Category Archives: Reviews

Grayman’s Dua Folding Knife

I’ve been carrying one of Grayman Knives’ smaller offerings, the Dua ($255), for several months now, and have found that it’s really growing on me.  With a thick three inch blade, this little guy is just as rugged as the larger offerings from Grayman that I’ve reviewed such as the Dinka and the Sub-Saharan.  In the beginning, I found that the knife sticks a little, making it difficult to lock and unlock the blade one handed.  However, as I broke the knife in a little, this stickiness went away after a week or two.

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Filed under Gear, Reviews, Weapons and Tactics


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I was excited to dig into a full length PRIMAL novel after reading Silkstone’s primer for his new series, PRIMAL: Origins. Origins tells the story of how PRIMAL came into existence while this novel tells the background story (or begins to) of PRIMAL operatives Bishop and Mizra before getting on with the core plot. While the beginning starts a little slow with the back story of these two interesting characters, the book clips along at a fast pace as we get to the meat of the story.

Since you already know that PRIMAL is a non-official group of vigilantes recruited from Special Operations units and Intelligence Agencies, we get right into the main threat which involves a lot of double dealing and real politek amongst the bad guys. Iran’s Qud’s Force wants a super weapon that the Soviets abandoned in Afghanistan back in the 80’s while a slightly saner Iranian intelligence service works to preempt the more extremist Qud’s Force from obtaining it. This leads to some interesting alliances between PRIMAL and the Iranians down the line.

From here we follow two separate story lines as the PRIMAL tries to cut off the snake at both ends. From the supply end, we read a straight combat plot as Mizra and Ice travel through the badlands of Afghanistan to stop the bad guy’s from digging up the weapon they are after. From the demand end, we follow Bishop on a espionage heavy plot as he tries to uncover the buyer’s of the weapon. Both plot threads show different perspectives and make for a more interesting, full spectrum novel that shows both the combat side and intel side of modern Special Operations.

Both threads fully come together in the last third or so of the novel, Mizra and Bishop joining forces to take down the bad guys as they get one final crack at recovering the super weapon before it slips into the hands of the Iranians.

PRIMAL: Unleashed was a great first novel from Silkstone and I’m stoked about future additions to the series. The author did a great job at fleshing out the characters while paying equal attention to the technical side (guns, ammunition, spy kit) but without sapping the fun out of the book like many thriller writers tend to.

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Filed under Action Adventure, Military Fiction, Reviews

Grayman Knives: The Sub-Saharan

Straight up, this is the most bad ass knife I’ve ever had the pleasure of cutting, hacking, or slashing with.

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Professional Lit: BHI Weapons Manuals

Before deploying to Iraq to train a company of Iraqi soldiers, I purchased a bundle of five manuals from Blackheart International. Mid-Atlantic Training Resources publishes them for sale at a discount when you by the bundle consisting of the RPG-7, AK-47, DShK, Makarov, and PKM. Today the bundle deal had been added to, now including the SVD and PPSh-41.

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Book Review: The Maverick Experiment


This novel details what is essentially a pilot program run by select members of the CIA. The first Maverick Team is composed of former Special Forces operatives led by a intelligence contractor, Derek, who worked tactical intelligence for Tier-One Special Operations units, giving him the boots on the ground experience needed to lead such a team.


Derek’s team is under the radar and off the books, funded by the black budget and outfitted to be completely deniable. The author’s background in intelligence gathering brings a large degree of authenticity to this work. Having served eight years in Army Special Operations myself I didn’t find any goof ups or gaffes that lesser writers often fall into.


That said, I would question the tactical validity of some of the actions taken by the Maverick Team. For instance, why infiltrate via HALO into Pakistan’s lawless tribal area when the team’s primary Area of Operations is in Afghanistan? There are plenty of drop zones in Afghanistan, and one would need to be established near by for resupply anyhow.


I suppose this is where I have some mixed feelings about The Maverick Experiment. As a novel, I give it five-stars, no questions asked. As a non-fiction field guide I would disagree with much of it. I only mention this because we live in an era where our political leaders quote Jason Borne and Jack Bauer as if they are real people. There is no indication that the author has a similar disconnect between fiction and reality, but I would hate to see people read this book and think that this sort of thing is actually a good idea.


While off-the-books covert action teams are needed, and I completely agree with the author’s assessment that risk aversion is destroying our defense capability, the Maverick Team has an absolute license to kill and maim anyone in their way, to including innocent civilians. As a soldier I was often upset with political correctness, however, I never saw the rules against murder to be prohibitive to us accomplishing our job. There is a lot of middle ground between say, the Rules of Engagement levied on Europeans fighting in Afghanistan, and the kind of “weapons hot” attitude of the Maverick Team.


But as stated above, as a work of fiction, The Maverick Experiment stands out in this genre. The action is authentic and original, including assassinations and a pretty cool jail break from an Afghani prison. The characters could have been a little more fleshed out, but I think that this book is intended to be the first in a series, so perhaps we will learn more about them in the sequel.


If you are looking for a Special Operations or espionage thriller that is a cut above the rest. I’d recommend this work to people who are looking for something with a harder edge. The Maverick Experiment is gritty, hardcore, and brutal. Not for the feeble or weak hearted as they say.


Filed under Action Adventure, Afghanistan, Reviews

Hatchet Force Journal

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Hatchet Force Journal is a new, and all to rare, voice in the world of action-adventure. I just finished my copy last night and I can say that it is certainly worth an hour or two of your time for fans of action flicks and pulp fiction novels.

The first quarter of issue one is taken up by an introduction to the new journal and the genre. Some very well written essays appear on the topic of “New Pulp” as well as providing a chronological history as to how pulp fiction has gotten to this point. Jack Badelaire also gives us a hint as to what we are in store for in future issues and where this genre is heading as a whole with the advent of electronic book readers.

My favorite part of this issue was the interview with Mack Maloney, the author of “The Pirate Hunters”. He goes in depth into the publishing industry, his career as a writer, and talks about the genesis of the books he has written. I’ve never read Maloney’s books but now I’m going to have to track a few of them down. That’s the fun in a publication like this, discovering something new and interesting.

Several well written reviews of 80’s pulp material like Mack Bolan spin off, Able Team and The Penetrator (No, seriously…) are also available, not to mention a good run down on The Hof’s humble beginnings as Knight Rider. Also included is a very articulate film review of “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”.

Last but not least is a good chunk from Hank Brown’s novel, “Hell and Gone”, a worthy inclusion that I hope brings this under rated book some more attention. Overall, Issue One is a solid effort and much more worthy of periodical reader’s time than what is frequently available on physical news stands. The genre intro went on a little longer than necessary, I mean, if you are reading this e-magazine you probably already know about pulps, but it gives great promise of things to come. I would recommend Hatchet Force to any fan of the genre, it is equally pleasing to those looking to recapture some nostalgia as it is to those looking for new contemporary works.

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The insurgent answer to American technology

Watch this video carefully. I considered not mentioning it at all due to OPSEC however this video makes it clear that their is none.  The enemy is well aware of how to defeat our systems so if their is any operational security then it exists to keep the public and soldiers themselves from knowing that their high tech armored vehicles are far from invulnerable.  The enemy constantly changes tactics based on what they see on the ground in real time and what they see on the internet in nearly real time.  The US military is so obsessed with centralization that it is impossible for us to respond in kind.

As the war changed, politics changed with it.  America’s outrage over 9/11 lasted six months or so before being forgotten so politicians had to justify why so many men and women were dieing overseas.  Various measures were taken, one was to put so much bureaucracy in front of the troops that it became difficult or impossible to launch effective combat operations and so fewer casualties.  Aside the hiding soldiers behind the walls of their FOBs they were bundled behind layers of armor (vehicle and body) if they did have to go outside the wire.  As a matter of for instance, this is the type of vehicle we used during my first deployment:

This is a GMV outfitted for combat, the picture is not mine but one I pulled off the net.  Usually, you would roll with the doors taken off but these guys probably left them on to help keep the afghan dust off their radios and other sensitive equipment.  Assaulters can sit in the back and easily jump off when you reach the objective.  While moving they can return fire with M240 and M249 machine guns mounted to pedestals on the various pivot mounts.  The .50 gunner has a clear field of fire and is unencumbered by crap stuck all around the gun ring.  Both the driver and the commander have clear fields of view.  As IED’s became more prevalent we were driving these by my second deployment:

This is a picture from my personal collection with faces and the Stryker’s tail number blacked out.  Notice the slat armor around the vehicle.  This was to defeat RPG rockets which can also be done with a chain link fence.  Supposedly the piezoelectric fuse in the PG-7 anti-tank rocket gets detached when it slams into the fence (or this type of armor) about 80% of the time.  While assaulters are bottled up inside the vehicle at least there is a good amount of room in the back for personnel and equipment.  While in transit they can pop out of the air guard hatch and man machine guns on pivot mounts like on the GMV.  The TC hatch allowed the tactical commander to sit high for good observation.  Notice the Remote Weapon System (RWS) on top.  While they are accurate they also reduce the gunner to playing a real life video game on a screen down inside the vehicle.  My third deployment looked more like this:

Another from my collection.  As you can see even the Iraqis are now driving up-armored humvees and are scared to ride in GMV’s or other non-armored vehicles.  Historical note: Iraqi humvees are the only model that comes with custom made ashtrays for smoking while in transit with all armor plated windows slid up.  Almost all American forces by this point were driving this abomination:

Now everyone is completely locked up inside a missile/IED magnet.  The gunner sits inside manning the RWS and if you run out of ammo in that thing you are basically screwed.  The gunner has to 1: unbuckle his seat belt 2: get out of his seat and open the top hatch 3: squeeze through the hatch (which is virtually impossible while wearing your body armor and yes, you wear that while in transit inside this thing) 4: retrieve a fresh ammo can(s) from the roof of the vehicle from racks troops have had to weld in place since no one had to foresight to think of ammunition storage when they built the MRAP 5: dump ammo into the RWS can and load the roads into the feed tray 6: squeeze back down into the vehicle 7: get back in the gunner’s seat and use the controls to chamber the first round 8: pray you don’t have a mis-feed 9: do all of this while the vehicle is driving 60mph.

Stuck inside the MRAP passengers are generally forbidden from sticking out of the air guard hatches in the back (somebody might get killed) so everyone just sits in their seats and falls asleep while in transit.  Why, not?  It’s not like you are in a position to effect anything if something happens anyway.  Arriving on an objective you have to use a switch to operate a air powered piston to open the 500 pound rear door.  The MRAP became mandatory for use by any and every commander afraid of taking casualties.  The MRAP has it’s purpose, as I said yesterday, it’s great for swivel chair generals to tour the “battle space” and get their tax free pay for the month but that is about it.  For Special Operations, Infantry, or any other troops who actually participate in combat rather then drive around at 30 mph in hundred vehicle convoys waiting to hit a IED the MRAP is a massive waste of time and money.

As you can see from the video in the beginning of this post the MRAP and other armor packages for humvees have done something, but not a lot to prevent casualties.  Terrorists introduce new weapons and tactics.  IED’s are built larger and larger.  If you want to cut down on attacks and prevent IED’s you have to conduct offensive operations against the enemy, not hide behind the fortress walls of your Forward Operating Base with it’s Cinabon, Burger King, and massage parlor (yes, they had one in Bagram airfield) or inside a armored tin can of a vehicle.

The most important element of maneuver warfare is…that’s right, maneuver and you can’t do that weighted down with 80 pounds of body armor and equipment on your person or from the inside of a heavily armored vehicle where you have no situational awareness.


Filed under Gear, Iraq, Pictures, Reviews, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics

Book Reviews

Taking a break from all the I-love-me pictures I’m going to review some books I’ve read recently.

First up is Mark Ellis’ “Cryptozoica”.  This novel follows the basic premise of Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” and Doyle’s “Lost World” taking place on a lost island in the South China sea where a band of pulp action misfits wind up getting stranded.  The book takes a while to really get moving as the first half is mostly about character development and double crosses.

Aside from that this book definitely delivered by combining Dinosaurs, Pulp heroes, and the kind of off beat science you expect to find in books like “Technology of the Gods,” By David Hatcher Childress or “The 12th Planet” by Zacharia Sitchin.  You have a lost civilization from an antediluvian past, a evil midget with a napoleon complex, and a Triad mob war all going on at the same time.

I wrote a more extensive review at Amazon that you can check out if you like, this one is a must for action-adventure and pulp fans.

Next up is Day by Day Armageddon 2: Beyond Exile.   Highly anticipated by zombie fiction fans (yes, that is a genre) DBDA2 did not disappoint.  Like the first in the series this is the type of book you will probably tear through in a day.  Written in the format of the journal of a Air Force pilot’s struggle to survive the zombie apocalypse it follows his day to day fight against the undead.

Things really get hot towards the second half of the book as we find our survivor stranded and alone deep behind “enemy lines” out in the hinterlands with massive hordes of zombies plowing across what is left of America.  The book ends with a glimpse of an intelligence report hinting at what will happen in DBDA3, its a major plot twist and well worth the read.

Beyond Exile definitely has it’s share of twists and keeps you guess as to what is going to happen next.  My only complaint is that one player in the book called “Remote Six” appears out of nowhere and saves our survivor several times.  While Remote Six is a interesting concept in the book I thought it’s assistance seemed like a bit of a cop out at times.  Still, this is a five star book, check it out.

Finally we have one from the long running Executioner series, “Volatile Agent”.  I enjoyed this novel quite a bit and was sorry to hear that this ghost writer for the series has since moved on to other projects.  This time we have Mack Bolan in West Africa attempting to locate a freelance agent who has information everyone and his brother in the intel community is desperate to lay their hands on.

Bolan was surprisingly human and fallible in this novel which was something I liked and a departure from many of the Executioner novels these days.  He makes mistakes, misses shots, has a horrible HALO jump, gets shot, in short he takes a hell of a beating and barely survives.

The research done for this novel was also surprisingly good, the HALO jump towards the beginning of the book was fairly well done and well described.  Most authors screw it up by writing about Bolan having his reserve strapped in front (like a static line jump) or by talking about 20 minutes of free fall time!

Well worth the time for fans of the genre.


Filed under Action Adventure, Reviews

Hyperstealth Desert Digital uniform

Above is a picture of myself in Iraq last year wearing a uniform manufactured by Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp.  Before deploying I did some research looking for a uniform with an effective desert pattern.  ACU’s just don’t cut it, as the Army has had to reluctantly admit only after Congressional intervention.  The Marines have a pretty decent desert uniform but wearing that might constitute perpetrating a fraud in the eyes of a Marine (I was Army) so I ordered a few uniforms from Hyperstealth.

The uniform is from their SPEC4CE series and is called Desert Dune.  The cut is similar to the ACU and other modern US military uniforms with pockets on the sleeves and ankles.  One noticeable difference is the lack of velcro, most of it being replaced with old school buttons.  The pattern itself is a four color digital type which worked very well out in the hinterlands.

The lightweight fabric used was MUCH appreciated come summer time in Iraq.  This uniform was much more comfortable then ACU’s, DCU’s, and a Multicam uniform I had from Propper.  The trade off is that the lightweight fabric is more prone to rips and tears.  In a 130 degree heat I was happy to accept that and engage in a little Suzy homemaker stitching post-mission when needed.

I would definitely recommend this uniform to soldiers currently deploying to the Middle East.

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