Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wednesday Weapons Website Of The Week: WeaponsMan

For some five years, three months, and fifteen days, WeaponsMan was one of, if not the, best weapons-related website on the 'net. As anyone who visited there will tell you. The bloghost, Hognose, would probably be shocked and humbled to find that out.

After a 2011 teaser post, he hit the ground running in January 2012: over 100 posts in just his first month at it. And long posts, on all manner of topics varied and sundry. Done with intelligence, wit, and a style those of us fortunately who tumbled onto the site discovered, which kept some thousands coming back.

I wish I'd discovered it sooner: I found him because Tam mentioned him, over a year after he started. My first comment on his board was shortly afterwards. When I commented on this post on the Ides of March, 2013, he was quick to make his comeback into a full post, and referral to my site. I don't know what his daily readership was, but I can tell you that notice got me 2500 views in a day. And that was four years ago. It helped that he was effusively gracious in praising what he found, which certainly didn't hurt my feelings either. I flatter myself that we were something of kindred souls.

We're a few years apart chronologically, and served on active duty in the same timeframe, so we clearly shared some military and cultural reference points. No disrespect to Brendan, but I felt in many ways what a lot of folks in the military do in such circumstances: we were "brothers from another mother". That's the best explanation I can come up with for the loss I feel at his passing.

Looking at the posts in memoriam to him this week, I wasn't the only one. In fact, I wasn't in the only hundred such. Virtually everything I could say about him was echoed in one of the 200+ posts in reply to his brother's news that Hognose, AKA Kevin O'Brien, had passed.

If you're one of the frequent lurkers or commentariat from that site, you already know what I'm talking about. If you aren't, you have, for the moment, a few thousand posts' worth of catching up to do, if you want to know why Hognose deserves the recognition he would never give himself. But I'm pretty sure he knew how we all felt about the place, even if we didn't take the time to pour it all out until notification from his brother of Hognose'/(Kevin's) passing.

I'm going to post now what emotion prevented me from attempting yesterday.

Hognose was, indeed, a gentleman and a scholar. He was a renaissance man, in the truest sense of the term. His site, encapsulated by his blog's statement of purpose, was exactly WYSIWYG:
A lot of nonsense is written about weapons, especially on the Net. Rather than rail at the nonsense, we thought we'd talk sense instead, and see how that catches on.
It caught on pretty darned good, Hognose. Thousands of readers can't be wrong.
If it had anything to do with weapons, it was fair game. Cave man weapons, nuclear weapons, knives, clubs, sniper rifles, torpedoes, battleships, anti-rat snakes, "strangling thumbs"; people using weapons, well, badly, stupidly, foolishly, criminals, citizens, cops, troops, and anything that flew, crawled, walked, swam, or slithered, with from two to two dozen legs, and any representation of it in books, films, or any form of media invented or not yet invented, in the known universe, and he blogged it. With wit, with grace, with intelligence, insight, and elan, sufficient to grow his audience day over day, and year over year.

I commented relatively rarely at first, then with more frequency, as many of us did, but in his weekly analysis of his blog, he looked to metrics. When he was puzzled by some posts' lack of response, compared to others that drew them like picnics draw ants, my only answer was absolutely heartfelt and honest:
Sometimes, Hognose, we just stand here open-mouthed and gawping at the lesson you're teaching during the period of instruction, and marvel at the product.
I wish I could see the actual stats of how much output he produced, how many words, how many posts, how many comments, and how many views. His regular readership, from 50 states, 16 territories, the District of Columbia, and 60 or 80 countries already know that whatever the final tally was, it was impressive, expansive, and 24K gold, as a rule.

The response of that commentariat now has been as well, because people were drawn to the blog like iron fillings to a magnet, and we could all recognize quality when we saw it. If he had a post, there were frequently five other viewpoints from people who were subject experts from some piece of it. And as a rule, far less of the norm of poseurs or nastiness one is apt to find anywhere else on the internet. I think, because no one wanted to disappoint the bloghost, or force him to intervene; the decorum was disciplined, largely by mutual consent.

So while it lasts (or please, God, until it finds a new host/home, for posterity, because having the blog disappear along with the man would be a criminal waste) go see what you missed. His blog ought to be one of the places where the Internet truly is forever.

And at the root of my tremendous sorrow and sadness at Kevin's passing, is probably the good kind of utter selfishness and regret:
I'm tremendously sorry that a continent separated us, and we never met face to face, and I'm sorry for myself and the rest of us going forward that such a wonderful man, and such a special place, have left us, and we can only be thankful for the memories of what we all had, knowing that the chance for any more of it is largely gone forever.

I'm glad Small Dog Mk II has a new home, despite the loss of his owner. And I'm sorry, as I'm sure his brother is too, that Hognose will never get to fly in the airplane they were building together. Brendan O'Brien, I hope you get to finish that plane someday, for Hognose. I suspect a couple hundred of us, at least, would like to hear about it when you do. If my own sense of loss, being naught but an internet acquaintance, feels like this, I cannot fathom how deep must be your loss, and your father's, at Kevin's passing.

But I'm pretty sure Kevin doesn't need the plane now, because he has his own wings.
And his passing sparks anew in me a fervent hope that there's an afterlife, where families are made whole, and old friends can meet face to face for the first time.

Ladies and gentlemen, I say ye Kevin O'Brien.

With gratitude and respect,

(This post was a whisker late for the Wednesday time hack. Which Hognose, of all people, would certainly understand.)


Unknown said...

He will be sorely missed. Truly a wonderful and erudite writer.

James said...

Aesop,that tis a damn nice write up,and,by your words tis clear "a continent"did NOT keep you apart.I had no idea how many folks on the site had their own blogs,and,am glad as perhaps the folks there can keep together in some way.

Kevin will be missed as he is onward in the next chapter of life,but,tis also clear from the thoughts from literally around the world "Hognose"will live on.

Jennifer said...

Aesop, I was led to his site via your link, and visited a couple times a day since. I, like most others, only knew him electronically, but the loss is awful. I don't know anyone who could read his blog and not want to meet him. And, you're right - a true renaissance man and an incredibly talented and prolific writer whose turn of phrase was savored like good wine. In addition to all of his weapons expertise and knowledge of everything aviation, science, politics, culture and art, he was patient and kind, both with small animals and stupid questions. He answered all mine, and actually gave me the gumption to sign up for my first firearms class. (I spent most of my life as a pacifist Quaker; there was lots of gumption as well as remediation involved.) He was an inspiration, and I, like Elaine, hope there is some way to preserve his blog. I also hope you and others keep the torch going: you inspire all of us. Go hug your loved ones.

mobius said...

Thank you. He was one of the good ones.

oughtsix said...

Aesop, thank you for one of the finest eulogies I've ever read, befitting a Man like Kevin O'Brien. His is a loss irreplaceable.

I've suggested, as time heals and allows, that his family preserve and publish his essays making them available as widely possible. It would be a fine and fitting memorial to Kevin and a very great service to us all.

If you would be willing and available, I cannot think of a more literate and perceptive editor who would rise to the honor better.

LFMayor said...

Nicely done, sir

Fred said...

Weaponsman Mirror Site. Created yesterday. It's not perfect but all of the data is there.

Anonymous said...


Agree with Oughtsix.

I "know" Weaponsman through your words.

A fine remembrance, Sir.


Jim Scrummy said...


Excellent post! Keep up the great work here!

oughtsix said...

The St Clair site is unreadable.


Unknown said...

Shit; I had no idea (I hadn't visited his site in a week or so)....

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for capturing what's in my heart.
Celebrate the life & how much better we are that he was among us for whatever time.

Bill Robbins said...

Amen, AESOP. The loss of a guy who many of us never actually met, but with whom we all shared a bond, really hurts. RIP, Hognose.

loren said...

I came to your site from Weapon Man when your comments on his site intrigued me.
I've nothing to add to your eulogy but Hear, Hear.

lineman said...

Well Said Brother...

Anonymous said...

Wish he were here for the next go around! Your words of wisdom will echo in the minds of your fellow patriots as we enter into the next fight!
Thank You and may it be a better life above!

SemperFido said...

You said it better than I ever could Aesop.

Grog said...

Like many others, I knew him only from the blog, but appreciated all the wisdom he shared with us.


Klaus said...

Like Loren above I have come to your web site because of the interesting and sometimes profound comments you would leave on Hognose's sight. You have said all the things I feel only better than I could ever say them.

Jaque Bauer said...

His brother indicated he is going to close the Weaponsman site. That would be a big loss. Perhaps someone close to the family can have some influence in keeping Weaponsman open, both as a memory and as a resource.

Anonymous said...

I thank you for this fine eulogy, wherein you have summed up what many of us felt. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read your work, so I know this will resonate with others who 'knew' Hognose.

What is continuing to strike me with his passing is the degree of hurt I feel regarding the death of someone I never met. I was devastated when I read Brendan's notification, and I have been seriously upset since. As a side note, then, it is interesting how this electronic medium so effectively allows for empathy to exchange.

I hope Kevin's work can be preserved, and I would especially be interested in a print edition. Early days, though, so I will wait and see.

Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas

Mike in Canada

Gunny G said...

Rest in Peace, your work is done.

Cap'n Mike said...

Well said Aesop