April, 2018

Victor Davis Hanson on Trump Resistance

April 25th, 2018 23 Comments

 

An article below by Victor Davis Hanson, author and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, that reminded me of this famous passage by Robert Bolt, in his play, “A Man for All Seasons:”

Sir Thomas More: “What would do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

Roper: “I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake.”

Victor Davis Hanson is one of the best minds alive in this country today. Read his following article, and read his blog: http://victorhanson.com

 

When legal bloodhounds and baying critics fail to take out Trump, what’s next? The Resistance wants Trump’s head — on the chopping block.

On the domestic and foreign fronts, the Trump administration has prompted economic growth and restored U.S. deterrence. Polls show increased consumer confidence, and in some, Trump himself has gained ground. Yet good news is bad news to the Resistance and its strange continued efforts to stop an elected president in a way it failed to do in the 2016 election.

Indeed, the aim of the so-called Resistance to Donald J. Trump is ending Trump’s presidency by any means necessary before the 2020 election. Or, barring that, it seeks to so delegitimize him that he becomes presidentially impotent. It has been only 16 months since Trump took office and, in the spirit of revolutionary fervor, almost everything has been tried to derail him. Now we are entering uncharted territory — at a time when otherwise the country is improving and the legal exposure of Trump’s opponents increases daily.

First came the failed lawsuits after the election alleging voting-machine tampering. Then there was the doomed celebrity effort to convince some state electors not to follow their constitutional duty and to deny Trump the presidency — a gambit that, had it worked, would have wrecked the Constitution. Then came the pathetic congressional boycott of the inauguration and the shrill nationwide protests against the president.

Next was the sad effort to introduce articles of impeachment. After that came weird attempts to cite Trump for violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. That puerile con was followed by plans to declare him deranged and mentally unfit so that he could be removed under the 25th Amendment. From time to time, Obama holdovers in the DOJ, National Security Council, and FBI sought to leak information, or they refused to carry out presidential orders.

As the Resistance goes from one ploy to the next, it ignores its string of failed prior efforts, forgetting everything and learning nothing. State nullification is no longer neo-Confederate but an any-means-necessary progressive tool. Suing the government weekly is proof of revolutionary fides, not a waste of California’s taxpayer dollars.

Anti- and Never-Trump op-ed writers have long ago run out of superlatives. Trump is the worst, most, biggest — fill in the blank — in the history of the presidency, in the history of the world, worse even than Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, or Hitler. So if Trump is a Hitler who gassed 6 million or a Stalin who starved 20 million, then logically Trump deserves what exactly?

The book industry is doing its part. Mythographer Michael Wolff’s hearsay Fire and Fury suggested that Trump was a dangerous child despised as much by his friends as by his enemies. As  FBI director, James Comey leaked confidential memos, lied to Congress, misled a FISA court, admitted that he based his handling of the Clinton-email investigation on the assumption she’d win the presidency, misinformed the president about the status of his investigation. And the now-former director book-tours the country slamming Trump hourly on the assumption that he would certainly not be former, if only his prior obsequious efforts to appease Trump had saved his job. Comey is building perjury cases against himself daily with each new disclosure that belie past sworn testimonies, but that is apparently less scary to him than simply ignoring Trump.

Robert Mueller and his “dream team” were long ago supposed to have discovered proof of Trump’s collusion with Russia. A year later, they have found nothing much to do with this mandate. Then the alternative scent was obstruction of justice. Then the chase took another detour to follow some sort of fraud or racketeering. Now the FBI is reduced to raiding Trump’s lawyer in an effort to root out the real story on Stormy Daniels. One wonders what might have happened had Michael Cohen panicked and destroyed 30,000 emails before Mueller seized his computers. No matter, Mueller’s legal army presses on, even as it leaves its own wounded on the battlefield, as resignations, reassignments, and retirements for improper conduct decimate the Obama-era FBI and DOJ hierarchies.

Trump has left the intelligence community unhinged. John Brennan (“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. . . . America will triumph over you”) and James Clapper (who called Trump a veritable traitor working for Putin) have both admitted to lying under oath to Congress in the past, and with their present invective, they have discredited the very notion of a Washington intelligence elite. At some point, Mueller’s zealotry will remind federal attorneys that equality under the law demands indictments of those with far greater legal exposure, regardless of the exalted status of Comey, Andrew McCabe, and — in the matter of lying under oath, leaking classified materials, and destroying evidence — John Brennan, James Clapper and Hillary Clinton.

In addition, a media, found to be more than 90 percent negative in its coverage of the Trump administration, sought to delegitimize the president. Journalists declare that disinterested reporting is impossible in the age of Trump — and therefore believe that Stormy Daniels or James Comey’s Dudley Do-Right’s memos are a pathway to accomplish what they are beginning to concede Robert Mueller cannot.

Everything from the NFL to late-night comedy shows have become Trump-hating venues. Almost every sort of smear from scatology to homophobia has been voiced by celebrities to turn Trump into a president deserving such abuse — and worse. Late-night television host Steven Colbert was reduced to incoherent and repellant venom: “You talk like a sign-language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster.” Actor Robert De Niro has become deranged and dreams of pounding on Trump’s face. But then so does former vice president Joe Biden, who on two occasions boasted that Trump is the sort of guy that a younger he-man Biden used to take outside the gym to give a whippin’ to.

Each cycle of hysteria demands another, as the race to the bottom has descended into which celebrity or politician can discover the most provocative — or crude — Trump expletive. “S***” and “f***” are now the ordinary vocabulary of angry Democratic politicos and officeholders. Are we reaching a point in the so-far-failed Resistance where little is left except abject violence in the manner of the Roman or French Revolution? The problem for Trump’s pop-culture foes is not whether to imagine or advocate killing the president. That’s a given. They just need to agree on the means of doing so: decapitation (Kathy Griffin), incineration (David Crosby), stabbing (the Shakespeare in the Park troupe), shooting (Snoop Dogg), explosives (Madonna), old-fashioned, Lincoln-style assassination (Johnny Depp), death by elevator (Kamala Harris), hanging (a CSU professor), or simple generic assassination (a Missouri state legislator).

The Resistance and rabid anti-Trumpers have lost confidence in the constitutional framework of elections, and they’ve flouted the tradition by which the opposition allows the in-power party to present its case to the court of public opinion.

Now the Democratic party — whose presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, hired Christopher Steele to find dirt on Trump with the aid of Russian sources to warp the 2016 election — is suing President Trump, alleging collusion with the Russians. If Clinton were called as a witness, what would she say under cross-examination — that she did not hire Steele, that he never purchased Russian dirt, or that there was no collusion effort to enlist foreign nationals such as British subject Christopher Steele and Russian propagandists to warp an American election?

Insidiously and incrementally, we are in the process of normalizing violence against the elected president of the United States. If all this fails to delegitimize Trump, fails to destroy his health, or fails to lead to a 2018 midterm Democratic sweep and subsequent impeachment, expect even greater threats of violence. The Resistance and rabid anti-Trumpers have lost confidence in the constitutional framework of elections, and they’ve flouted the tradition by which the opposition allows the in-power party to present its case to the court of public opinion.

Instead, like the French revolutionaries’ Committee on Public Safety, the unhinged anti-Trumpists assume that they have lost public opinion, given their venom and crudity, and are growing desperate as every legal and paralegal means of removing Trump is nearing exhaustion. Robert Mueller is the last chance, a sort of Watergate or Abu Ghraib that could gin up enough furor to drive down Trump’s poll favorability to the twenties and thereby reduce his person to a demonic force deserving of whatever it gets.

After the prior era of hysteria, between 2005 and 2008, when books and docudramas staged the imagined assassination of George W. Bush, and celebrities like Michael Moore and activists such as Cindy Sheehan reduced Bush to the status of a war criminal, the Left in 2009 demanded a return to normal political discourse and comportment, with the election of Barack Obama. A newly contrite and apologetic America was abruptly worth believing in again. In 2009, the CIA and FBI suddenly were reinvented as hallowed agents of change.

Bush careerists, including Clapper and Brennan, were now damning the very counterterrorism practices that they once helped put in place, while offering Obama-like politically correct sermons on the benign nature of Islamism. Surveillance and jailing were appropriate punishments for suspected Obama apostates (ask James Rosen or Nkoula Basseley Nakoula). The IRS was weaponized for use against Obama’s ideological opponents. Suggestions that the president was unfit or worse became near treasonous. Unity was the new patriotism. The assumption was that Obama had ushered in a half-century of progressive norms, not that he so alienated the country that he birthed Donald Trump.

The danger to the country this time around is that the Left has so destroyed the old protocols of the opposition party that it will be hard to resurrect them when progressives return to power.

We are entering revolutionary times. The law is no longer equally applied. The media are the ministry of truth. The Democratic party is a revolutionary force. And it is all getting scary.

Our Town

April 17th, 2018 7 Comments

 

A wonderful quote from Thornton Wilder’s iconic play, Our Town, one that is especially suited for this Eastertide season between Easter and Pentecost:

Emily has returned from the dead to look at her beloved family, aching to be with them once more. She sees them as they were fourteen years earlier, when she was still a young girl, on her birthday, but she knows all that will come, all the joy and the sorrow:

EMILY, in a loud voice, to the STAGE MANAGER: “I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first, wait! One more look. Goodbye, goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you.” She looks toward the STAGE MANAGER and asks abruptly through her tears: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No.” Pause. “The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.”

EMILY: “I’m ready to go back.” She returns to her chair beside Mrs. Gibbs. Pause.

MRS GIBBS: “Were you happy?”

EMILY: “No…I should have listened to you. That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”

Code Girls Review: Politically Correct Thinking

April 9th, 2018 28 Comments

 

I had an all-time first, Gentle Reader.

I make it a point never to review a book I do not like. For one thing, if I don’t like a book, I almost certainly won’t finish it, so how can I possibly critique it?

Beyond that, serious writing, like any creative endeavor, is extremely difficult, while critiquing is all too often a purely destructive act that is far too easy. There are probably many more moronic reviews than there are moronic books, and that’s saying something.

So, if I review a book on this website, it’s because I thought it worthy of your attention. And for the same reason, I routinely post my reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon.

The review in the post immediately preceding this one, a somewhat personal review of Liza Mundy’s Code Girls (the exceptional historical and feminist look at the unsung heroes—or heroines, if you want to get all John Wayne about it—of World War Two) was as positive as I can get. Nor did I consider it offensive in any way: no full-frontal nudity, no explicit threats of violence or mayhem, no advocating wholesale lynching on Capitol Hill (which might just qualify as common sense these days). So picture my confusion when almost instantaneously, literally within probably less than two minutes, I received an email from Amazon telling me my review had violated their guidelines and would not be posted.

Mystified, I reviewed the guidelines and reviewed my review. Nothing. Nor were there any hints in Amazon’s email that might suggest which guideline(s) I had violated. The company apparently adheres to the old adage, “Never apologize, never explain.” (An adage variously attributed to a nineteenth-century Oxford professor, who supposedly added, “Get it over with and let them howl,” and at the other end of the continuum to the authors of the John Wayne movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, where the Duke adds, “It’s a sign of weakness.”)

I asked my bride to read the post and give me a lead. Darleen suggested that perhaps, because I discuss encryption and cryptanalysis and the teams that did that work during World War Two, I had somehow tripped some algorithm set up by Amazon and, oh, I don’t know, the NSA or something. After all, the notice came far too quickly for a human to have read the review.

This struck me as extremely unlikely. For one thing, if the NSA hasn’t anything better to do than monitoring scruffy little websites like mine, I would suggest we could make a serious reduction in the national budget deficit by getting rid of that agency entirely and firing everyone there for wasting their time and our money. For another, I doubt very much if the NSA and Amazon are in bed together.

But Darleen’s suggestion led me in the wrong direction, and it wasn’t until last night, in the shower, that the truth came to me.

In the review, I quote the title of the John Lennon song, Woman is the Nigger of the World. And I will give you eight-to-five, Gentle Reader, that is why the review was rejected.

If I am correct, it is proof of the idiocy of politically correct group-think algorithms and politically correct thinking of any kind. For one thing, the lyrics of the song are extremely apposite to the theme of Ms. Mundy’s book. Read both. For another, the title phrase of the song, which is also the hook, was coined by Yoko Ono, who gave credit for it to black author Zora Neale Hurston. (It is actually, if I have my facts right, a distillation of two sentences in Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.) And finally, if I am right about why Amazon felt my review violated their guidelines, it—Amazon—is supremely hypocritical, given that they sell Lennon’s album, Some Time in New York City, and list Woman Is the Nigger of the World, as the first track, clearly and unapologetically, right there on their own website. They also offer the song for sale as a single. No hypocrisy there, by golly, but I’ll bet that’s the reason.

Eight-to-five? Hell, make it seven-to-one.

Book Review: Code Girls

April 7th, 2018 7 Comments

 

Bonn, Germany, 1960 or ’61, long before unification, long before the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, possibly even before the building of the Berlin Wall, because while that went up in 1961, I don’t remember precisely which year this happened. My father was with the American Embassy, and we were living in an apartment in Bad Godesberg when an English girl came to visit. Her name was Virginia Rhodes, nicknamed Ginny, and my mother introduced her to me with the offhand explanation, “Her father was one of my commanding officers in the Navy during the war.”

I was only twelve or thirteen, drugged on camping and uninterested in girls, especially ancient hags of sixteen or seventeen, so I had little interest in her, but my mother’s comment caught my attention. I knew my father had downed tools and enlisted immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I was vaguely aware that most of America had volunteered for this or that to help the war effort, but I had no idea my mother had been in the Navy.

“No,” she explained. “I wasn’t. I was just a civilian who volunteered, like so many others, but Colonel Rhodes” [actual first name now gone from my rapid access file, but predictably nicknamed Dusty] “was in charge of the unit where I worked.”

What had she done?

“Oh, just paperwork, typing things.” And with that vague deflection my interest waned. It took almost sixty years and reading Liza Mundy’s Code Girls, to learn the ladies who broke the enemy codes in World War Two were trained to use deflections just like that for security reasons, either implying dusty secretarial work, or implying they were just brainless “playthings” for the men who did the real work of winning the war.

Fast forward eight or ten years. My father had been killed and Mother was living in the house in Vermont my father had bought for a retirement he never lived to see. I was visiting, and she asked me to walk up to the post office and pick up her mail.

It was a combination general store/gas station/post office about a quarter mile away, and as I walked home, I flipped idly through the letters and magazines. What caught my attention was an official envelope, addressed to my mother, from the Department of the Navy. I handed it to her and asked what it was and why the Navy might be contacting her after so many years.

“Well,” she said, glancing at it, “As it happens, I can tell you because this is a declassification notice.”

Declassification? It was not the first time I realized there were unknown depths to my mother—my short-tempered, acid-tongued, opinionated, occasionally wickedly funny, frightfully proper, intensely well-educated and well-read mother—but even so I was surprised. I began to quiz her. It was twenty-five or thirty years after the war, but the habit of official secrecy, coupled with my mother’s natural love privacy, kept her reluctant to expand too much on what she had done, essentially dismissing it as nothing special. Again, it took Mundy’s Code Girls for me to finally understand the critical importance of what my mother and so many other ladies had done during the war.

But on that long-ago day, she showed me some simple cryptograms (I remember only something called a Polybius Square) and told me how the work consisted (putting it in baby talk) of searching for patterns and sequences on large sheets divided into endless rows and columns of letters or numbers. She told me that of the people in her unit, she and a young man who later became a professor of some arcane form of mathematics at MIT were the only two who lasted the entire war, because nervous breakdowns were as common as head colds among code breakers. I can well believe it.

I knew my mother was capable of intense concentration, and I knew she was capable of extreme and painstaking patience (not necessarily with her wild and troublesome son, but with intellectual problems that delighted her), but I was stunned to think she might have been capable of that kind of work. Apparently, like so many of the girls Mundy writes about, so was she.

After Pearl Harbor, like so many other ladies of her generation, she was determined to do what she could for her country. She used her social and professional contacts, her father’s reputation as a newspaperman and historian, and perhaps my father’s almost insignificant position as a freshly-minted lieutenant (on one of the battleships attempting unsuccessfully to protect Allied merchant convoys from Nazi U-boats in the North Atlantic, a fact that must have motivated my mother even more to try and help the war effort), to wrangle an interview with Naval Intelligence. She met with an officer in one of the “temporary” buildings hastily erected on the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, temporary buildings still in use when my family and I left for Germany almost twenty years later. The officer asked if she had any skills, and she told him she was a writer. The Navy didn’t need any writers; did she have any hobbies? No. Had she studied math at Bryn Mawr? No. Did she excel at anything? Well, she was a bad piano player, but a good dancer. The Navy didn’t need piano players, and they didn’t need dancers, good or bad. She was gathering her things to leave when he asked if she ever did crossword puzzles. Yes, by God, she did, and what’s more, it was no particular feat for her to do the New York Times puzzle in ink and get it right every week.

And so, after testing and training, my mother became one of the many women who worked on code-breaking for the military during World War Two; in my mother’s case, working for the Navy, and working specifically on one of the Japanese codes.

It must be difficult for today’s computerized/smartphone/IT generation to imagine that things such as encryption or cryptanalysis might once have been done by humans and, just as remarkable, laboriously undone by humans, or perhaps even that codes can be broken at all, but it was once so. And during World War Two, the vast majority of the people who broke codes for America were women, and how they did it, and the extent to which they did it successfully, is as remarkable an achievement as the bloody taking of countless Pacific islands, one by one, dead soldier by dead soldier. And those two things are closely related.

Liza Mundy’s book provides a fascinating glimpse into a still-obscure corner of World War Two history. She tells the story of the thousands of girls who broke multiple codes, Japanese and German, that were considered unbreakable, and by so doing saved the lives of millions of young Allied men. They were barefoot farm girls, Social Register debutantes, Navy girls, Army girls, civilian girls, high school graduates, college dropouts, PhD’s, victims of the Depression, girls too rich to have noticed the Depression, shy girls, tough girls, single girls, married girls, southern girls, northern girls, literally thousands of girls who had nothing in common, save patriotism and first-class brains. And more: first class brains in an era when a woman’s place was in the oven, and if a woman did have an opinion or an original idea, she should bloody well keep it to herself while manly menfolk solved the problems of the world over their scotch and water, and fetch us some more ice, little lady.

Mundy writes about a girl who had just made a major break-through, one that would prove a critical and time-sensitive key to the successes that followed, standing politely with her papers in her hands, waiting for the officers, the manly men, to finish their conversation before she could tell them what she had done and give them the information they so desperately needed. Women who asserted themselves back then were practically unknown and always unappreciated.

Nor did the war do anything to change attitudes. Toward the end of the book, Mundy writes about how, for many of the code girls, all their work and sacrifice was, for the most part, largely ignored when they attempted to enter the work force after the war. Men who had done and accomplished far less were given preference over better brains wearing dresses, and because they had been sworn to secrecy, there was little the code girls could do to toot their own horns. With very, very few exceptions, all of them, like my mother, took their oath of secrecy far too seriously to help advance themselves.

My mother might have experienced that dismissive attitude from other men (officers and civilians, men she knew casually in civilian life), but I think I can safely say she never experienced any condescension or dismissive arrogance from any of the men my parents counted as friends, and I know damned well she never experienced anything like that from my father. My father would never have treated anyone that way, in part because he was fascinated by people and always eager to learn about them, in part because of his natural courtesy, and in part because he had—and frequently expressed—tremendous admiration for my mother and for her abilities. And any man who knew my parents well enough to be counted as a friend would have known my mother well enough to know she was nobody’s fool. But for many other women of that era, probably most, second-class citizenship was the norm (John Lennon: “Woman is the nigger of the world.”) and the chance to prove themselves, to themselves as well as to the men they worked with or for, must have been intoxicating.

Reading Code Girls was an affirmation of much of what I already knew about my mother: brains, self-discipline, stubborn refusal to be defeated by any problem, infinite determination, and the most unbelievable memory of anyone I’ve ever known.

Mundy quotes a lieutenant as saying, “Each [code breaker] had to depend on what he could remember.” I always knew my mother’s memory was extraordinary, but when she was dying, she gave an example that stunned me. We were in the living room when my stepfather said something that sparked the memory of a poem in my mother. At that moment, the lady she had hired to help her announced dinner was on the table. As she started to rise, my mother quoted a line or two, faltered, repeated them, and then said, “It’s bad enough to be dying, but it’s humiliating to lose one’s memory.” We all walked into the dining room, I pulled her chair out for her, and before my stepfather could say grace, she recited all twelve verses of a poem I know for a fact she hadn’t read in over fifty years. She had pulled it up out of the memory bank in the minute or two it had taken us to walk from one room to another.

After the war, some of the code girls suffered their own variation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that handicapped them as much as it did soldiers. For some, the work had been so stressful and so debilitating that they preferred to forget it. Others lived with the unwelcome knowledge that their work, while it saved an estimated one million American lives, had taken the lives of many young Japanese men who had wives and sweethearts and mothers and sisters who mourned just as much; in the same way, some law enforcement officers can live with killing bad guys; others cannot.

And some of the code girls would not toot their own horns even decades later, after their work had been declassified, because of the ignorance and bias, willful or not, of a younger generation. Mundy writes of a woman who, when she finally told her children what she had done, heard her own daughter say, “Mother, how dreadful! You killed all those Japanese sailors, and you’re pleased about it!”

I have to admit, when I read that, I wanted to reach through the pages and the years and slap that smug, self-righteous, shamefully ignorant daughter. She should take some time to study the photographs of what Japanese soldiers did to Chinese women, particularly in Nanking, and consider if she would have enjoyed sharing their fate, before presuming to pass judgment on her betters for having more courage, more ability, and more moral conviction than she has.

And perhaps that is the ultimate lesson of Code Girls, that the ladies who were part of what Tom Brokaw so wonderfully described as the Greatest Generation, were forged in the fires of harder times, long before the war: it was a world of greater labor and less leisure, greater ethics and less luxury, greater standards of behavior and less tolerance for misbehavior. And then along came the Depression, and survival demanded far more than any of my generation or any of the current generations will ever know. The code girls knew, or learned, the truth of John Steinbeck’s observation in his sadly unfinished retelling of the Arthurian legends, known as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights:

“Then Arthur learned, as all leaders are astonished to learn, that peace, not war, is the destroyer of men; tranquility rather than danger is the mother of cowardice; and not need, but plenty, brings apprehension and unease. Finally, he found that the longed-for peace, so bitterly achieved, created more bitterness than ever did the anguish of achieving it.”

It’s something every generation has to learn anew, only to see it forgotten again in turn by the next.

Beretta’s PX4 Storm Compact Carry

April 2nd, 2018 18 Comments

In the interests of being as politically incorrect as possible, and because I am tired of the mainstream media’s fulsome adoration of dubiously motivated high school students and even more dubiously motivated anti-gun organizations, I have decided to post an article originally published in “Gun World” magazine (https://www.gunworld.com). I am also posting it because I know a lot of readers are interested in firearms and because rotary barrel systems seem to suffer from bad press almost as much as, well, gun owners and the NRA.

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“Cognitive dissonance” is a ten-dollar psychiatric phrase for the stress experienced by people who believe in two mutually exclusive concepts at the same time. If you do any research about rotary-barrel systems such as Beretta’s PX4 Storm, you will suffer from cognitive dissonance. It is the most inherently accurate system there is. It is the most inherently inaccurate system there is. It is the most inherently reliable system. It is the most inherently unreliable system. It must be run wet. It must not have too much lubrication. It…

You get the picture. Let’s start by dismissing some of the most popular myths about the rotary-barrel system:

Most semi-auto pistols today use some variation of John Browning’s tilting-barrel lock design (think M1911, think all Glocks except their new 46, think Hi-Power, think CZ75, think probably 95% of all semi-autos), and the most common argument against the rotary-barrel design is that it’s not John Browning’s tilt-design. What is ironic is that the earliest rotary-barrel design I have been able to track down is an 1897 patent taken out by, yes, John Browning, albeit never put into production.

The next most common argument against the rotary-barrel system is that it must have clearance between the barrel and the slide, and the requisite clearance will allow the barrel to move, adversely affecting accuracy.

That popular theory is simply nonsense on a variety of levels. Here is a direct quote from an engineer at Beretta: “The barrel cams close [in] much the same way as a bolt action rifle and therefore have a much tighter lockup than any Browning tilt-style handgun.” [Emphasis mine.] “Due to the linear movement of the barrel, the barrel cut in the front of the slide is minimized as well, meaning that the requirement for an ovoid cut as seen in 1911s and other Browning-style tilt-barrel actions is not needed and the slide can act as its own bushing, so to speak.  Due to the rotation of the barrel and lack of vertical movement, the accuracy potential is significantly increased as the barrel does not need to deviate from a single angle, merely moving forwards and rearwards during cycling.”

Not only is there increased accuracy from the linear movement of the barrel, the rotary-barrel system is an inherently strong design that leads to longer life of the gun, and enables the gun to tolerate higher pressures. Not surprising in a handgun designed to, “meet the most stringent military standards of durability.” In fact, strength was the reason for that particular choice of that particular action. To quote Beretta’s engineer again, the motivation for Beretta’s original rotary-barrel pistol (the Cougar 8000 series) was “…a need for extreme durability. The rotary lock-up provided the most robust design solution.” Additionally, the rotation of the barrel reduces perceived recoil, and reduces muzzle-jump because of the lower barrel-mount relative to the frame.

Another popular argument is that the rotation of the barrel causes the gun to twist in your hand. I admit I have never fired the PX4 in .40- or .45-caliber, but I have put well over 2000 rounds, probably much closer to 3000, through my full-size 9mm, over 300 (I lost track during a defensive shooting class) through the Compact Carry Beretta sent me for testing, as well as about 400 more through a friend’s 9mm, including some hot, +P loads, and I have never experienced any kind of twist at all. Since I have arthritis in my hands, I am very sensitive to anything that causes any kind of discomfort, and I would have noticed twisting.

It is also worth noting that for a total of somewhere well over 3000 rounds of a wide range of ammunition, fired from three separate guns, I have never experienced a single malfunction.

(For the record, the PX4 Subcompact does not utilize a rotary-barrel system because of its size; from a gunsmithing perspective, barrel length less than three inches precludes that system, so while technically the subcompact, with a three-inch barrel, might be feasible with a rotary system, Beretta opted for a tilt-barrel design.)

There was a golden era of automobiles, from about the early-1930s to the early-1950s, when the lines of every car, from a Bugatti to a Buick, were curved and smooth and almost femininely sensuous. Those are the lines of the PX4, and it is not a coincidence: Beretta hired the Italian design firm of Italdesign, founded and then headed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (one of the most famous car designers in the world, the man responsible for cars as outrageously beautiful as the Ferrari GG50, a slew of Bugatti concept cars, and the Maserati Spyder/Coupé, and as economically practical as the Volkswagen Golf, among many others), to help them make form follow function with style and elegance and great ergonomics. Whoo, boy, did they succeed.

Based on a polymer frame, the lines of the PX4 are unique in today’s boxy-pistol world. The slide has an almost pyramidal shape, with everything softened and curved, while the frame melts down into a Picatinny rail. The grip is ergonomically excellent, allowing for a natural pointing hold the way the M1911 does. It comes with three backstraps to accommodate everyone from Lebron James to, well, me, and the grips both front and back have patterning aggressive enough to provide a firm hold without drawing blood. The safety is ambidextrous, and the magazine release button is reversible and available in three different sizes to match your needs. The trigger guard is undercut, allowing the shooter to take a high grip, and the action is a standard DA/SA. The initial DA pull is long, allowing the shooter to hold the gun safely in low-ready, and start the trigger pull as he comes up onto target, allowing for almost instantaneous target engagement.

I measured the trigger pulls for each of the three guns with my Timney scale and came up with the following:

I had the trigger on my full-size PX4 smoothed and polished many years ago, and it had a three-pull average of 9lbs in double action, 4.5lbs in single action;

My friend’s unmodified gun averaged 9.2lbs DA and 6lbs SA.

The Compact Carry, an upgraded version of Beretta’s Compact model specially customized by them to Ernest Langdon’s specifications, measured 9.6lbs DA (I suspect that will lesson with use) and 4.2lbs SA. All three triggers had very similar “feel:” crisp and positive. Reset was approximately 5/8’s of an inch and very distinct.

Ernest Langdon is a professional shooting instructor, a competitive shooter with a Grand Master Class rating from the USPSA, a Distinguished Master with the IDPA, with ten National Championship Shooting titles and two World Speed Shooting titles, a Marine, a law enforcement officer, author… His bio is longer than my word count for this article, so suffice it to say he knows his stuff. His Compact Carry model differs from the regular PX4 in that it has night sights, a low-profile slide-stop and low-profile safety-levers, Talon grips, and a grey Cerakote slide for a subtle aesthetic effect. Like all PX4 Storms, it field strips with ridiculous ease into a grand total of six components. That’s six (6) components. Counting the magazine. Remember the saying, “The fewer moving parts, the better?”

The defensive shooting class I took was taught by Static Defense Systems of Chino Valley, AZ. Owner and chief instructor Charlie Higgins is a former US Army Special Forces, Military Combat and Tactical Firearms Instructor, Close Quarters Combat Instructor, qualified Master Gunner graduate, NRA Instructor, and martial arts teacher/fanatic. Since the PX4 was originally designed for military and law enforcement use (it is carried by law enforcement agencies in America, and by both law enforcement and military agencies in Canada, Mexico, Italy—natch—and in a slew of South American and African countries), defensive use is its natural habitat. We ran a number of drills designed to simulate a variety of situations: two-handed; single-hand; non-shooting hand; single target; multiple targets; steel plate; paper; stationary; moving forward; moving back; moving laterally; single shot; double-tap; Mozambique; and Charlie’s preferred variation of the Mozambique drill, which I prefer not to describe, in the interests of law enforcement safety.

All of this was done under dubious conditions: high wind, dust, and smoke from a distant fire. All three pistols performed admirably, and none ever malfunctioned.

As befits a firearm designed to be abnormally rugged and durable, the sights on the PX4 are over-built to the max. I had the front sight on my personal gun modified by LRK Mechanical in Prescott, AZ, manufacturers of everything from race pistols to long-distance rifles, and even they were a little stunned by the excessive durability. According to them, my front sight measured .156 millimeters in width, more even than all but the very widest custom high-resolution sights designed for rapid target acquisition, and that means that at 15 yards, a four-inch bullseye is completely obscured. On the other hand, a man-sized silhouette is easily seen at all normal defensive distances, even out well beyond 15-yards, and the bright red Tritium front sight of the Compact Carry puts the eye on instantly. I just wish all PX4 Storms came with that front sight.

With a MSRP of $650, the standard Compact is reasonably priced. At $899, the Compact Carry is not inexpensive, but considering that it is a semi-custom gun, it not unreasonable either. Beauty, brawn, durability, accuracy, truly amazing reliability, and discreet size for concealed carry, from an historic and legendary company. You can’t ask for more.

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