury, to stop a criminal in his tracks.  They also typically work at much shorter ranges than the average military engagement, and with innocent bystanders in close proximity;  so they need to avoid over-penetration, to reduce the risk to them.  What's more, they're not bound by the Hague Convention strictures forbidding expanding bullets, which the US armed forces observe even though the USA was not a signatory to the Conventions.

For general-purpose use, law enforcement has therefore gravitated towards expanding rounds such as Hornady's widely-used TAP (Tactical Application Police) series in various bullet weights.  For short-barreled carbines and urban use, many specialist units such as SWAT and hostage rescue teams have adopted bonded soft-point loads.  A highly regarded and very knowledgeable ammunition expert had this to say in 2010 about the FBI's chosen solution:

The FBI has completed their testing process and awarded a 5.56 mm ammunition contract for up to $97 million dollars. This award is now public information and appears unique in several ways. Besides being perhaps the largest ammunition contract in FBI history, it is also the first time the FBI has mandated a true 5.56 mm pressure loading, rather than the typical anemic .223 pressure loadings that have generally been marketed to LE agencies. The 5.56 mm load offers approximately an extra 200 fps--helping performance out of short barrel weapons and enhancing function when rifles are dirty or in dusty conditions. The new FBI contract also required that the ammunition be packaged on stripper clips to aid in more rapid loading of magazines. Finally, it is the first multi-award carbine ammo contract for the FBI--both Federal Cartridge and Winchester were judged to offer ammunition which met the contract criteria. Numerous other Federal LE agencies are authorized to purchase off this contract.

The 5.56 mm Federal 62 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (TBBC) bonded JSP load is XM556FBIT3.

The 5.56 mm Winchester 64 gr solid base bonded JSP is Q3313 on stripper clips/RA556B in 20 rd boxes.

Both of these loads are the best barrier blind 5.56 mm loads ever produced for LE use; they offer outstanding terminal performance, even after first defeating intermediate barriers like vehicle windshields.

(Note the similarity - on paper, at any rate - between the Federal load for the FBI and the US Marine Corps' Mk. 318 Mod 0 round, discussed above.)

A brief explanation of terms might be useful before we go any further.  The term "bonded", when applied to a bullet, means that its outer jacket and inner core (the former usually copper, the latter usually lead) are engineered to stay together upon impact, ensuring that the bullet remains intact instead of fragmenting, which might result in over-penetration of some fragments and expose bystanders to risk.  "Barrier blind" performance means that even after penetrating a barrier such as auto bodies or glass, the bullet will not disintegrate, and will perform substantially as well in human flesh as if there were no barrier at all.

The Federal FBIT3 load for the FBI has also been sold under the SBCT3 designation for non-FBI contracts, and is currently available to civilians through a few suppliers under that designation (here's one that had it in stock at the time of writing).  Sadly, it's very expensive (well over a dollar per round), although that's no more than good-quality hunting ammunition costs these days.  I have a little of the original FBIT3, and guard it jealously.  Nosler makes a near-equivalent round in the form of their .223 Defense Rifle Ammunition, using a 64-grain bonded bullet.  The same bullet has been loaded to 5.56mm pressures by other manufacturers;  for example, some years ago I tested a version from Beck Ammunition with good results, although it's no longer in their catalog.

Bullets with exposed lead at the tip (such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph) have two potential drawbacks.  The first is that they may not feed well in some AR-15-style weapons, because the latter were designed around military-style full metal jacket rounds.  Their feed ramps may cause drag against exposed lead bullet tips (particularly in lower-cost, less-well-engineered firearms).  Therefore, if you want to use such bullets, it's essential that you test them thoroughly to make sure the combination is reliable.  I suggest putting at least 200 rounds downrange through each and every rifle or carbine in which you intend to use them, without a single malfunction, before trusting your life to them.  Also, make sure all your magazines can feed them without any problems.  Furthermore, you'll need to keep the feed ramps of your weapon scrupulously lead-free, so plan on more intensive and more frequent maintenance and cleaning.  That's vitally important.

The second drawback is that such bullets are ballistically and aerodynamically less efficient than pointed styles, with different mass distribution and potentially greater drag.  The combination can result in lower accuracy.  I've found that my rifles and carbines will deliver 1-2 MOA all day with conventional full-metal-jacket ammunition, but drop to 2-3 MOA, and occasionally even worse, when using soft-point, blunter ammunition such as the Nosler 64gr. bullet or Georgia Arms' economical 55gr. soft-point load.  That's not necessarily a drawback in a short- to medium-range defensive environment:  a 3"-4" group at 100 yards is still adequate for a head shot, and a 5"-6" group at 150 yards will still fit inside a human target's chest area.  The FBI rounds and their law enforcement equivalents were developed primarily for use at those sorts of ranges.  For that combat environment, they are sufficiently accurate.  For longer ranges . . . not so much.

So, having discussed the options available, what should you choose?  Let me start by saying that, if your rifle is chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition, I strongly recommend that you buy ammunition labeled as such, rather than .223 Remington.  5.56 ammunition is loaded to higher pressures than .223, giving an extra couple of hundred feet per second velocity.  (For that reason, don't shoot 5.56 ammo in a .223-chambered rifle, even though it'll usually fit and function just fine.  The pressure might be too high for safety, particularly as the rifle gets hot.  However, .223 ammo can be fired safely in any 5.56-chambered rifle.  Plan your rifle purchases accordingly.)

Selection will largely depend on your budget.  For a relatively low-cost solution, the original M193 55-grain bullet will do an adequate job.  It also has the advantage for civilian use that it penetrates sheet-rock and building walls relatively poorly, so over-penetration in an urban environment is less likely to be a problem.  The M855 62-grain round offers superior long-range performance, but that's something civilian shooters are unlikely to need as much as soldiers - and besides, most of us lack the training and extensive practice needed to take advantage of that accuracy.  Also, M193 is more likely to stay in the body of an attacker (and not pass through walls), while M855 is much more likely to over-penetrate and cause potential hazard to people and objects beyond the target.  On balance, I recommend M193 as a reasonably effective low-cost solution.  (I also stock both M193 and M855 as training ammo, so as not to waste my much more expensive "social use" rounds.)  If you want to go to a 55gr. load with less penetration and better terminal ballistics, there's Hornady's 55gr. TAP load, which has an excellent record "on the street";  or there's the Georgia Arms soft-point load mentioned above.  Both are loaded to .223 pressures rather than 5.56mm.

(Let me take this opportunity to mention that Georgia Arms offers remanufactured 5.56mm and .223 ammunition, using once-fired cases, at very reasonable prices, perhaps the most economical solution for practice and competition use out there at present.  Their "Canned Heat" bulk pack ammunition [packaged in ammo cans, and available in multiple rifle and handgun calibers and loadings] is relatively affordable.  I have several hundred rounds of it in my stash as I write these words.  No, they didn't ask to be mentioned and they're not compensating me in any way for recommending them - I just like my readers to know about good deals when they're available.)

If you can afford something better, there are several good choices.  My round of choice for general-purpose defensive use is the Mk. 262 77-grain OTM.  I don't know what my engagement range might be;  my location on any given day varies from visiting a city, to driving through the Texas plains.  Therefore, I want the versatility of good accuracy and terminal performance anywhere from "up close and personal" to "way out there".  I use the Israeli version of the Mk. 262 (you can read a detailed review of it here).  Here's a video clip showing its performance in ballistic gelatin.  It's particularly interesting to me because the round was fired through a 10½" barreled rifle, the same barrel length as my AR-15 5.56mm. pistol.  Despite the short barrel and consequent loss of velocity, the bullet performed very well.

This ammo is expensive, but you get what you pay for.  I don't think there's a better general-purpose defensive round out there at present for the AR-15-style weapon than the Mk. 262 or its equivalents (such as, for example, Hornady's 75gr. TAP load).  Stocks of the Mk. 262 from any manufacturer are usually limited, due to its expense and military demand for the round.  (There are currently a few cases of the IMI version at my favorite supplier.). However, function-test it carefully before adopting it.  It's slightly longer than some other 5.56mm rounds, so some magazines and weapons may not load or feed it reliably.  Testing is critical before you trust your life to any firearm or round!

For short-barreled AR-15 carbines or pistols in an urban environment, many people prefer 62- and 64-grain soft-point rounds like those used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.  For use in confined quarters, such as home defense or on city streets, you want as little risk of over-penetration as possible, so those rounds are a decent choice.  Another good one is a so-called "plastic tipped" round, like those in Hornady's TAP range.  They feed very reliably and, particularly in lighter bullet weights, expand explosively in flesh and are very unlikely to over-penetrate.  That's why I carry 55gr. TAP in my home defense AR-15.

There's another option that's been well reviewed by people who know what they're talking about.  Barnes Bullets have developed a line of solid copper projectiles, containing no lead.  They expand aggressively in flesh, but also offer "barrier blind" performance and deep penetration.  Barnes loads them in its own VOR-TX brand of ammunition, and Cor-Bon uses them in its DPX line;  some other manufacturers also offer them.  John Farnam (whom we've met in these pages before) speaks very highly of the DPX load (I quoted him on the subject back in 2013, when I bought a case of it).  It's hard to find these bullets, and ammo using them, in local stores, so you may have to look around online and move quickly when you find some.  They're usually quite expensive, but I think they'll serve you very well for short- to medium-range defensive purposes.  I carried DPX in my rifles when I lived in a large city (Nashville, TN), and would still gladly do so in an urban environment.  However, now that I live in plains country, where longer-range shots may be required, I've switched to Mk. 262 with its better ballistic properties for that purpose.  (If anyone wants to buy a few hundred rounds of DPX 62gr., drop me a line.  My e-mail address is in my blog profile.)

There are several hunting rounds that will do double duty as defensive rounds.  To cite just a few examples, Federal's 62-grain Fusion round or either of Winchester's 64-grain deer hunting rounds are likely to do just as well against two-legged targets as four-legged ones.  (You'll have noticed that their bullet weights and types correspond very closely to the respective companies' FBI loads, discussed above - indeed, for all we know they may use the same bullets.)  I'd consider myself adequately equipped if they (or equivalents from other ammunition manufacturers) were all I had.  You don't have to buy specifically military or law enforcement rounds to be well defended.  Just put enough of them through your defensive rifle or carbine to be sure they'll feed and function without any problems before you rely on them.  This can be costly, particularly during the current ammo shortage, but don't skimp on the testing.  The last thing you want in a real-world defensive encounter is to find out the hard way that you didn't test thoroughly enough, and your rifle is now out of action!

One final word of warning.  I know a lot of shooters who have plenty of ammunition, and good-quality magazines, and high-quality rifles and carbines in which to use them:  but they don't keep them "ready to go" in case of emergency.  I think this is a potentially fatal flaw in their thinking.  If you're willing to keep a loaded handgun on standby in case of emergency, why not do the same thing with your rifle?  Obviously, you'll not want to have loaded guns accessible to or by unsupervised children:  but if you can keep them locked away from over-curious young hands and minds, don't ignore the readiness factor.

I keep a few loaded magazines securely stashed in close proximity to my (equally securely stored) defensive long guns.  During periods of increased vulnerability (e.g. while we're asleep at night), a rifle will be near to hand, magazine inserted, ready to chamber a round and go.  In more risky situations (such as living in a high crime area where home-invasion-style robberies are not infrequent), I'd probably keep a long gun loaded and ready at all times.  A rifle has a lot more "stopping power" than an average handgun, and I want the odds on my side in a fight, thank you very much!

Remember the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas a few years ago?  The citizen who took on the murderer and stopped further bloodshed used his AR-15 rifle to do so - but he had to take the time to load a magazine first, before he could intervene.  I stand second to no-one in my appreciation of his courage and his willingness to stand up against evil:  but how many more lives might have been saved if he'd had a loaded magazine ready to use, and thus been able to respond more quickly?  We should learn from that.  A defensive rifle - or any defensive weapon - that isn't ready to defend you when the need arises, is not "defensive" at all.  It's a contradiction in terms.

* * * * *

In closing, I'd like to mention something I should have said earlier in this series of articles.  The 5.56/.223 round, like all modern rifle rounds, is very loud when fired.  If you do so without hearing protection, particularly inside a building, hearing damage is almost guaranteed.  After years of exposure to close-quarters gunfire, my hearing has deteriorated considerably.  Many veterans of military service will say the same thing.

It's worth keeping a set of electronic ear muffs with your defensive firearm, and putting them on (it takes only a second or two) before using it to check on "things that go bump in the night".  If you have to shoot, your ears will thank you - and the electronic amplification of sounds will help you track any intruder by the noise he makes (footfalls, voices, etc.).  I've used muffs from Caldwell, Howard Leight, Peltor and Walker with good results.  They're not very expensive - certainly a lot cheaper than hearing aids later in life!  Just make sure you get a set of slimline muffs that won't interfere with your cheek weld against your rifle stock.  Thick, heavy muffs may get in the way of that.

A useful adjunct to ear muffs - and something that may minimize damage to your hearing without them - is to use a blast redirection device that throws the muzzle blast forward, instead of letting it spread sideways and rearwards as well.  Such devices don't reduce the sound, but minimize its battering impact on your eardrum.  (This is particularly useful if you're standing next to a wall when you fire.  The bounce-back of muzzle blast from the wall can feel like a physical slap in the face.  These devices eliminate that almost completely.)

Two such devices that I've used personally, and can therefore recommend from my own experience, are Midwest Industries' Blast Can and (very recently) Kineti-Tech's muzzle brakes with concussion/redirector sleeves.  The latter are more expensive, but offer a double benefit;  without the sleeve, the muzzle brake helps minimize recoil and muzzle flip, while with the sleeve fitted, the former benefit is reduced but the sound is redirected.  You can use them either way.  There are other versions of these devices, of course, which you'll find by shopping around.

* * * * *

Well, there we are.  I hope you've enjoyed this series of three articles on the personal defense rifle, and have found something useful in them.  If you have anything to suggest, please do so in Comments.


Monday, April 27, 2020

The personal defense rifle, part 2: reader's questions

Following last Friday's article about the personal defense rifle and what accessories might be useful, I received a number of questions and comments from readers.  I thought it might be useful to answer some of them publicly, to promote further discussion.  This article will deal with rifle-related questions and issues.  A third article tomorrow will discuss ammunition selection.

A relatively common question was why one needs a defensive rifle at all.  Respondents noted that they had a shotgun, or a handgun, and were good with it, so why bother with anything more?  To that I can only say, if you're happy with what you've got, and you think it's adequate for your needs, that's great.  However, there are several factors favoring a defensive rifle or carbine.
  1. An AR-15-style weapon typically uses 20- or 30-round magazines.  That's a lot more ammunition than the average shotgun or handgun can hold!  (If you're in a state that legally neuters standard magazine capacities, that may mitigate against a defensive rifle, but there are other factors.)
  2. A rifle typically hits much harder than a handgun, and has greater effective range than a shotgun.  Both are real advantages that are worth having on your side.
  3. Many people find the recoil of a shotgun difficult to handle.  An AR-15 or similar weapon has minimal recoil, making it much easier to control.  If other family members (particularly smaller and/or younger ones) may need to use your defensive weapons, that's a big advantage.
  4. Consider your personal circumstances and condition, and choose your defensive weapon(s) with them in mind.  Take me:  I'm in my sixties, I've had two heart attacks, and I'm permanently partially disabled as the result of a workplace injury.  I'm not going anywhere fast, and I'm not going far under my own steam - pain would immobilize me before long.  My injuries make it difficult for me to use a hard-recoiling weapon like a shotgun.  Therefore, I want the most effective defensive weapon I can handle, to keep potential enemies as far away from me as possible.  I don't want to have to wait until they're "up close and personal" before starting to deal with the problem, because the closer they are to me, the more likely they are to hurt or kill me before I can do anything about them.  This is a factor even if you first see them at very close range (e.g. they kick down the door of your house).  Even if they're only ten feet from me, I want them to stay that far away, and get no closer.  A rifle delivers enough power to help make sure they do that.  So does a shotgun, if you can manage its recoil.  A handgun . . . not necessarily.
  5. Remember that an attacker may be completely out of control, under the influence of drugs or other substances.  He won't be listening to reason, he won't be afraid of a gun, and he probably won't feel much pain.  He'll just keep coming.  If I have to use a gun to stop him, I want to have enough ammunition available to keep hitting him until he stops.  A rifle offers that.  (Even a MMA fighter may find it tough to stop a hopped-up assailant;  see here for one such account, and watch the video.  It's eye-opening.  In my condition, I'd never be able to fight off an attacker like that - but with a good defensive firearm, my chances are a lot better.)

Some readers said that they prefer different firearms.  Frankly, I have no bias either way.  Use whatever you like, and make the most of it.  I own several lever-action firearms, the same type widely used in the Old West, chambered for three different cartridges (.30-30, .44 Magnum and .45-70).  If push came to shove, I have no doubt I could make good use of any of them as a defensive weapon.  I could do the same with my .22 Magnum pump-action rifle, or my .308 Winchester bolt-action hunting rifle, or a shotgun.  Even so, the advantages of the AR-15 platform are:
  • It's very ergonomic and easy to handle;
  • It's simple to understand (and repair, if necessary);
  • It has a useful magazine capacity;
  • It has minimal recoil (in its original 5.56mm chambering) and is very controllable in rapid fire, but delivers a powerful punch with the right ammunition;
  • It can be upgraded and customized to whatever extent you wish;
  • It's ubiquitous - there are literally millions of them in private and public hands across America.
More than any other rifle, people are likely to know something about the AR-15, particularly anyone who's served in the US armed forces over the past fifty years or so.  Furthermore, you can get ammunition for it almost everywhere, whereas other, less popular cartridges may be in short supply.  That's why it's generally regarded as the (currently) quintessential American defensive rifle.

In my first article, I observed:

You have to get to know [the AR-15] and its parts, learning which may break and require replacement, and which are more robust and reliable.  In the military, you can rely on a unit armorer, but in the civilian world you have to rely on a gunsmith who may be a long way from you.  Furthermore, if trouble arises, you may not have time to get to him.  You should be able to detail-strip your piece, and keep a stock of basic spares on hand with which to repair any breakages.  This is basic stuff.

Some readers wanted to know which spare parts they should keep on hand in case of need, and what level of knowledge they would need to replace them.  There's good news here:  the AR-15 is a remarkably easy rifle to understand.  You can literally assemble one at home, from scratch, from bare upper and lower receivers to a fully operational rifle, in an hour or so, given a few tools, the necessary components, and some instruction.  There are plenty of videos about it on YouTube.  Here are three of them, provided by vendor Midway USA (to whom our thanks for their excellent troubleshooting video guides), showing assembly from start to finish.

What spare parts should you keep on hand?  Broken parts are not common on modern rifles, because they're made to pretty high standards:  but defective parts can creep in, and mechanical failure is a fact of life with any machine.  Basically, be prepared to replace the parts that are most prone to breakage or loss.  For example, if the firing pin breaks, you want a spare on hand.  No firing pin = no functioning weapon!  Rather than mess around trying to disassemble the bolt to get at the firing pin, I keep an entire spare bolt carrier group (BCG) on hand, so that if the one in the rifle stops functioning for any reason, I can simply replace it, then identify and fix the problem with the original unit at my leisure.  It takes less than half a minute to swap them.  (However, do make sure to test-fire your backup BCG in your rifle before you trust it to fit and function!  I suggest putting at least a hundred trouble-free rounds through it.)  I also keep a supply of the more important springs, pins and detents on hand.  Several vendors offer field repair kits (like this one, for example).  That, plus the tools necessary to install the parts, should be part of your range kit.  (Also, don't forget spare batteries for accessories such as a red dot sight, weapon light, etc.  Some pistol grips or stocks offer storage compartments to hold them securely;  otherwise, keep them somewhere safe, but handy.)

Several people raised serious concerns about the cost of training, both instruction and ammunition.  Project Appleseed, which I strongly recommend for introductory training, isn't very expensive, and .22LR ammunition is still available at under 10c per round if you buy it by the case (although until recently some brands used to be 3-4c per round . . . yes, yes, I know, I don't like it either!)  If a case is more than you need right now, I'd still buy it, because regular practice will eat it up within a year or two.  If it's just too expensive, try asking your friends if they want to share the cost (and the case) with you.  (You can even use your AR-15 to shoot .22LR ammunition - I'll discuss that further below.)  There's also the NRA Basic Rifle Shooting course if you can't get to Appleseed, although the NRA course isn't nearly as much fun.

As for more advanced training at major shooting schools:  yes, that's expensive, what with course fees, travel, hotel accommodation, etc (not to mention the much higher cost of ammunition during the current ammo drought).  If you can't afford to attend such a course, look for instructors who travel to your part of the world to offer training.  That's often a lot cheaper, and you don't have to pay for hotels, etc.  There are many such teachers and schools out there;  do a Web search and ask local sources for recommendations.  It's not a bad idea to join a couple of firearms forums like (particularly its training forum) or The Firing Line.  There are many others, but those two are good.  Read users' posts about training courses and instructors, and ask questions.  You'll learn a lot.

You can also buy DVD's of training courses from the top shooting schools and instructors.  Short of going there, this is a great way to glean knowledge from them.  Try GunsiteThunder Ranch, and instructors like Pat RogersPaul Howe and many others.  Those I've named, both schools and individuals, are top-notch, and I recommend them unreservedly, but they're by no means the only ones out there.  (As I write these words, Gunsite is selling its DVD of the 223 Carbine course for only $10.  This is an absolute steal!  It's an excellent entry-level introduction to defensive carbine handling for those who aren't familiar with it.  I highly recommend it.)

As for long-term ongoing practice to keep your skills sharp, there are a couple of low-cost ways of doing it that are also a lot of fun.  To start, get a BB or Airsoft rifle (you'll recall I recommended such weapons for handgun training, too, some years ago).  Set up a practice course of fire in your back yard, or on any convenient stretch of open ground where it's legal and safe to do so.  As a backstop, stack up home-made sandbags or garden center packs of potting soil.  For targets, pick anything small and difficult to hit - wine bottle corks, screw-on caps from bottled water, milk bottle caps, and so on.  Fasten them to the backstop with pins or glue, or scatter them on the ground in front of it.  From short range (start at 5 yards) practice bringing your BB/Airsoft rifle to your shoulder, drawing a bead on a target and hitting it, then swinging rapidly to the next target, and so on.  (You can get a low-cost AR-15-style BB rifle to make practice more realistic.  There's even a full-auto version available!)  Move back to longer ranges as you get the hang of it.  It's surprisingly challenging, particularly because BB/Airsoft projectiles are easily blown around by the wind, making marksmanship more demanding.  As you improve, try having someone toss moving targets (e.g. tennis balls, ping-pong balls, etc.) in front of the backstop - see my earlier article for details.

There's also the sport of minisniping with airguns, which is very tricky.  It'll teach you precision marksmanship like nothing else.  The late Peter Capstick wrote an excellent article describing it, which I highly recommend you read.  (I knew him in South Africa, and he could wax eloquent on the subject.)  Get together with some friends and set up your own minisniping course of fire.  You'll have a lot of fun together.  If you get bored with airguns, try using .22LR rifles at longer ranges (out to 50-100 yards), using larger targets (like the above-mentioned wine bottle corks or ping-pong balls).  While an expensive precision air rifle is doubtless nice to have, I certainly can't afford one!  Cheaper models from manufacturers such as Beeman, Crosman and Gamo can be used to get into the sport, then you can upgrade as and when you can afford to.  If the cheaper air rifles aren't accurate enough to reliably hit tiny targets, use larger ones, as mentioned above.  A low cost sport, yet tricky as all get-out - what's not to like?

Two readers asked, in so many words, "How much and how often do I need to shoot to keep up my skills, once I have them?"  Well, you can use lower-cost weapons and ammunition to develop and maintain general shooting skills, but your rifle is - or should be - your primary defensive weapon.  As such, it requires sufficient time and attention to render you capable of using it on demand, to good effect.  "Dry fire" can substitute for some of that, if you practice it regularly;  but even with that, I believe you'll need to shoot at least 500 rounds per year from your primary defensive rifle to keep your skills sharp.  Double that or more would be better.  That amount of shooting keeps you accustomed to weapon handling, manipulating the controls, rapid changing of magazines, selecting and hitting targets in rapid succession, trigger and breathing control for longer-range accuracy, and so on.  I'd try to practice at least once per quarter:  monthly, if possible.  I don't think you can get away with less than that to maintain your skills.  Yes, that's an expensive proposition;  but that's also realistic.

There's a very useful product that can save you a lot of money over time:  CMMG's .22LR conversion kit for AR15's.  Here's a video review.

There are other conversion kits out there, but I'm familiar with the CMMG product, so that's the one I can recommend from personal experience.  It may take you a year or so to pay for it in ammunition cost savings, but after that it's all gravy.  This is a very worthwhile accessory, IMHO.  With it, you can reduce your full-power (and full-cost) 5.56mm ammo expenditure to one or two magazines per training session, plus many more (much cheaper) .22 rounds through the conversion kit.  Since you're still shooting your actual defensive rifle, all that practice and training will be a direct investment in your own security, even using a lower-powered round.

I guess that's answered most of the questions I received.  Tomorrow I'll address how to select ammunition for your defensive rifle, and what to consider in the process.


Memes that made me laugh 4

From around the Web during the past week or so:


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday morning music

Here's something different for music fans of every genre, and an introduction to a very versatile young lady.  Harpist Amy Turk has composed and performed in genres ranging from power metal, through folk music, to classical.  She graduated with a Masters degree from the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, in 2014.

Her last performance at the Academy has become a hit worldwide.  From her bio at her Web site:

For her final recital Amy transcribed and arranged J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV565, drawing heavily from the original organ score and consulting with organists at the Academy in order to properly convey the timbral details of the original work, in addition to incorporating authentic German baroque ornamentation.

I'd never have thought of the Toccata and Fugue as a harp piece, but Ms. Turk delivers a virtuoso performance.

To demonstrate her cross-genre versatility, here she is with Billy Idol's "White Wedding".

And, continuing the marital theme from the world of folk music, the very well-known "Mairi's Wedding".

You'll find more of her work on her YouTube channel. I think she's off to a great start to what I hope will be a long musical career.