Remembering 9-11


2001 – Until it’s over….

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“No matter how long it takes, no matter where we have to look, our United States military will patiently and surely hunt down the murderers and killers and terrorists, and bring them, one by one, to justice.”  President George W. Bush – Commander in Chief 

    Monday, September 10, 2001 had been a crisp, clear day at the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC). It was sunset as I watched 5th platoon, 1st Force Recon Marines, their faces ominously obscured under layers of green camouflage paint, go through last minute equipment checks, preparing to be inserted into the mountains for a five-day recon-patrol exercise. MBITRs (multi-band inter/intra-team radios) frequencies had been set and tested; sat-com radios were safely stowed in already bulging rucksacks; PVS-17 night sights were clamped to M-4 carbines and SAWS (squad automatic weapons); and all loose straps were neatly taped and stowed. 

US Marine Corps MWTC – the night of 10 Sept 2001

     Captain Fiscus and Gunny Blakey moved amongst the group checking equipment, quietly asking questions and giving encouragement. It was essential that every man understood the mission and knew his specific tasks.                 

    The planned airborne parachute insertion had been aborted an hour earlier when the CH-53 troop-carrying helicopters could not make the pre-sunset time-line. With the flexibility typical of any spec-ops unit, the platoon commander opted for a vehicle insertion to the pre-planned DZ at 7,500 feet elevation.

5th Platoon, 1st Force Recon at MWTC

    As the Sierra Nevadas turned purple and faded into total darkness, and before the moon could break through, the Gunny signaled the teams to saddle up and silently move out. It was impressive to see and yet not hear twenty Marines, each burdened with a hundred pounds of weapons, radios and equipment, move off into the inky blackness without so much as a single sound.

    So by midnight I found myself with two choices. The first was to link up with the “opposition force” and try to find these phantoms – but since they had already proven themselves adept at night movement and had the advantage of Gen III night vision devices, there was little to no hope of finding them that night. So I opted for the second choice – to drive back to Los Angeles with the plan of returning to MWTC for their extract in five days.  

    Arriving home at five-thirty in the morning, and after two days without sleep, I showered and hit the rack. Sleep came quickly but not for long. Sometime before zero-seven the phone began an incessant ringing. It was my neighbor babbling something about watching my place while I was away. “While I’m a way?” I asked groggily, “I just got home!”

    She then blurted out that terrorists had attacked New York and the Pentagon and I needed to turn on the television. Flipping to CNN I was just in time to see a passenger airliner hit the World Trade Center. Then there was footage from the Pentagon; then back to New York as the second tower was hit. Confused and half asleep I felt like I was watching a Schwarznegger movie. Was this really the news? I quickly flipped through the local morning news line up – ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox – but all coverage was focused on New York and the Pentagon.

     By mid-morning I had a passing thought about the Marine Force Recon platoon that had just disappeared into the mountains the night before and would be emerging in five days to a very different United States. Having worked in counter terrorism and training for over 20 years, I knew that what we were seeing was a whole new level of terrorist violence and destruction. The news media was already speculating on the potential casualties in New York and it was in the thousands, many times more than Pearl Harbor.

     But now the proverbial “gloves were coming off.” The US military was going to be given the teeth to hunt and kill those who meant us harm. Little did I know at that time, that I would be in and out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa a dozen times over the next 10 years.

The Pentagon
Iraq 2004
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Never Forget 9-11

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

Why you should Never Forget 9-11…. It may be 19 years since 9-11 but the war still rages on in the shadows.

Remember, they attacked us on land in 1998 when they hit the US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, Kenya, killing 224 and injuring 4,000. They attacked us on sea in October 2000 when they hit the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. They attacked us by air in 2001 when they hit the Twin Towers and Pentagon with 2,992 killed or missing. 

Their willingness to indiscriminately kill and maim innocent civilians is evident.

2002 they bombed tourists in Bali, Indonesia killing 200.

2004 they bombed commuter trains in Madrid killing 190 and injuring 1,400.

2005 they bombed the London subway and a bus killing 52.  

2008 they hit the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad with a massive truck bomb killing 50 and injuring 200. Then they attacked multiple targets in Mumbai, India, killing 166 

2009 they hit a CIA base at Camp Chapman, Khost, Afghanistan killing 7 dedicated officers and wounding 6 others.

2012 (9-11) they attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya killing Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith.  

2015 they attacked Charlie Hebdo in Paris killing 12 and wounding 11. Then in November there were multiple attacks in Paris, including the Bataclan nightclub, killing 90 and wounding 200. 

    And this doesn’t count hundreds of bombings and shootings in Baghdad and Kabul, and the dozens of foiled bombing attacks on innocent civilians, postal systems, and passenger aircraft.

So don’t think for a second that this global war on terrorism is either won or over. Radical Islam has declared war on the United States, our allies, and western values, so Americans must remain vigilant. Our intelligence services, military, and law enforcement agencies will be holding the line and hunting these dangerous fanatics for generations to come.

Never Forget 9-11   


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Military Optic from Vortex

Vortex Awarded OTA for Army’s Next Gen Squad Weapon Fire Control Prototype Program

We’re honored to announce that the US Army – PM Soldier Lethality awarded Vortex® an agreement to deliver the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Fire Control (NGSW-FC) Production Ready Prototypes for Soldier TouchPoint (STP) evaluations.

Hamilton said, “By combining a unity power 1-8x direct view optic utilizing a first focal plane, etched reticle, a 1km capable laser rangefinder, state of the art on-board ballistic engine, atmospheric sensor suite, and programmable active matrix micro-display overlaid onto the first focal plane, Active Reticle™ delivers a true multi-mission fire control enabling everything from CQB to designated marksmanship at the extents of the NGSW’s effective range.”

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Evolution of the Law Enforcement Sniper

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

Modern law enforcement snipers may not realize how good they have it with the current catalog of high quality sniper rifles, scopes, and accessories. Back in the early 1980’s the typical police sniper rifle was often a bolt-action hunting-grade rifle salvaged from the property room. During STTU sniper programs and green light matches officers turned up with not just .308 Wins but also .223 Rem., .243 Win., 30-06, and even the odd 22-250.  Scopes were usually hunting-grade Redfields, Weavers, and Leupolds in the 3-9X range. The only LE snipers to have custom built M40A1s were the FBI snipers, while the US Secret Service Counter Sniper Teams had custom built 7mm Rem. Mags.

Washoe 1990

Early STTU sniper class in the late 1980s. By this time many LE snipers had upgraded to heavier barreled varmint rifles and bedded the actions.

Washoe County SWAT

Washoe County SWAT – 1990s 

With time and a little training, agencies began to invest in heavier barreled Remington 700 varmint rifles while also understanding the importance of bedding the actions and floating the barrels. Snipers also moved away from cheap military surplus ammo and hunting rounds into Federal Match ammo. Prior to the current Gold Medal Match, Federal match-grade ammo came in a red box, but both still used the Sierra 168 grain SMK bullet.  This was not the ideal bullet for punching through glass, but it was the most accurate .308 Win ammo for that time period.

Sniper Counter Sniper was written in 1986 to fill the need for a basic text on law enforcement sniper training and employment. It was also utilized by Special Operations Training units as an urban sniper manual. 

By the late 1980s sniper had access to custom sniper rifles built by McMillan and Robar. Gale McMillan was the designer and builder of the USMC M40A1 sniper stock which began a trend away from wood stocks and in to fiberglass stocks.


McMillan M40A1 with Unertl 10X scope

SR60D 1987

Robar SR60D .308 Win built on a McMillan Baker Special stock topped with a Leupold Ultra (Mark 4) 10X scope. (1987)

Mid to late 1980s also saw the introduction of the Leupold Ultra sniper scopes with external target turrets. At this time they were fixed 10X or 16X but would later become re-branded as the Mark 4 a Mil-dot reticle. SWAT snipers had also seen the limitations of a fixed 10X scope for urban operations where distances were 50-75 yards, so had asked for a lower magnification. The result was the robust, reliable 3.5-10x40mm Mark 4, complete with lifetime warranty.

Kestrel A3-5 Bartlein24

Modern tactical rifle built on a Rem 700 action with a Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel in a McMillan A3-5 stock. Scope is a Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm scope



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A General Guidance for Military Commanders tasked with Force Protection and FOB Security Operations

By Mark V. Lonsdale

The following paper was written by Mark Lonsdale while serving as a senior security consultant on a Department of Defense contract at a combined US/Iraqi military base north of Baghdad in early 2004.  This was also the period when the four Blackwater contractors, one a close friend of Lonsdale’s, were killed in Fallujah and the Iraqi insurgency began a significant upward surge.


The purpose of this paper is to offer some guidance to military commanders and security managers on how to best protect their bases and facilities from insurgent attack. Keep in mind that security is seldom ideal, and even less so when restricted by budget and the limited availability of resources. Security counter measures can be further compromised by the terrain, the physical limitations of the base or work site, or lack of support at the command or appropriations level.

This paper is not intended as a criticism or even critique of any specific command or location, but merely as an academic discussion of the subject from a tactical perspective.


Since the successful terrorist bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut (1983) killing over 240 Marines, and then the US Embassy Annex (1984), US military and governmental facilities have come under regular attack by suicide bombers and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). The dramatic destruction of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995 also served to further validate the viability of this form of attack.

In late 2003 and early 2004 these same terrorist tactics and vehicle bombs were used against US and collation bases in Iraq, along with police stations, recruitment centers, civil defense units and NGO facilities. Particularly hard hit was the CPA and checkpoints around the Green Zone; and although these vehicle bombs had not penetrated the outer defenses, they caused significant casualties, disrupted operations, had an adverse affect on morale, and emboldened the anti-coalition forces (ACF) to attempt even more audacious attacks.

As a direct result of these attacks, US military commanders and base security managers were forced to re-evaluate their base security procedures and perimeter defenses. Unfortunately, neither of these subjects had been widely taught within the military system or disseminated in an easy to understand format. Hopefully this paper will help fill some of that void.

However, it must also be understood, and to quote the old adage, “that the best defense is a strong offense.”  For base security this equates to aggressive patrolling outside the wire to deny the enemy access to the perimeter or the opportunity to observe the location and security procedures.


Although actual security counter measures can be quite complex, they generally conform to one or more of the five basic principles of Physical Security.

These are:

  • DENY

The first principle is to deter an attack by the appearance of a robust security program and substantial physical barriers. Deterrence also comes from an aggressive defensive posture, an alert security force, vehicle checkpoints, vehicles searches, guard towers, lighting, visible weapons positions, and fighting patrols pushing out from the immediate perimeter.

The next principle is to deny access through physical barriers and guard forces. The types of physical barriers include trenches, fences, concertina wire, razor ribbon, Hesco baskets, and Jersey and Alaskan concrete barriers. In the absence of construction resources, a professional guard force can be positioned to deny access. There is however a direct but inverse correlation between physical security and the security guard force. The fewer the physical barriers, the greater the guard force required to secure the same area.

Early detection of an attempted intrusion or breach is critical to an effective fighting response. This is achieved through open ground, standoff, cleared areas, and alert perimeter security personnel. This can be augmented with electronic alarm systems, motion detectors, motion sensitive cameras, guard dogs, trip flares and other noise or light generating devices. At night, the guard force will require either perimeter lighting or NODs to detect an intrusion.

To detect explosive devices or VBIEDs requires a team of specially trained personnel and K-9s certified in IED / explosive identification and detection

When the physical barriers cannot stop an attack, they should at least be positioned to delay the enemy approach. Delay is achieved through the use of physical barriers such as trenches, fences, concertina wire, razor ribbon, Hescos, Jersey barriers or any improvised device that will slow or hinder the enemy’s movement. The delaying barriers should give the guard force the time and opportunity to engage the enemy with effective fire, and for the QRF to reinforce the breach.

Where the Rules of Engagement allow for aggressive counter force, the intent will be to destroy the enemy with whatever weapons are available.

Last “D” is deceased – and that is the end result if fundamental security protocols are not followed. Lives may be needlessly lost for lack of command initiative and/or logistical support.


The three essentials for an effective perimeter system are clear ground, physical barriers and an alert guard force.

Without going into too greater detail, a typical external perimeter for a military or governmental facility would consist of the following physical features with security over-watch.

  1. Clear terrain outside the perimeter to the maximum range possible
  2. Signs outside the perimeter warning the public of the danger of approaching the outer fences and forbidding any form of photography of the installation.
  3. Trenches and/or concertina barbed wire to impede and discourage approach to the outer fence
  4. An outer fence usually constructed of 3- to 4-meter chain-link fence topped with triple strand barbed wire and razor ribbon.
  5. Inner physical barriers such as concrete Jersey Barriers to prevent vehicles crashing through the fence. If a public road passes along the outside of the perimeter fence, then concrete crash barriers should be placed along the shoulder of the road to prevent vehicles veering off the road and into the fence.
  6. Perimeter lighting controlled from the guard towers and/or a central location
  7. An outer perimeter vehicle patrol road just inside the outer fence
  8. Fifty to one hundred meters of clear ground
  9. An inner perimeter fence similar to the outer perimeter fence
  10. Guard towers positioned every 200 meters with mutually supporting over-watch and intersecting fire. Towers should be at least 4 meters high to the floor of the tower and offer adequate protection to the guard force from incoming fire and the elements. Towers should also be connected with either hard-wire comms or RF (VHF) communications.
  11. Running inside the line of towers should be an additional access road and possibly indirect fire / bomb shelters if the threat warrants.

In general, tower guards, sentries, and soldiers manning checkpoints should be rotated or relieved every four hours. After four hours the level of alertness drops off sharply, particularly in hot climates and inclement weather.

The perimeter security towers and positions should be toured and inspected periodically by officers and senior NCOs during each shift. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) should be on stand-by for an immediate response to any location on the perimeter.


Security gates into high threat areas, or sites the terrorists would consider high value targets, are in fact not a single gate but rather a system of physical barriers and man-power. The critical components of an effective security gate system are early observation of approaching traffic, approach distance & speed, physical barriers, and alert, trained guards.

The guard force must be able to observe the approach of a vehicle at some distance, in excess of 300 meters, to be able to track and evaluate the vehicles approach speed and intent. This requires that the gate and barriers be sited with consideration to terrain, clear fields of observation, and unobstructed fields of fire.

If a vehicle(s) demonstrates its hostile intent by ignoring warnings or accelerating, then the guard force will have time to take appropriate counter measures. These counter measures will range from securing gates, activating caltrops, to engaging the vehicle and driver with heavy weapons fire (.50 BMG, MK 19 40mm, M240B, or heavy caliber sniper).

If the vehicle(s) explodes, it should be at a sufficient distance to cause minimal injury or loss of life.

There are a number of physical barriers that can be incorporated into a security gate beginning with some form of obstacle to slow approaching vehicles. The entire security gate operation should also be encircled by some form of security fence, usually 3-4 meter chain-link topped with barbed wire and/or razor ribbon.

Substantial heavy obstacles such as concrete Jersey barriers, sections of large-diameter concrete pipe, or earth filled drums should be used to slow the flow of traffic by being placed in zigzag patterns or chicanes. The spacing of these obstacles will vary depending on the size of vehicles processed through the gate, but in general, a vehicle should be forced to slow to no more than 5 mph (7 kph).

Various forms of tire-shredding devices or caltrops can also be used to deter fast approaching vehicles, and all areas designed to slow vehicles should be covered by at least one and preferably two machinegun (MG) weapons positions.

If drop-bar or swing-bar type security gates are to be used, then a steel cable should be run through the pipe. This can then be secured to a large concrete block of steel pipe set in concrete to make the gate more impenetrable. In the absence of a drop-bar gate, the cable alone can be used as long as it can be securely anchored at both ends.

At the beginning of the approach lane, and at regular intervals down the road, there should be signage in both English and the local language warning drivers and pedestrians of the speed limit and consequences of violating the posted rules. WARNING! SLOW! “Lethal Force is Authorized!”

The most critical component of any security gate operation is the guard force. These need to be alert professional soldiers, MPs, or contractors with specialized training in gate operations and security procedures. There is also a need for seasoned NCOs with the ability to be polite but assertive when necessary.

Guard posts and guard towers need to be sited so that they can identify approaching vehicles and have early recognition of a threat. This early recognition is critical if they are to have the time to activate counter measures, secure barriers, or engage with effective fire.

A running man can cover 50 meters in six or seven seconds, and a vehicle traveling at 30 mph (44 feet per second / 15 meters per second) will cover 100 meters in 6–7 seconds. This is very little time for a guard to identify the threat and react to it. This also illustrates the importance of having several hundred meters of visible run-up to any guard gate.

Guard towers should be sited so they have a clear view of the surrounding area and unobstructed fields of fire. Crew-served weapons should also be positioned to over-watch all guard posts, approaches, vehicle check-points (VCP) and search areas. Optimally, two weapons systems should be placed at right-angles with intersecting and supporting fire on areas of high threat such as initial check-points and inspection areas.  Approaching drivers should feel intimidated by the firepower that can be brought into play if required.

In addition to suitable weapons systems, the guards in the guard towers and fixed positions should be issued range cards that give pre-measured distances to all visible landmarks. They should also be given the opportunity to test fire and zero their weapons under realistic range conditions that replicate the security towers.

At night, the approach lanes need to be flood lit, or the guard towers need to be equipped with night observation devices (NODs) and weapons should have night weapons sights. As with iron sights and day-optics, it is essential that the night sights are zeroed to the weapons system.


Car and Truck bombs (VBIEDs) have posed a significant threat to the US military since the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut (1983). They have also been successfully employed against targets such as the World Trade Center (1993), Oklahoma City Federal Building (1995), the Khobar Towers (1996), and US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Tanzania (August, 1998).

Since deploying to Iraq in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, VBIEDs have been successfully used against the entrances to the Green Zone, various police and military installations, government buildings, and most US military bases.

The obvious danger with VBIEDs is that they carry significant amounts of explosive ranging from 100 to 4,000 pounds, and that stopping a fast moving vehicle before it penetrates the security cordon is no easy matter.

The two primary types of explosive devices built into vehicles are military munitions and homemade explosives. The military munitions often consist of assorted 155mm artillery shells or mortar bombs primed with some form of C-4 or Semtex-type plastic explosive. This type of device may create a smaller blast since the over all explosive weight is smaller, but the high velocity fragmentation from the shell casings is deadly.

The non-military ordnance and home-made devices are often composed of some form of “fertilizer bomb” utilizing ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (AMFO). These are cheap to make and have already been found in Iraq in 300 to 500 pound devices. These large devices derive their devastating power from the fact that AMFO is a slower velocity explosive but generates incredible pushing power. Unlike military explosives which have high brisance and dissipate energy quickly, fertilizer bombs are similar to those used in quarrying and designed to move large amounts of earth. The shockwave will travel further and cause significant structural damage, so counter measures and blast barriers must be proportionately more robust.

There are a number of forces at play with a VBIED, most of which are quite deadly. The first is the initial blast and resulting shock wave that can knock down structures and cause massive over-pressure injuries. Accompanying the blast wave is the high velocity primary fragmentation either from the device itself or shrapnel packed around the device.

A blast will also create secondary fragmentation from any of the surrounding structures to include concrete, glass, metal and rocks. The next concern is fall-out and fragmentation from the explosion that will be returning to earth at terminal velocity for several seconds after the initial blast. This necessitates overhead protection for the guard force.

Finally there are the risks of sympathetic detonation of surrounding vehicles as their gas tanks ignite; ammunition cooking off in damaged military vehicles; additional flammable substances that may be on trucks in the vicinity; or ammunition storage points or fuel farms that may have been the primary target of the attack.

When dealing with VBIEDs, the first security principal is to get the vehicle slowed down and stopped some distance from the initial US military checkpoint. The aim is to create as much distance as possible between a potential explosion and the US or coalition forces. If the driver becomes nervous and blows his load, then the loss of life should be limited to the two to four soldiers or local police at the initial checkpoint. A brutal but sad reality.

There should be at least three to four vehicle stops or checkpoints within the security system:

  1. Initial ID check to make sure the car or truck is supposed to be entering the camp and the driver is who he says he is.
  2. Vehicle search by Iraqi soldiers, police, or civil defense
  3. Vehicle search by US or coalition soldiers or security contractors
  4. Detailed inspection of the vehicle’s load if required.

Explosives trained K-9s should be utilized during the first or second phases of the search process, but unfortunately, since the K-9 handlers are usually US soldiers or contract force protection specialist, the K-9s are not utilized until the vehicle has reached the third or forth checkpoint within the security zone.

If the suicide driver makes the decision to run the checkpoint with the hope of causing greater destruction, then the physical barriers should be sufficient to stop the vehicle; guards should have the time and appropriate weapons systems to engage the vehicle and driver with effective fire; and the surrounding berms, Hescos, Jersy and Alaskan barriers (T walls) should contain the blast, resulting in minimal damage or loss of life.


Although alert and professional, US soldiers and Marines do not receive formal training in security gate operations during their basic training.

Programs need to be instituted to give soldiers the basic procedures for security gate operations, vehicle search procedure, ID check procedures, checkpoint interview techniques, IED identification, reaction to suspicious vehicles or individuals, tower operations, rules of engagement, and post-blast reaction drills.

This type of training can be coordinated through the Military Police, S-2 shop, Air Force force-protection instructors, or civilian contractors.


There are two factors that continue to create significant weakness in perimeter and gate security operations – flow rate and training. International airports are a good example of these problems that almost everyone has seen and experienced.

First, the airport must process high volumes of passengers and baggage in a timely manner. For example, 400 individuals, 800 pieces of hull baggage, and an equal number of carry-on pieces need to be processed for each international flight in less than two hours.

Similarly, on a military base or FOB, 2,000 – 4,000 visitors and workers must be processed each day, along with several hundred non-military vehicles.

The sheer volume that must be processed precludes any expectations of a detailed search of all vehicles, or computer database background review of drivers and visiting individuals.

The second problem is the lack of a professionally trained guard force. The slovenly minimum wage security guards found at many shopping malls are no suited to high level security operations. While US soldiers have a more professional appearance, they have not received intense training in security operations, IED identification, terrorist methodology, smuggling and concealment methods, or individual interview and vetting. The ideal is personnel trained to a similar standard as US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.

These two issues – flow rate and lack of training – create significant opportunities for terrorists to capitalize on the weakness in military base defenses.

Finally, and on a more military level, a base will always be vulnerable to attack if the area around the base is not heavily patrolled. Fighting patrols need to be operating 24/7 out to the maximum range of the enemy’s weapons – for example, 3,000 – 5,000 meters for indirect fire weapons such as mortars.

These patrols need to be augmented with HUMINT collection efforts, covert OPs, sniper operations, night ambushes, and surprise vehicle checkpoints (VCP). In this manner, and with an appropriate level of aggressive counter measures, the terrorists and insurgents will be forced to move on up the road to softer targets.


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The following paper was written for a December 2006 conference at the US Army War College hosted by the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI), and later published in the October 2007 issue of the IPOA journal. The purpose of this paper was to clarify the position of DoD security contractors as stakeholders in US military Phase IV operations.


As evidenced by the types of contracts being funded and awarded by DOD in Iraq and Afghanistan, many mission critical services are being outsourced to civilian contractors. These essential security, stabilization, reconstruction (S&R), and security sector reform (SSR) services were traditionally handled by the military but with the current lean force structure of the US military, and its primary focus on those tasks directly related to warfighting, the civilian contractor has become an essential component of Phase IV operations.

Private security companies (PSC) are being tasked as convoy escort teams (CET), protective security details (PSD), close protection (CP) for key commanders and political figures, static security for military and governmental installations, mine and ordnance clearance, police and military mentoring and training, and intelligence collection, collation, analysis, and distribution as it pertains to the above operations.

Historically it was envisioned that these functions would be handled in a post-conflict permissive environment, but the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have necessitated that security contractors up-armor and up-gun to be able to operate alongside the military throughout the battle space.

This has created a situation where combatant commanders and US troops are required to interface with armed contractors on a daily basis. Unfortunately there are very few mechanisms in place that facilitate this relationship between the military and the security providers. Ground commanders are confronted with such issues as:

  1. Where do these contractors fall into the chain of command?
  2. How do they communicate with them?
  3. How do they track their movements?
    1. Contractors do not show up on the Blue Force Tracker system
    2. TOCs are not always notified of CET and PSD movements
    3. Commanders are not notified when a CET or PSD is operating in their AOR so have problems mounting QRFs or CASEVACs
  4. What are the SOPs and ROE for contractors?
  5. Are the weapons they are carrying authorized?
  6. There are no standardized uniforms, vehicles, or visual recognition signals – some contractors looking like something out of “Mad Max”
  7. How are injured international contractors to be handled? Particularly third country nationals (TCNs) and local nationals (LN)
  8. The use of armed Iraqis as security guards has created operational security issues for FOB commanders.

The security contractors also have their share of problems and issues. PSCs have complained of:

  1. Being fired upon by US military convoys (Blue on White incidents)
  2. Being fired upon by soldiers manning vehicle check points (VCP)
  3. Lack of recognition of their visual signals (US flags; Union Jack; VS-17 panels)
  4. Lack of recognition of their identification cards – particularly non-DOD ID cards such as MNF-I cards.
  5. Being detained for hours at check points where junior enlisted personnel had not been briefed on the presence of armed contractors in the AO.
  6. Being unable to contact the TOCs for the AOs they move through on a daily basis
  7. Lack of access to military bases for security personnel injured by IEDs or SAF.
  8. Mortuary services

Many of these problems can be traced back to the shortfalls in DOD’s formal plans for the execution of Phase IV operations. The role of PSCs and armed contractors operating in the battle space has not been written into doctrine, training, or plans so it is no surprise that combatant commanders and ground troops are unclear as to the handling, SOPs and ROEs for these contractors.

DOD, as the source of funds and contracts, is in the position to dictate the minimum necessary operating standards for PSCs and armed contractors seeking to support US military operations. These would include:

  1. Minimum hiring and vetting standards
  2. Minimum pre-deployment training requirements
  3. Make and model of weapons (western not eastern-bloc)
  4. Registration of weapons
  5. Rules of Engagement (ROE)
  6. Minimum uniform and visual identification standards
  7. Radio Communications systems and procedures
  8. Company registration with PCO, ROC and LMCC
  9. Prior notification of the TOC of all movements within their AOR
  10. Positioning of Liaison Officers (LO)

Once these procedures and mechanisms have been formalized at the doctrinal level, all BCTs and units would receive pre-deployment briefs and training on the role of PSCs in the battle space and essential information necessary for interoperability – particularly identification and communications.


Because of the military’s need to focus on the primary missions of fighting and winning wars, combating armed insurgency, and counter terrorism, civilian security contractors have become an integral part of stability and reconstruction operations. This is true in OEF and OIF and will continue into the foreseeable future in areas such as Sudan and the Congo. As such, PSCs and armed contractors need to be written into the operational plans and briefs. Just as the Situation paragraph in a five paragraph brief or OPORD has lines for Friendly Forces and Enemy Forces, a line needs to be added for Contractors in the Battle Space. In this way, every unit commander from the brigade down to the squad level will know to address the issues relevant to these armed contractors supporting DOD S&R and SSR operations.

Without security there will be no reconstruction; and without reconstruction there will be no peace. Security sector reform and police training are also critical to stabilization. Since all these functions are now handled by DOD or DOS contractors, they need to be written into training and doctrine at all levels.

Since most security contractors are former military, many with 10 to 20+ years of service, retiring as senior NCOs, warrant officers or officers, it should not be too challenging to create a matrix for interoperability between the active military and civilian contractors. STTU, Operational Studies, and other contractors stand ready to assist the DoD in developing the minimum operating standards necessary for safer, more efficient operations in future conflict and post-conflict environments.



Concurrent with his duties at STTU and Operational Studies, Mark Lonsdale was the US Director of Operations for a major multi-national security contractor and holds a Masters with a focus on counterinsurgency. Mark has been actively involved in military advisory, security and reconstruction operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon, and the Balkans. Mark has also served as a member of the IPOA Standards Committee, is a DoD contractor, and a US military advisor involved in pre-deployment advisory and training of US Special Forces, military intelligence, US Marines, and coalition personnel.  

Mark Lonsdale has deployed to Afghanistan several times between 2001 and 2009

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Training Tip – Reality Based Training

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Director, STTU

One of the perennial problems in law enforcement and SWAT training is a lack of reality based training. All too often officers take the easy route by handgun shooting on a square range at the known 7, 10, and 15-yard lines. Similarly, SWAT snipers opt to shoot from the benches at 100 yards.

Swat ChulaVista SR60D M2

All trigger time is usually time well spent when confirming zero and logging cold shots, but after the first few rounds the officers need to get off the benches and shoot from a variety of more realistic positions and at unknown distance.  

A law enforcement sniper may have to shoot from a variety of locations and positions to include urban dwellings, commercial buildings, city streets, grassy lawns, concrete surfaces, roof tops, scrub country, or even deserts. If they have snow in winter, then they need to practice shooting in that environment.

Mark Lonsdale sniper snow

Training in the snow, where the bipod may sink into the snow, utilizing the stump for cover and the shadows and snow suit for concealment. 

Train hard, train smart, training often, and keep it real!


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Core Principles for Law Enforcement

Robert Peel’s Principles

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police Force. He became known as the “Father of Modern Policing,” and his commissioners established a list of policing principles that remain as crucial and urgent today as they were two centuries ago. They contain three core ideas and nine principles.
1829 Robert Peel


  • The goal is preventing crime, not catching criminals. If the police stop crime before it happens, we don’t have to punish citizens or suppress their rights. An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats; its community has low crime rates.
  • The key to preventing crime is earning public support. Every community member must share the responsibility of preventing crime, as if they were all volunteer members of the force. They will only accept this responsibility if the community supports and trusts the police.
  • The police earn public support by respecting community principles. Winning public approval requires hard work to build reputation: enforcing the laws impartially, hiring officers who represent and understand the community, and using force only as a last resort.


9 Policing Principles

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behavior, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favor, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humor, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognize always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.



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New Rifle Checks & Range Rituals for Snipers

By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been on the range and run into a shooter who was having trouble zeroing his rifle. A good number of these were attributed to the scope being installed incorrectly, and in particular, loose rings or bases. It several cases the action bolts were also loose allowing the action and barrel to jump about in the stock. So let’s look at a few checks you should run when you receive a new rifle, each time you clean the rifle, and before entering a sniper competition or deploying on an operation.

When you receive a new rifle, either factory or custom built, the first thing you should do is remove the barreled action from stock to ensure everything looks good and that the metal to stock fit is of acceptably close tolerance. If it is supposed to be aluminum pillar bedded, then check that the pillars are there. This will affect the toque values for the action bolts.  Also check that the trigger has adequate clearance from the stock and that there is not contact points or interference with the safety.

20190621 AX-AICS

.300 WinMag Mk13 Mod7 clone built on a Stiller’s MK13 action and Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel. 

If it has an aftermarket trigger such as Timney, Jewel, or Bix’n Andy, this is the time to set the trigger pull. Keep in mind that some competition triggers can be delivered with the trigger set at about 8 ounces, a fraction of what you may be used to with a factory 4+ pound trigger. A good starting point for a precision sniper rifle would be 2.5 pounds, but consideration should also be given to agency limits on trigger weight.

A convenient feature of the Bix’n Andy Dakota is it can be adjusted without removing the action from the stock

For a Jewel trigger the adjustment is screw #3 in the instructions; for a Timney Calvin Elite it is the lower screw on the front of the trigger frame; for Bix’n Andy it is on the bottom forward of the trigger; but for all, be sure to read the instructions before making adjustments.

Next, replace the barreled action in the stock and torque the action bolts. I use 65 in-lbs for fiberglass stocks with aluminum pillar bedding. A factory wood or plastic stock without pillars could be 35-45 in-lbs, but check with the manufacturers before going gorilla on your action bolts. Next take a business card and run it the length of the barrel between the barrel and the fore-end to ensure that the barrel is fully floated. This also works to get any debris out of the fore-end channel in the field.

Cycle the bolt and trigger to ensure everything is working as expected. Set the safety and pull the trigger to ensure that the safety works; then release the safety to see if the action fires. This has been a recall issue in the past, where rifles could fire when the safety was released.

At this point you can mount and torque the scope rail, rings, and mount the scope. (Separate article) Ensure that the eye-relief is correct and that the scope reticle is vertical and plumbed to the rifle.


Torquing the 1/2″ side nuts on the scope rings

At the Range:

If the rifle has an adjustable cheek rest, set the cheek rest so that your eye lines up perfectly with the scope. Bore sight the rifle at 25 yards, then zero the rifle to shoot about an inch low at 25 yards. This should put you very close to dead on at 100 yards. Once you are zeroed at 100 yards, loosen the turrets and zero them out so that your elevation is “0” and windage “0.” If the scope has a bullet drop compensator, then set the elevation to “1” or “100.”


Zeroing the turret to “0” for 100 yards 

Next, you will need to chronograph your ammunition in the this rifle since you will need the muzzle velocity (MV), ballistic coefficient (BC), and scope above bore height to generate a ballistics solutions chart or input the rifle’s data into your Kestrel. Keep in mind that your printed data is only valid for the environmental conditions at the time and elevation when you zeroed the rifle.  Changes in temperature and altitude can have a noticeable effect at longer ranges, but the Kestrel will adjust your firing solutions for environmental conditions and wind. For the LE sniper, where distances are statistically short, the environment will have little effect on bullet impact.

Kestrel A3-5 Bartlein24

.308 Win precision rifle built on a Rem 700 action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel in a McMillan A3-5 stock. 

Rifle Checks Prior to Competitions or Operations

Any competitor or hunter who travels to compete or hunt will know the importance of checking bolts, screws, and zero after a long trip. The same is true for snipers. Whether driving or flying, screws can vibrate loose and a scope can go out of zero, especially if some ham-fisted baggage handler decides to play shot-put with your rifle case or it falls off the conveyor belt. Many shooters will remove their scopes and hand-carry those, but this also requires re-zeroing at the first opportunity.

Since you cannot depend on someone else to have the correct tools, here are a few suggestions for a small tool kit. When rifle shooting I carry all the Allen wrenches and Torx wrenches to deal with scope rings, rails, bases, and turrets, plus a 1/2″ wrench for the scope ring bolts. With handguns, I carry Allen wrenches and screw drivers for sights and grip screws. Pennies and dimes also see a lot of action with the local shooters zeroing their slot-turret sporting scopes before hunting season. Another option is a set of Fix-it-Sticks.



Just because a rifle is new out of the box or fresh from the custom rifle builder, you cannot assume all screws and bolts are correctly tightened and torqued. And be assured, any looseness defeats the prime principle of accuracy – “Accuracy is the Product of Uniformity.” For a rifle/scope system to perform as expected, there can’t be any inconsistency in fit or torque values.  So provided that the rifle system and ammunition meet the standards of uniformity, then the rest is up to the shooter to do his or her part. Uniformity of grip, stock pressure, shooting position, and trigger control are of even greater importance than the rifle. A good shooter with a 1 MOA rifle will out shoot a mediocre shooter with a ½ MOA rifle.


Record everything! 

Finally, make a written check list to ensure nothing is missed and keep a written record of all work done on the rifle. As with your sniper data log, these are legal written records that will be called in to review in the event of an operational shooting.



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Trigger Upgrade

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Looking to improve that heavy stock trigger on your duty sniper weapon or favorite hunting rifle? Check our the new Dakota from Bix’n Andy and Bullet Central.

Last season I ran the Bix’n Andy TacSport Pro on one of my ELR competition rifles with considerable success, but light competition triggers are not always the best choice for a tactical weapon system or hunting rifle. The features needed in a trigger for a duty sniper rifle include rugged reliability, impervious to inclement weather, but still offering a clean, crisp break at an acceptable pull weight.

On left, the Dakota installed, with the bottom bolt release, on an STTU .300 WinMag sniper rifle. On the right, the Rem 700 compatible Dakota without the bottom release installed. 

2019 Mark Lonsdale

.416 Barrett ELR competition rifle that served me well last season. This rifle is built on a BAT Machine action with a Bartlein barrel in a McMillan Beast-2 stock. Scope is a NF ATACR 7-35x56mm FFP, with ballistic solutions from a Kestrel 5700 Elite with Applied Ballistics solver

Bix’n’ Andy have stepped up to the challenge with the clean and affordable Dakota. It is a simple process to switch from the stock Remington trigger to this adjustable trigger. The only tools required are a large Allen wrench to remove the action from the stock, and a pin punch to remove the two cross pins that hold the trigger in place.


One convenient feature of the Dakota is the trigger pull weight can be adjusted from 1 pound to 4.5 pounds without removing the rifle from the stock. This rifle is a .300 WinMag in a McMillan A6 stock with Badger M5 bottom metal.

While a clean 1 pound is a good pull weight for competition shooting, it is too light for most shooters for field use. The last thing a sniper needs is an accidental or negligent discharge in the heat of the moment, under operational stresses, or with cold fingers.

On several occasions, I’ve seen inexperienced shooters touch off a shot prematurely when the trigger was lighter than what they were used to. In fact, I just saw this on the range last week when a shooter was getting ready to shoot a new match rifle with a very light trigger. What he failed to do was dry fire the rifle several times to educate his trigger finger to the lighter pull, while building some level or neuro-muscle memory.

Going from a heavy factory trigger, usually over 4.5 pounds, to a more sensitive trigger is a process. For shooters new to light triggers, we recommend starting with a heavier trigger and then incrementally decreasing pull weight to an acceptable level. For tactical training and in hunting rifles, we recommend 2 to 2.5 pounds. For competition, which is a very controlled environment where you don’t chamber a round until on target, then a 1 pound trigger is safe and acceptable. But for purely competition use, the TacSport Pro is recommended.

From the Bullet Central web site, features that make the Bix’n Andy Dakota trigger so special are:

  • Fully Weather Resistant so that you can perform at your best no matter what mother nature throws at you.
  • Searless Design ensures simplicity and total reliability.
  • Single Stage trigger mechanism with a crisp release.
  • Rem 700 Model and all Rem 700 Style clone compatibility.
  • Ideal Over-Travel so that you do not interfere with the rifle’s position during fire.
  • Patented Ball Bearing Design with lifetime support guarantee.
  • Precision Machined Parts.
  • 1 lbs – 4.5 lbs (or 450g – 2,000g) Pull Weight for a wide range of adjustment.

For more info, go to

 Stay tuned for more comprehensive field testing next week



STTU .300 WinMag built on a Rem 700 Long Action, Bartlein Heavy Palma barrel with Piercision brake, McMillan A6 adjustable stock with Badger M5 bottom metal, and Accu-Tac bipod. Scope is a Leupold Mark 8 3.5-25x56mm FFP with MIL reticle

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