Category Archives: Weapons and Tactics

Researching Target Deck

Today I thought I would share with you guys some of the sources I used when researching the background data I needed when writing Target Deck.  I put a high premium on realism but since these are novels I’m writing what I often do is take elements that are very real and combine them in ways in which I can only speculate may be happening but could never prove.  I’m also guilty of kicking everything up by several orders of magnitude, this is action-adventure we’re talking about here.  However, for those interested in the real life issues that you might encounter in the novel and would like to get the real deal, I can recommend a few places to start looking.

Teenage girls who were arrested while training to become cartel assassins

Teenage girls who were arrested while training to become cartel assassins

Amexica by Ed Vulliamy and El Narco by Ioan Grillo were two books which I found very helpful when trying to penetrate the world of Mexican drug cartels and get some situational awareness not just of how the mechanics of the cartels function but the cultural overlay that exists south of the border around the drug plazas.  Both of these books attempted to do what Roberto Saviano did with not just exposing but understanding the Italian mafia in his brilliant book Gomorrah.  All three of these books include some great investigative journalism and hands on accounts of life inside organized crime.

Borderland Beat provided some great background by publishing fascinating information about the cartel wars that would have otherwise remained obscure if not completely unreported.  For instance, I found some great tidbits about the Office of Bi-National Intelligence, an interview with perhaps my favorite military analyst, Robert Bunker, the cartel’s clandestine communications network, and information about US Special Operations planning to capture/kill a cartel boss.

Narco blog has some interesting information as well after filtering it though a language translator for us gringos.

Daniel Hopsicker is one bad ass mofo as far as I’m concerned.  We need more hardcore journalists like him who are out there dropping some bombs on official collusion between drug cartels and “the authorities” on both sides of the border.  His blog, Madcowprod was invaluable to me as I tried to understand how the criminal underground works as a globalized system of drug smuggling and money laundering.  Click your heels three times and repeat after me, “there are no American drug lords.”

MEK terrorists, supported by the "good guys"

MEK terrorists, supported by the “good guys”

Old school investigative journalist Sy Hersh also came through and helped fit together some puzzle pieces.  His article, “Our Men in Iran” is a must read.  Did you know that the US government has been training an Iranian terrorist group on US soil as a Nevada Department of Energy facility?  When people ask me which parts of my books are fact and which parts are fiction, I simply remind them that the creepy parts are the most realistic.

While writing Target Deck I also cultivated a number of my own sources of information regarding what is going on down in Mexico.  This proved to be invaluable and helped steer me in the right direction.  For instance, I found out that the so-called Fast and Furious scandal is really just a drop in the bucket.  The weapons that ATF allowed to “walk” across the border is nothing compared to the military hardware that the cartels are hijacking in transit as the US government ships them to Mexico under the Merida Initiative.  It’s some heavy shit getting stolen too, AT4 anti-tank rockets, M203 grenade launchers, ect…  We’ve heard nothing about this on the news thus far.

For those looking for a one stop shop and get the inside line on the cartels, I can’t recommend this article from Small Wars Journal enough.  It sums up much of the above information.


Filed under News, Uncategorized, Weapons and Tactics, Writing

Shooting the HK 417 at SHOT 2013

So far we are weapons hot here in Las Vegas for the SHOT show.  I hosted Inside the Team Room, filmed in The Foundation Room at the top of the Mandalay Hotel yesterday.  The guests were former 3rd Ranger Battalion soldiers Isaiah Burkhart, Clyde Carmody, and Nick Irving.  I think we got some great stuff on tape, the bulk of the show will consist of funny and ridiculous stories from Ranger Battalion with an equal amount of time spent on combat deployments.  Inside the Team Room will now go in to Post-Production and I will keep you up to date for when the first episode goes live.

Jack, Burkhart, Carmody, and Nick

Jack, Burkhart, Carmody, and Nick

Finally getting some sleep, Burkhart, Nick, and myself headed out to the Media Range Day with Brandon Webb this morning.  We got to fire some guns but it was way colder than anyone expected.  Not at all a fun day to shoot!  We did check out the new Gen. 4 10mm Glocks which were pretty sweet.  I also finally got some trigger time on the HK 417.  In my novel, Target Deck, I have the team sniper carry the 417 as his primary weapon.  I didn’t have any experience behind this rifle myself but when some experts in the field that I know tell me that this is their favorite semi-automatic sniper rifle I am willing to take their word for it.

Shooting the HK 417, as you can see it was a little windy

Shooting the HK 417, as you can see it was a little windy

The rifle itself fired much like the SR-25 but with the gas-piston upper receiver the recoil goes straight to the rear of the rifle as opposed to pushing the rifle to the rear and upwards with a traditional gas gun.  Long distance marksmanship (and marksmanship in general) is a perishable skill and unfortunately I don’t get much trigger time these days as I live in New York City and don’t get away from my college studies as much as I might want too.  Yeah, I had no trouble knocking out the center of a steel target, but that is with a 7.62 rifle, with a ten power scope, from about 75 meters away.  Not exactly an impressive sniper shot.  However, I came away from my experience with the 417 thinking one thing: I WANT ONE.




Filed under Gear, Pictures, Weapons and Tactics

The Weapons and Equipment of “Target Deck”

Grayman Sub-Saharan


The Sub-Saharan from Grayman knives is made for killing. I searched far and wide but was unable to find a Nazi, communist, or terrorist to sink this blade into. I killed the s**t out of a downed tree for you though to give you an idea of the kind of damage this knife can deal out. The picture above shows the tree after maybe five or six chops on each side. The Sub-Saharan has more in common with a Roman short sword than the type of fixed blade knives that most of us are familiar with.  Deckard makes short work of some cartel trash in Target Deck.  It is also the knife depicted on the cover of the book.

Carl Gustav

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Admittedly, the M3 Carl Gustaf isn’t the sexiest of weapons among the 75th Ranger Regiment’s rather extensive arsenal.  This is especially true when you have to pack this giant metal tube into an AT4 jump pack with cardboard honeycomb and exit a C-17 during a Mass-Tactical airborne jump at night.  Getting hung up in a MH-60 with the Goose slung over your back while fast roping and dangling 50ft in the air ain’t sexy either.  Don’t ask me how I know that…  I’ve written about being Tank Sniper and elaborated on the training and tactical issues surrounding the Gustaf in the past, so take a look!

In Target Deck, the mercenaries of Samruk International utilize the flechette round against a hoard of cartel gunmen.

HK 417


The HK 417 is the 7.62 big brother of the 5.56 HK 416 developed at the request of a certain Special Mission Unit and now used in various SOF units.  Chambered for the larger 7.62 round, Nikita makes good use of the 417 as a sniper rifle in Target Deck.  You will also get a lesson in the intricacies of making a high angle shot.

Hooligan tool


Basically the Hooligan tool, or Hoolie, is a high speed pry bar for mechanical breaches.  Useful for making a quiet entry…



The most memorable remark about the Mk48 that I ever heard was, “That is the lightest heavy machine gun I’ve ever seen!” As a Corporal, I was a Gun Team Leader in Ranger Battalion where my team made great use of the Mk48 in training as well as combat. The Mk48 is the size of a SAW but packs the 7.62 punch of a M240B. It’s small size makes it perfect for immediate support by fire in dismounted, urban environments.


Chromacamo is a name I invented for the next generation of camouflage uniforms, those that actually change their color to mimic their surrounds.  The idea for it is based on SMARTCAMO developed by Hypersteath which I have written about previously on this blog.

Improvised breaching charge


IVbagEver wonder what you can do with a flashbang and an IV bag?  Some MacGuyver shit, that’s what.





Alone and un-armed, Deckard has to improvise a solution when trapped in a room with a very dangerous Lebanese money launderer and his bodyguard.  A pencil laying on his desk makes a handy weapon, especially when jabbed into the soft tissue of the body guard’s neck.



On my last deployment, we were no longer permitted to use the MK19 inside the cities, so these were left to collect dust in my weapons shed until myself or my Junior Weapons Sergeant gave them a cleaning every so often. While fun to shoot, I always found the 40mm rounds to be under powered, not providing sufficient explosive impact. Then again, I never had the chance to use the MK19 against dismounted infantry. I did have a friend who was a MK19 gunner in Afghanistan when his convoy was ambushed. He rotated his turret and let it rip on the enemy positions to devastating effect. One point to remember with the MK19 is that you have to charge it twice, that is to say, rack the charging handles, drop the bolt, and then repeat the procedure once more to seat the first round all the way down onto the bolt face. Not knowing how to do this properly can result in an accidental discharge, or worse yet, leave you firing on an empty chamber during a firefight!

Improvised tank

Yeah, this bad boy makes an appearance in the book as well…


Get Target Deck Today!


Filed under Action Adventure, Gear, Military Fiction, Weapons and Tactics, Writing

The Benghazi Debacle

I wrote the below in response to a post (and subsequent comments) written by former CIA Officer, Nada Bakos.  I generally agree with her on this issue because I don’t think the CIA had much, if any, situational awareness regarding the Benghazi attacks until several days after the fact.  It is a complicated story and I think the details of what really happened are going to shock people both Left, Right, and Center.  Currently, Brandon Webb and I are working on a book about the Benghazi Consulate attack.  It will take a deep historical look at Libya and North Africa as a whole before moving forward.  Remember the Barbary War, America’s first war on terror?  We will also get deep inside contemporary Libya and the history of Gaddafi’s terrorist attacks and American covert operations in Libya before moving on to the Civil War and the activity of Private Military Corporations inside the country.  Perhaps most importantly, the book will detail as closely as possible the minute by minute of what happened during the 9/11/12 Consulate attack and give readers some insight into the parties involved.  We hope to have the book done sometime this month, maybe early January so look for it here and on Amazon around that time.  For now, you can see my take on the media frenzy surrounding this incident:

I don’t know this for a fact, but I strongly believe that after the Consulate attack that the CIA and State Dept. honestly believed that it was the result of that Anti-Islam video on youtube.  I don’t think they could conceive of any other reason.  I heard this through the grapevine as well, that the video was to blame.  I knew this wasn’t true of course because of the nature of the attack.  It was obviously planned, almost like something the NVA would do when attacking a FOB in Vietnam.  However, the egg heads in our government (many of them anyway) couldn’t or wouldn’t make that connection.  Also, that is not a reason for the attack and without a reason they really don’t have any talking points to bring to the public.  You can imagine Obama giving a press conference, “Well, we got attacked.  It was deliberate and pre-planned, but we have no idea why it happened…”  Yeah, that wouldn’t go over well.

So they ran with it.  I was on the phone with a tv producer a day after the attack and she was asking me about these violent protests getting out of hand.  I told her there was no way it was just a protest, it was a planned raid.  I hung up the phone and a few hours later they were saying it was a planned attack in the main stream media.  In the days after the attack I think the CIA got some better situational awareness and started to realize what was going on.  I’ll tell you this much, General Petraeus had decided to resign not long after the attack, it was that bad.  Then someone helped him out the door, but not on his terms.

Meanwhile, the government had painted themselves into this narrative that the attack was about this anti-Islam video.  Since when does our government ever admit they made a mistake and that they were wrong?  No one was held accountable for 9/11/01 which was on America soil and was much more devastating.  I don’t like it, but it is unrealistic to expect that the Paragon of Truth that is the White House will reverse course, during an election cycle no less, and admit that they made mistakes.

Did the Consulate have shit security?  I’m sure.  But so do many US government installations, including military bases I’ve been on like Benning, Bragg, ect…  (I also spent time on FOB Chapman in Afghanistan where a suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees) where security would be extremely easy to penetrate.  This year a couple activists got right up to the walls of a uranium enrichment facility in Tennessee.  In the aftermath of a devastating attack, 20/20 hindsight will always lead us to say that there should have been more security.

However, security is not the issue here.  The administration bunging the PR piece about the youtube video is not the issue.  There are much more powerful forces at play here but everyone is too caught up in their partisan particularisms to see that.


Filed under News, Weapons and Tactics, Writing

Video from the Libyan Civil War

All videos © Matthew Van Dyke.  Check out more at Matthew’s website to learn about the new documentary that he is currently filming inside Syria.  On his biography page you can also read about how Matthew decided to travel to Libya to help some of his freinds fighting the war against Gaddafi’s forces, including his capture and incarceration by the Libyan military.  You can also learn much more about his experiences as a freedom fighter by reading the interview I conducted with him right here on SOFREP a number of months ago.  Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Check out the rest on SOFREP!

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Must Hear Interview with Keith Nell of the Rhodesian SAS!

My interview with Rhodesian SAS veteran, Keith Nell. Want to know how to kill terrorists effectively? Have you ever heard of Rhodesia’s 9/11? Want to hear about stealing ammunition from your own forces in order to wage an under the radar mission to track down the killers of 107 innocent people? It sounds like fiction but Keith hits us with the real deal.


Filed under Reviews, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics, Writing

How the CIA uses fMRI Machines to Read Human Minds (and how to beat them at their own game)

Everyone knows about the polygraph. Funny enough, it was invented by William Moulton Marston who was also the mind that came up with the DC Comics character Wonder Woman. Now you know why she carries her “lasso of truth”! But familiarity with the polygraph also means that plenty of people know how to defeat or otherwise spoof the system. You can squeeze your butt cheeks together creating tension in the body that will throw off the readings. A tack can be placed in the shoe and pressed down on during questioning. In theory, the polygraph examiner can ask you to remove your shoes and sit on a pad that will detect your deception techniques but it’s too easy to just bite your tongue…literally.

You can also spoof the system by being brutally honest when the tester asks his control questions. You see, he has to catch you in a lie so that he can establish what you baseline reading looks like and then differentiate between when you tell the truth and when you tell a lie. If you answer all the control questions correctly, the tester will get frustrated and keep trying to trip you up and ask questions that are embarrassing enough that you are compelled to lie.

Can you imagine sitting there rigged up to a polygraph getting two hours of control questions thrown at you while the tester tries to catch you in a lie?

“Have you ever had sexual relations with a man, a woman, another man, a rodeo clown, and a farm animal at the same time?”


The first time I considered that fMRI machines could potentially be used for lie detection purposes was when I read the novel “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez. In his book, Suarez describes a very interesting automated computer virus that becomes something of a social movement. In order to test a new member’s suitability for membership into the group, they basically feed them into a fMRI machine and a computer begins asking them questions.

I thought it was an interesting idea, but merely a cool science fiction concept that the author had dreamed up. About a year later I had a conversation with an industrial psychologist who told me that certain corporations and three-letter agencies are using the fMRI for lie detection purposes, basically as a counter-intelligence technique. I pressed for specifically which organizations are doing this.

“Certain governmental agencies and corporations.”

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Filed under Weapons and Tactics

An excerpt from “Target Deck”, The Stewmaker

The Stewmaker followed a specific recipe.

In his line of work, he found that it helped to develop a consistent schedule, almost turning it into a professional ritual. Some of his fellow cartel members worshiped Santa Muerta, the Black Madonna, Chupacabras and all manner of nonsense. He was raised a strict Catholic without all the added window dressing that the working poor had ingratiated into their religion but these days the Stewmaker didn’t have much of anything to believe in other than the six hundred dollars a week that the cartel paid him.

The money was good, but the work was somewhat time consuming, depending on how busy the cartel was. Last summer Jimenez had decided to heat up the plaza and wipe out some rivals. The Stewmaker had to dispose of so many bodies that his family had hardly seen him over the span of a couple months.

With a sigh, he dropped down to his hands and knees and poked the wood fire under the giant metal vat that he had started an hour ago. The recipe called for two hundred liters of water, brought to a slow boil, followed by two entire sacks of sodium hydroxide. Setting the metal poker aside, he swatted at some of the flies buzzing around, giant black fuckers that went straight for his eyes and ears.

It was the corpses that attracted the flies. Two of them lay besides the vat, their skin having gone gray, their eyes sunken. Sometimes the bodies came in with obvious signs of torture and mutilation. Sometimes they came in with one clean gunshot through the head, sometimes they were riddled with bullets from head to toe. These two had severe cuts across their arms, signs of putting up a defense before they died from deep stab wounds in the abdomen. It looked like they had gotten into a sword fight but it wasn’t the Stewmaker’s place to ask questions. He worked disposal while someone else worked termination.

Lighting up a cigarette, he watched the stew slowly come to a boil. He moved to put on some protective gear before dumping the bodies into the cauldron. First there was an apron, followed by heavy plastic gloves, and finally a face mask and goggles. Safety first.

Rubbing out his cigarette, the Stewmaker lifted the mask in place and hefted the first corpse over his shoulder. Handling dead weight was much more difficult than carrying someone who was still alive. Slowly, he eased the corpse into the bubbling stew. He dreaded what came next. The other corpse was the fat one. Grunting and straining, he managed to slide the second body into the vat.

The stew would cook for eight hours before he would extinguish the fire. He would stir the contents periodically and experience told him that all that would be left by the end was fingernails, toenails, and teeth. The stew would then be poured into 55 gallon drums, hauled out by pickup truck, and the contents burned at some remote location.

The fat one bobbed to the surface.

The Stewmaker used his fire poker to try to sink the body back into the acid mixture, but to no avail. He should have known better. Before dumping the body, he should have used a butcher’s cleaver to slice open the stomach cavity and let the air out. No way would he be thrashing the corpse with a machete while it floated in caustic soda.

Discarding the gloves, mask, and goggles, the Stewmaker looked over at the two dozen drums stacked in the corner of his yard. It had been a busy month. He lived up in the hill country towards the border of Oaxaca and Chiapas where his activities could fly under the radar. The cartel would drop fresh corpses at his front door in the middle of the night and he’d get to work when he discovered them in the morning. Once a month, an envelop packed full of cash was slipped under his door. It was a nice arrangement.

The Stewmaker grew frustrated as he watched the fat body float across the surface of the acid vat. He knew better and should have take precautions. Eventually, the acid would eat through the body and deflate it but it was still irritating.

Truth is stranger than fiction…


Filed under Military Fiction, Weapons and Tactics

What’s happening in Special Operations this week:

Check out the hostage rescue track record for the British SAS and SBS.

Read about the history of Special Forces, as written by Jim Morris, to help understand the present.

Check out my article on SOFREP to read about the ultra-secret branch of the SAS called E-Squadron that conducts covert operations with MI6.

Take a look at part 1 of my 2-part series on the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course.

A veteran of the Rhodesian Bush War hooked me up with some great pictures and information about the Mini-Claymore mine.

Read up on the Selous Scouts, this uniquely Rhodesian counter-insurgency unit.

Part two of my experiences in Special Forces Weapons Sergeant course.

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Filed under Special Forces, Uncategorized, Weapons and Tactics, Writing


Hi folks, it’s been busy but being busy is better than being bored.  Here is a run down of what I’ve been working on lately:

Matt VanDyke joins me for a third installment about his time spent as a freedom fighter in the Libyan Civil War.  In part three, Matt rates and evaluates the hodgepodge of weapons that the rebels used, including improvised rocket launchers and the like.  He also elaborates on what he sees in Libya’s future.

It’s always funny to see people on the internet sharpshooting photographs of operators that are actually the real deal.  I broke down the kit being used in one such photo to demonstrate that it does show a Delta Force soldier and that people might want to take a more measured approach when declaring a picture to be a fraud.


HALO/HAHO operations, more commonly called Military Free Fall or MFF, has changed dramatically in recent years.  Special Forces teams are now jumping while wearing body armor, night vision goggles, and the jumps are more much combat oriented.  I compiled some information and video on the MFF Advanced Tactical Infiltration Course this week.

This week John Stryker Meyer gave SOFREP a very nice endorsement and provided some background about MACV-SOG, including some excerpts from his book.  John was a One-Zero (Team Leader) on RT Idaho during the Vietnam War.  His team conducted clandestine cross border operations into Laos and Cambodia during the war.


Das Furer goes on a rant about the bureaucracy and bullshit happening to Special Forces teams these days.  This video is a spoof but tells it like it is.  If you ever wanted to know why I decided to leave the Army after eight years just watch this thing and it will become clear.



With this article I took a closer look at what future battlefields may look like.  I predict the use of micro-UAV’s will become common place for “clearing” buildings and structures without risking the lives of soldiers by sending them in first.  Underground warfare is a also covered in an IDF training video.

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Filed under News, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics