Thursday, 31 October 2013

Counter-Espionage 101

Hello once again,

The following post contains some basic information about Counter-Espionage and Counter-Intelligence operations. I will try to cover a few basics and hopefully this will be useful to players whose characters have experience within this arena. Tradecraft will be covered in detail in a later post.

First of all, a little bit of background using the UK Security Service (MI5) as an example...

Current Focus of Intelligence Resources (Post-Cold War)

UK Security Service (MI5) Resources in Main Intelligence Areas (%)

Main Intelligence Area

- of which International
- of which Irish & Other Domestic
Serious Crime
Emerging Threats
(Sources: MI5, The Security Service (London, HMSO, 1996) and
This pattern of funding shows the change in focus of Western Intelligence Agencies in the post Cold-War era; from preventing Soviet-era spying through to terrorism and organised/serious crime in more recent times. As the Cold War wound down and the Troubles in Northern Ireland came to a conclusion, the available funding dropped. With the events of 9/11 and 7/7 overall intelligence funding has generally increased to a level higher than during the Cold War. This reflects the costs of an increased reliance on high technology (for Signals Intelligence or SIGINT collection) as well as the difficulty in securing inroads into terrorist and criminal organisations.

Modern Human Intelligence (HUMINT) C-I work still concentrates on the same Main Intelligence Areas as shown above but “non-state actors” are now a primary target for these activities. Counter-Intelligence officers may be expected to carry out the same operations as before but against organised criminal groups and terrorist organisations rather than enemy intelligence agencies.

Counter-Intelligence operations are carried out with the intent to prevent opposition forces from carrying out subversive activity, acts of sabotage, irregular warfare or intelligence gathering within the agency's home nation. Wikipedia’s List of National Counter-Intelligence Agencies here is comprehensive and shows who is responsible for what and where. 

C-I work is often subject to political and economic restrictions. It is not possible to watch everyone constantly and the sliding scale between security and openness often wavers from one side to the other. Even the East German Stasi who ran the most well-resourced and efficient counter-intelligence network in history could not cover every base. In more recent news the Snowden-NSA revelations while shocking to many prove that you can only cover a very small percentage of the global population.

C-I activities that take place within the home nation must be legally authorised to take place. Clearly, this is not always the case and laws are broken and bent both with official knowledge and without. Individuals working for the NSA have been caught out looking up SIGINT on current and previous romantic partners (so called LOVEINT). This is clearly not something that senior officers condone but in certain instances it is not unknown for rules to be circumvented if they impede ongoing activities.

Agencies must report to government ministers about ongoing operations (e.g. the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence or the Joint Intelligence Committee in the UK). There are often instances where intelligence agencies have revealed operations after the fact to these government bodies, usually with the explanation that the speed or secrecy of the operation would have been compromised by reporting it to the committee. This is allowable so long as the operations are reported within a reasonable period afterwards.

Defensive and Offensive Counter-Intelligence

C-I work has two different focuses: protecting classified intelligence (Defensive) and detecting, identifying and neutralising opposition intelligence gathering (Offensive).

Defensive operations primarily involve ensuring that appropriate security measures are in place and that they are used consistently. Ensuring the use of secure communications, protecting secure locations and deception are the hallmarks of Defensive C-I.

Offensive C-I is arguably more involved as rather than using passive means the C-I agency must actively pursue the enemy to reduce or remove threats. Offensive SIGINT C-I may involve locating and identifying agents through the use of Direction Finding (DF) or interception of communications. Ana Montes, the DIA agent arrested for spying on behalf of Cuba was identified through encrypted short wave transmissions she sent in response to the numbers station which issued her orders.

Offensive HUMINT Counter-Intelligence techniques focus on trying to identify enemy agents and their motivations with the end target of either turning them to one's own cause or removing them as a threat. This can be done by making them persona non grata and forcing a return to their country of origin (normally the case with Official Cover agents e.g. embassy staff) or arresting them for what is essentially criminal activity (recruited assets or Non-Official Cover agents - NOCs). In some more extreme cases, rendition or assassination are options that may be considered.

Defensive Counter Intelligence Techniques

Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Defensive C-I is primarily concerned with maintaining Communications Security (COMSEC). This revolves around making sure that forms of communication involving restricted materials are kept secure from physical or electronic interception, maintenance of hardware and software relating to communications, cryptography, Emissions Security (EMSEC) e.g. making sure that hardware does not radiate information that can be picked up by TEMPEST gear etc. The Wikileaks and Snowden cases indicate that the weakest part of SIGINT C-I work is always the human element (see HUMINT below).

Image Intelligence (IMINT) Defensive C-I involves camouflaging military or secure civilian installations so that they appear to be something else. It may also involve using mocked up vehicles to indicate a military build up to draw attention away from genuine operations.

Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Defensive C-I is the act of monitoring your own agents for signs of subversion allowing preventative measures to be employed. If the agent’s motivation for turning can be established then these motivations can be nullified and allow for false information to be passed on to the enemy.

Offensive Counter Intelligence Techniques

Offensive HUMINT CI involves identifying and subverting enemy agents allowing the C-I operative to funnel back false information to the enemy. This work also includes surveillance, wire-tapping, infiltration of subversive organisations, psychological operations and turning opposition agents into double agents. Less scrupulous C-I activities include interrogation and torture, using agent provocateurs, breaking and entering and planting evidence.

One of the techniques used to identify enemy recruits within one's own organisation is known as the "canary trap". This is where information is passed on to suspected leakers but with each intelligence package containing different data. On release of the leak, the specific data will identify which party has breached security.

The old adage of “the best defence is a good offence” is also applicable when looking at Offensive C-I operations. By infiltrating your own agents within the enemy organisation you can find out what they know about your own operations. Some of the highest value recruits in espionage history have been agents within the enemy’s own C-I infrastructure.

Falsely planting evidence that you have penetrated this structure is another way to impact the enemy’s abilities to function efficiently.  The CIA Chief of Counter-Intelligence from 1954-1975, James Jesus Angleton, was obsessed with the idea of there being a mole within the CIA and his single-minded hunt for this infiltrator sowed mistrust and confusion within the organisation for many years.

Criminal Counter Espionage

The David Cronenberg film “Eastern Promises” shows the method by which criminal groups carry out their own unique counter-espionage activities. Vory V Zakone (“Thieves in Law”) are tattooed with their prison history including the terms they have served, where they have served. In the film it is mentioned that he has dual cross tattoos - these show he served a term at Kresty ("Cross") Prison in St. Petersburg.

Giving an agent a “passport” of tattoos is not something intelligence agencies (or their recruits) are willing to do and therefore criminal groups like the Russian Bratvas, Japanese Yakuza, and Neo-Nazi gangs often use this to prevent infiltrators. Very few spies would be willing to have a swastika tattooed on their neck which significantly reduces the threat of investigators gaining access to the group.

Criminal gangs which require recruits to be “blooded” are also difficult to break into. The expectation that gang recruits actually commit criminal acts is also a difficult sell to intelligence agencies. It might be easy for an agency to authorise an agent to take part in a theft or act of non-lethal sabotage but murder would be an impossible hurdle to cross (with the small possibility in the even of targeting a known criminal or enemy of the state). Criminal gangs in the US have been known to use this technique in the knowledge that infiltrators will not be able to carry out the request and remain untarnished.

As a result of these criminal counter-espionage techniques, agent handlers will try to recruit targets within the enemy organisation using the MICE technique (see below) to identify potential operatives. This is particularly the case with ethnically homogenous groups which may otherwise prove extremely difficult to infiltrate. Informers and recruited agents alike may be given more leeway than a direct employee of the agency with a promise of immunity for acts committed during the course of investigations.

Agent Motivation and Viability

HUMINT agent handlers are known as Case Officers (COs) and their role is a combination of psychologist, actor, confessor, interrogator, and Human Resources manager. They must identify assets that can be turned to the CO's benefit and use the acronym "MICE" as a simplistic way to describe agent motivation -

(M)oney - the target simply works for financial gain. 
(I)deology - the target identifies with different objectives than those of the group they are supposedly loyal to.
(C)oercion - the target is forced into working for the enemy by threats to themselves or those around them.
(E)go - the target believes themselves to be superior to those around them and chooses to work for the enemy to prove how much smarter they are.

Historically most US double agents have been lured initially by either Ego or Money. Once hooked, the agent may become a victim of Coercion. If you have given the enemy information in exchange for money they can turn a trickle into a stream by threatening to inform on the agent to their home agency. This technique can often backfire as a threatened agent may decide to own up to their actions and become a triple agent, feeding disinformation to his handler.

In the UK, the most famous group of double agents, the Cambridge Five, were motivated primarily by Ego and Ideology. Sharing distrust and hatred of right-wing fascism, the group decided that their best way to fight encroaching fascism within and without the UK and Europe would be to approach the Russians. Ego was certainly a part of it as well. These elite intellectuals saw themselves as above those around them and the Soviets pandered to this ably.

Both the SVR, Russia's external intelligence agency, and Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, are well known for using attractive women to bait targets in "Honey Trap" operations. Once the target has taken the bait they may use Coercion, either threatening to reveal the relationship to damage the standing of the recruit or pretending to hold the "loved one" until the agent cooperates. Coercion can involve more direct threats to a person's wellbeing or other loved ones or the revelation of information about the individual’s personal life which may be embarrassing. Until fairly recently this was often the reason why homosexuals were considered security risks (see Security Vetting below).

Agent viability is based on the answers to a few simple questions -
  • What information has the recruit volunteered about themselves and what have they withheld?
  • Can the recruit remain stable under a high degree of stress?
  • What intelligence value can be gained by recruiting this agent?
  • Are they currently trusted by their own group?
  • Can the CO maintain strict control over all communications with the recruit?
The perfect agent will be honest and up-front with the CO as to the reasons they are turning against their employers, is currently trusted by their own group, has strength of mind sufficient to deal with stress, has continued access high value intelligence and is willing to send or receive information only under the strictest circumstances as established by their CO.

Few agents are perfect and in certain situations negative or imperfect answers to these questions would not prevent the agent's recruitment. A good example would be a potential recruit with low current trust amongst their peers or a reduced ability to cope with stress. If they had access to extremely high value intelligence they might be offered the option of extraction. Their value as an agent in place would be low, but the payoff of immediate access to high value data before the opposition remove their access would easily outweigh this.

Once the recruits viability has been established the CO will contact them, usually through a "cut-out" offering financial support, basic training in tradecraft, extraction options (where appropriate) etc.

It should be noted that counter intelligence agents do not normally infiltrate groups themselves. The idea of handing over a trained professional with knowledge of one’s own tactics and capabilities to an enemy is too high a risk. More detailed information around Case Officers and agent handling will be shown within the Tradecraft post.

Security Vetting

Baseline/Positive/Negative Vetting
Baseline, Positive and Negative Vetting are the processes whereby agencies establish the security bona fides of recruits and those who will have access to TOP SECRET (TS) or TOP SECRET/SPECIAL ACCESS PROGRAM (TS/SAP) AKA “Codeword” information.

Baseline Vetting (BV) is required for any role which requires access to PROTECTED information and involves a very basic 5-year background check, psychological interview, providing certified copies of birth certificate, passport etc. Applicants may be expected to provide relationship information, whether they have used recreational drugs etc.

Negative Vetting (NV) involves a higher degree of detail and is required for access to PROTECTED, CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET information. Applicants may be required to provide personal information going back up to 10 years along with a psychological interview and certified documentation (birth certificate, passport, driving licence etc.). You may also be required to provide at least 10 years of evidence that you are who you say you are as well as 3 years of banking records. Any foreign internationals you have had contact with will also be noted. With NV the information is taken at face value i.e. it is assumed that the applicant is telling the truth.

Positive Vetting (PV) is the more detailed level and can take anything from 2 to 12 months (average is 10 months) to complete. Clearing PV allows access to PROTECTED, CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, TOP SECRET and TS/SAP. During this period the recruit will not be allowed alone within the agency building, even during bathroom breaks. PV requires the same level of detail as NV but in addition may include interviews with friends and family, school records and previous employment records. Nothing is left to chance and all provided information is verified.

The main difference between Negative and Positive Vetting is that in Positive Vetting, everything you provide is assumed to be invalid until proven otherwise.



Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Three Dead and One Wounded In Graveyard Shootout

Newspaper article taken from "Dnevnik", Saturday July 27 2013

(translated from the original)

Shocking violence came to the quiet town of Gostilj from out of nowhere on Thursday night. Officers of the Counter Organised-Crime Service are investigating the aftermath of a shooting just outside of Gostilj, 4km North of Srebenica which left three dead and one man badly wounded. The dead have been named as Vladek Ivanović, Božidar Stankic and Igor Davidovic. The wounded man, whose identity has been withheld, has been taken to a local hospital for surgery and for questioning by the authorities.

In what appears to be a criminal deal gone bad the men were attacked with rifle fire and hand grenades. Police found several weapons and vehicle tracks at the scene and are questioning locals for further information regarding the incident. One of the dead men, Vladek Ivanović has previously been sought after for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims. His reappearance and death has been cause for concern as there is no record of his entering the country.

The other two dead men have been connected with the Serbian Mafia as known human traffickers and were confirmed as being known to the police for previous violent criminal acts. It is feared that other members of the Nasa Stvar will seek out their own justice from those who escaped the scene late Thursday night and the authorities have asked for those who have information about the events contact their local police service to provide this to assist with the investigation.

Excerpt of Internal Police Report - Dated Friday 26 JUL 13

(translated from the original)

...of the three dead men we have made successful identifications.

Male - 46 - Identified as Bozidar Stankic. Suspect in numerous open investigations including assault, murder and witness intimidation.
Male - 52 - Identified as Igor Davidovic. Suspect in numerous open investigations including murder, human trafficking, smuggling and witness intimidation.
Male - 41 - Identified as Vladek Ivanovic. Suspect in numerous open investigations including murder, human trafficking, smuggling and witness intimidation. Sought by EU investigators for war crimes during 1991-1992.

Severely wounded in the attack

Male - 57 - Identified as Anton Dedopovic. Associated with Nasa Stvar. Suspect in numerous open investigations including murder, rape, human trafficking, smuggling and witness intimidation. Currently under protection at [LOCATION REDACTED] suffering from major damage to left forearm and hand, 2nd degree burns and considerable blunt trauma injury sustained by severe impact. To be held for questioning on recovery from injuries.

Amongst the preliminary findings we can see that a total of five different vehicles had transited the location in the past few days. The mild weather has preserved the tracks reasonably well. One rental car (Silver Opel Insignia) was found in the centre of the graveyard. Investigation of the rental records indicate false papers were used to rent this vehicle but the forensic team will nonetheless search the vehicle for any useful trace evidence.

The Black Nissan Patrol was registered to Igor Davidovic and contained drug residue (methampthetamine), unregistered weapons and ammunition and  €7,000 in cash.

The Dark Blue BMW 540i was registered to an associate of Anton Dedopovic and also contained unregistered firearms and ammunition. The remains of several newspapers were found in the rear seat. A grenade detonation at the front of the vehicle appears to have been the cause of the injuries which left Stankic dead from his wounds.

Forensics team found sixteen (16) * 9x19mm Parabellum casings near the body of Ivanovic. Two were located some 10m from the body whilst the remainder appear to have been ejected at almost point blank range. It is possible that the individual who fired the weapon causing these injuries possessed a knowledge of Ivanovic and that this may have been a motivated revenge killing.

Three (3) * 7.62x54Rmm casings were located at the same position but no weapon has been located in the vicinity. An empty camouflaged rifle case beneath the body may have contained a rifle - likely an M76, Vladek's known preferred weapon.

In the treeline 20m from the maintenance shed we located  the pin from a fragmentation grenade and twenty-one (21) * 7.62x39mm casings. The calibre and extraction marks indicate a Kalashnikov derivative.

Ivanovic's injuries : sixteen close-range GSWs to the cranium. Two rounds entered through the rear and exited to the front from a range of around 10m. The remaining GSWs took place at <1m range and left little to identify of the target requiring the use of dental records as his head had been virtually destroyed.

Davidovic's injuries : single entrance/exit GSW to the cranium. Round fragmented on impact but suspected to be 7.62x54mm from wound pattern. A Zastava M70AB2 7.62x39mm assault rifle was found next to the body. The weapon was unfired.

Stankic's injuries : Stankic took several fragmentation shrapnel wounds from both the grenade detonation and spalling from the BMW near the explosion. He appears to have bled out from his injuries. A Zastava M70AB2 7.62x39mm assault rifle was found next to the body. The weapon was unfired.

Dedopovic's injuries : Severe fragmentation wounds from an explosive device concealed within what appears to be a laptop computer. We are trying to identify the make and model from the parts and hope to have an update on this at some point in the future. Secondary injuries were caused by a petrol detonation which caused burns. The overpressure of the detonation in a small volume appears to have launched the door of the maintenance shed off it's hinges impacting on his left side and causing additional injuries.

Forensics continue to be gathered and questioning of Dedopovic will begin when he stabilises. Blood trails led from the North part of the graveyard and head further up the hill where an additional vehicle appears to have been driven away. Indications are that a further two accomplices are alive but escaped the carnage. None of the other party appear to have been wounded and we are seeking out known rivals of the Nasa Stvar for questioning... 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

After Action Report - (S)Entries - Part Two

Hi there,

this week, Sunday 27 OCT 13, I was joined by Omar and Joseph and the team completed the next phase of (S)Entries, the introductory assignment for Night's Black Agents. As before, since this is ripped straight from the core rules book it is worth pointing out that


When we last left Luc, he was alone just outside of Gostilj, performing an advance recce of the meet location where the team would be handing over to Dedopovic. Angeline, Evelyn and Ron were in Sarajevo, on the last day of the timetable weighing up their options to complete the mission to lift the laptop or the data contained on it.

Day Three
10:22 (GMT+1)
After some discussion the decision was made to simply go in after dark, switch out the laptop and double time it out of Sarajevo in time for the meet. The team had sufficient surveillance footage of Lennart to establish his patterns of behaviour. They knew he would return for around 8pm, work in his study before retiring for the night around 11pm. Lennart never connected the laptop to the wireless network in his apartment which meant it had to be a physical penetration rather than remotely downloading and deleting the data. Since he did not have time to use the laptop in the morning before heading to the flight the team was confident that he would not be checking the contents until his arrival in Canada.

Time contraints and the increased risk of entering the apartment multiple times to remove and download the data then return the laptop removed several alternative options. They could also not know for sure if there was any inbuilt decryption hardware within the laptop and so the decision was made to lift it in it's entirety rather than simply taking the hard drive.

Evelyn's history as a cat burglar extraordinaire and Angeline's skills in surveillance suggested a single entry; lifting the laptop and replacing it with a similar model. Angeline took care to mock up the laptop from their meeting with Rudek in Dubrovnik to appear similar to the laptop he possessed and made sure there was no trace of digital or physical evidence that could lead Lennart or future investigators onto the team's trail.

Day Three
09:37 (GMT+1)
The meet was scheduled for the next day in Gostilj at around 5pm. The sun would be setting in the hills to the East of the cemetery where the team would be meeting Dedopovic and whilst it would still be light Luc decided to have a look for E & E routes as well as checking the high ground for a suitable observation post (OP). He checked the surrounding area for unexploded ordnance from the Balkan wars, figuring the last thing that the team would need would be to hit a land mine if the drop went bad.

Day Three
15:58 (GMT+1)
Ron received a call from Colonel Voll, his Norwegian contact. Voll had looked into Dedopovic a little more due to his concern for his comrade-in-arms' safety and had gained access to Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) indicating that Dedopovic had been in touch with a man named Vladek, an acquaintance from the Balkan Wars. Vladek had been a sniper who had a nasty reputation, targeting pregnant women and children as terror attacks against Bosnian Muslims during the war. Dedopovic's contact with Vladek implied strongly that his presence would be required the next day at the drop off. With this warning, Ron contacted Luc in Gostilj.

Day Three
16:06 (GMT+1)
Luc decided that perhaps a handgun would not be quite enough to deal with a professional shooter who could reach out to people at much longer distance and decided to head into town to see if he could rustle up something a bit heftier than the pistol Rudek had offered him. Putting his streetwise knowledge to the test, Luc located a nearby armoury used to store weapons scheduled to be disabled and got hold of a Zastava M70, a local knock-off of the venerable AKM as well as a couple of extra magazines of ammo. Not quite enough for a drawn out firefight but certainly better than relying on a pistol against a trained sniper.

Day Three
18:45 (GMT+1)
Luc's military experience and recon of the surrounding hills suggested four possibilities for a likely overwatch position. Taking into account the angle of the sunset (Vladek would want the sun behind him to reduce light glare off a scoped rifle from giving away his position) Luc narrowed it down to two positions. Luc set up camouflaged remote cameras in the trees covering these locations and moved further up the hill to a location where he could safely monitor them. After identifying the best lying up point (LUP) equidistant from these two locations, Luc knocked up a camouflaged bivouac and settled in for the night.

Final Day
01:01 (GMT+1)
The team put the final gears of the plan into place. After making sure there would be no forensic evidence left in the hotel and with his now increased concern about the drop off, Ron checked his Preparedness and came up trumps with another pair of M70 rifles as well as some smoke and fragmentation grenades. The team made their way to Lennart's apartment, arriving around 01.30. Angeline checked the surveillance systems and both Lennart and the occupants of the other apartments appeared to have been in bed asleep for long enough to make the assumption that they would in deep sleep. Watching the feed from the concealed surveillance camera in the study established that after completing his work, Lennart placed the laptop in a tumbler-locked briefcase in the study.

Final Day
01:46 (GMT+1)
Both Evelyn and Angeline had been in the apartment previously and knew the layout well enough to know that they would not be closely approaching Lennart's bedroom and with that they moved into the final part of the operation. Evelyn's MOS is Infiltration and, having keys for both the front and apartment doors, had no problems gaining access. Moving stealthily into the apartment using a night vision monocle she relied upon a pre-agreed squelch code over her earpiece to warn her if Angeline spotted Lennart moving.

A Filch test allowed Evelyn to open the case and gain access to the contents, the laptop and various bits of paperwork. Evelyn switched the laptop with ease, closed up the case (making sure to return the tumblers to their original position) and made her way back out of the apartment, locking the door behind her. Evelyn jumped into the Jeep Cherokee where Angeline and Ron were waiting and they moved off to a nearby area, out of sight from prying eyes to park up and go through the data. Having both the password to log in and the password for the encryption Lennart was using allowed the team to bypass the security and, with time being of the essence again, they began the physical and remote backup of the data.

Final Day
02:10 (GMT+1)
Whilst this was taking place (around 50GB of various file types video, audio, image and text in various languages) the team indulged in some nosiness and opened a few files at random, including the files that Lennart had most recently been accessing. Up on the screen pops a Nazi swastika on some official looking documentation. The documents appear to have been created by Amt VIIB (Ideological Investigation) of the Reich Main Security Office or SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA).

Evelyn remembered that Reinhard Heydrich had been the person in charge of RSHA and that their role included propaganda and evalutation of field reports, Angeline piped up with the information that they investigated the persecution of witches by Christian churches in the 16th and 17th centuries with an eye towards promotion of the Volkisch movement. These Nazi documents originate between 1937 through to 1945 and appeared to have been grabbed by SOE and OSS agents as Berlin fell to the Soviets.

As the resident German language speaker, Evelyn glances quickly through the files seeing documents relating to witches, mentions of Sonderkommando H (H = Hexenforschung, Hexe being German for witch) and other specialist field units running down reports. Later dated files (1942 onwards) include field reports from the Eastern Front where front line soldiers are reported as being abducted from their lines in the night and discovered the next day, torn apart and frozen in the snow. Nobody detected these infiltrators, no footprints, no sign to be tracked and no noise was heard. Other reports talk of front line assaults on German positions where injuries that should have stopped any human did not stop the Russian attacks.

A report dated 18th April 1944 from Army Group North Ukraine has handwritten notes on it that appear to have been written at the time. It is from an SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (equivalent to a Major) who writes about noting that prior to an attack his pocket watch stopped working. He recalled winding the watch to no avail before his unit was assaulted by a Russian partisan. Three of his men were killed in hand to hand combat with this man and the Nazi fled from the attack. When next he glanced at his pocket watch it was working normally.

As the war marched on and the Russian steamroller moved inexorably towards Berlin the reports received by RSHA get increasingly far fetched. There is talk of men taking headshots and carrying on coming, their limbs blown off by grenades and not being slowed down. The veracity of these reports is seriously questioned by the Amt VIIb team with many attributing cowardice or battle fatigue to the men reporting them. Red ink stamped across many reports indicate that they were suppressed with the files not being passed around outside of RSHA with the exception of a small unit named Sonderverband K apparently stationed near Kiev, Ukraine.

In addition to wartime reports from Nazi Germany there are many post-war reviews of these reports from the newly created CIA as well as SOE reports reviewed by SIS (MI6). There is some cross-pollination of ideas between SIS and CIA. Both the CIA’s Project MKUltra and the British Porton Down LSD experiments gained official sanction around 1953 and it appears as if the CIA and SIS were trying to work out if the wartime reports of Russian super-soldiers were true and whether the Russians used drugs to inure their men to pain or whether they planted psychotropics in the German supply lines. There are several video and audio interviews with men involved in the CIA and SIS projects.

At the beginning of the 1970s the CIA closed down these lines of enquiry, just under twenty years after SIS ended their experiments unsuccessfully. Many of the files are Top Secret : Codeword compartmentalised files and should still be classified. Lennart, as a Canadian Air Force officer should not have had access to either these or the SIS files which strongly suggests that he has friends within the intelligence services of the UK and USA.

The older manuscripts are written in Latin but Evelyn’s knowledge of Italian allows her to puzzle out some of the basics of these scanned documents. Her skill in History allows her to narrow down the age of the manuscripts to some time in the 14th century. They appear to have been written by monks and are possibly copies of earlier materials.

Most monks had their own uniquely identified illumination style and it becomes clear from the number of manuscripts that there were several different monks at different times recording this information. Despite this being the case, each manuscript shares imagery in the margins. An almost cloaked figure with skin drawn tightly over skeletal features holding an open book and sitting on a white stone.

The manuscripts talk in unkind terms about the barbarians of Thrace and their reputation as fearsome warriors who would feed the living enemies to packs of dogs. The Slavic-Bulgar sacking of Thrace in 542 is mentioned as is the spread of Bubonic plague from Egypt; the combination of which wiped out nearly 50% of the population. The Bulgars meanwhile rampaged across the countryside taking anything they could get their hands on.

Evelyn’s History skills pinpoints Thrace as being between modern-day Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey . One of the manuscripts that Evelyn reads through mentions a place named Starosel, noting that the Bulgars stripped it bare.

A quick Google search indicates that Starosel is located at the base of the Sredna Gora mountain range and is known for its ancient ruins, underground temple and a well preserved mausoleum. Another place mentioned amongst the Latin is the city of Pernik, built on the Thracian ruins of Krakra. There is a notation in the margin next to this datum -  +IH INI NI hVIL PIDH, INI hVIL PN+ in a non-Latin script.

The team were unable to go through everything in detail due to the sheer number of files and so they continued backing up everything onto spare physical drives and on before deciding to head off to Gostilj to meet up with Luc and prepare for the handover. With the meet due at around 5pm the team decide to make their way direct, catnapping and trading driving duties on the long journey northwards.

Final Day
15:22 (GMT+1)
Arriving early to the meet, the team verify Luc’s previous recce and decide to prepare the ground for the handover, just in case. Ron parks the Jeep out of sight further up the hill around a bend, shielded from sight by the heavy trees.

Evelyn locates two jerry cans of gas in the caretakers shed for running the petrol mower. One is full and the other around 1/3 full. There are spiked iron railings set into a low stone wall around the graveyard and whilst there is a iron gate leading in from the town but nothing leading away up into the hills. Angeline sets up a fire-bomb using the gas cans along with smoke pots either side of the road. Angeline and Evelyn park their rental car at the far end of the cemetery and await Dedopovic’s arrival.

Final Day
16:47 (GMT+1)
Moments after completing their preparation Luc hears a vehicle approaching from the hills, it sounds heavy but not well maintained. The vehicle stops further down the hills, between his position and the graveyard but far enough up the road that the occupants would not notice the team’s vehicles further down the curved road. A door is open and closed and moments later a second door is heard opening and closing.

Luc reports this series of events to the team and Evelyn grabs an M70 and ducks into the Northern tree-line that boundaries the graveyard. Angeline is in the rental car with the laptop and Ron is in the Jeep with the engine running, loaded M70 in the passenger seat next to him.

Luc makes his Sense Trouble roll and makes out a man in a Ghillie suit with a camouflaged rifle bag making his way slowly towards the left-most position he identified earlier that morning. The man reaches the location and opens up the rifle bag, removes a Zastava M76 (an SVD Dragunov copy) and begins sighting in on the centre of the graveyard. Luc makes an infiltration test and makes his way stealthily to just 10 yards away from the man he assumes is Vladek.

Final Day
17:02 (GMT+1)
Two vehicles approach the graveyard from the town of Gostilj, a dark blue BMW 5 series sedan and a black Nissan Patrol 4x4. The 4x4 pulls over on the near side of the maintenance shed whilst the BMW pulls in just behind the shed. Four hefty looking men climb out of the Nissan and take up positions surrounding the shed with folding stock M70 rifles over their shoulders. They are focused outwards to look around the graveyard for signs of trouble. They look capable, tactically sound and experienced. These are clearly men who know war like they know their own families (they are identified as NW/SW/NE/SE guard in the following text).

After a few moments the occupant of the BMW exits the car, opening the trunk and removing two small nylon carry bags which he places on the road in front of the shed before turning to look down the road towards Gostilj, clearly expected the team to arrive from that direction. This must be Anton Dedopovic and he does not look like a well man. Pale and drawn with dark shadows under his eyes, he looks as if he is barely able to carry himself.

NE guard spots the rental car with Angeline in it. He turns to signal Dedopovic who then raises his arm to wave her towards them. Angeline puts the car in gear and drives slowly towards the armed group, alone in the rental with just the laptop, and a small surprise for company. NW and SW guards focus their attention on the approaching vehicle and Evelyn takes this opportunity to move in closer to the location, just 20 yards North of the shed, still staying back within the tree-line.

Anton has a look of concern at there being only one person in the vehicle. When Angeline steps out of the vehicle she makes a spend on Sense Trouble and notices Anton wave his left hand. NE guard; stood next to the BMW reaches into his coat pocket, withdraws a mobile phone and makes a call.

Luc watches in silence as Vladek (for it is he...) reaches into an inside pocket of his Ghillie suit and pulls out his mobile. He overhears Vladek confirm that he's is watching and is ready. Vladek places the phone on his left, and puts his eye to the scope, no doubt drawing a bead on Angeline below.

Anton presses Angeline as to whether the team have looked at the information stored on the laptop. Angeline states that they haven't done so and that they switched the laptops so Lennart is unlikely to spot the switch until touchdown in Canada. Anton tries Detect BS but with a miserable failure believes that haven't looked at info. He asks Angeline to hand over the laptop. Due to the proximity to their principal, all four guards now closely focus their attention on Angeline.

As Anton reaches for the laptop, he asks where Angeline's friends are. "Cleaning up and covering tracks in Sarajevo" she answers. Anton looks doubtful, still holding laptop case. Angeline asks for wire transfer but Dedopovic points at the two nylon bags and says "Cash on delivery". Angeline moves to the bags, hefts them and slowly moves backwards towards the rental car.

Anton again makes a motion with his left hand, spotted by Evelyn with a Sense Trouble roll. NW guard reaches again for the phone in his pocket. She squelches twice on the radio, a prearranged signal to Luc who pulls the trigger on the suppressed HS2000 9mm pistol he has been training on the back of Vladek's head. Vladek's lifeless corpse slumps forwards and Luc sprints the few yards to the sniper rifle, gets into a stable firing position and begins taking aim at the guard on the South West who is out of Evelyn's field of view.

Angeline releases the dead-man switch in her armpit (thanks Preparedness!) and the firebomb in the shed goes off. A fireball gushes from the windows and the door is thrown off it's hinges. The door hits Dedopovic which would be bad news for him were it not for the small explosive charge in the laptop detonating at the same time. The laptop shatters and his left hand and forearm are shredded by shrapnel just before the door plows into him, knocking him off the road and onto the grass on the far side. Angeline's smoke pots also go off, releasing heavy plumes of white smoke that block the Eastern-most guards from drawing a bead on her as she runs past the rental car.

Ron stomps on the gas and hurls the Jeep down the dirt road and into the cemetery aiming to pick up Angeline and using the rental car as cover. Luc uses his Sniping cherry and puts a single round straight through SW guard's forehead. Luc sees him crumple to the ground. The guard to the North West drops his mobile and reaches for his rifle whilst running towards BMW.  Ron stops just past Angeline and whilst she leaps into the back seats with the bags he pokes his M70 out the window, trying to pick out a target in the smoke and firing a short burst to suppress when he spots one.

Evelyn hurls a fragmentation grenade at the guard by the BMW, it bounces off the hood and rolls down to the front of the car. It appears that he does not notice it in the confusion. Ron fires at the dark outline of the SE guard, who moves towards gravestone for some cover. Luc fires at NE guard who he can just about make out through the smoke but misses. NE guard drops prone and tries to crawl towards the Nissan. The grenade by the BMW detonates with a loud *CRUMP* and NW guard screams in pain and then begins swearing in Serbian.

Evelyn can make out that he is lying on his back, clothes smoking and that whilst he is still alive he is neither holding his rifle nor likely to offer a further threat. She turns her attention to NE guard near the Nissan, pushing the thought out of her mind that she has just thrown a grenade at someone with the intent to maim or kill them. She makes a Called Shot to the legs of NE guard and peppers his legs with a burst from the M70. He falls to the ground, propped up against the Nissan, still holding his weapon but the overwhelming events have shaken him.

Ron, in an uncharacteristic moment of flashiness (read - GM encouragement) pulls off a high speed reverse bootlegger turn and heads up the road towards the hills. Evelyn decamps from her location and moves to meet up with them at the Northern exit. SE guard fires a long burst at the retreating Jeep, several bullets pepper the rear and penetrate but none hit Ron or Angeline. Luc takes a final shot at SE guard and misses but this does cause him to hunker down. 

Luc searches Vladek's body as the rest of the team meet at the bottom of the dirt road to the hills. He picks up the mobile phone and stands up with the sniper rifle, ready to make his way to the rendezvous.

As he turns to move out Luc is gripped tightly around the ankle by Vladek's hand!

Luc stares at the gaping hole in Vladek's forehead. The eyes open and stare directly at him. Vladek's mouth slowly opens and a deep tremolo tone comes forth. Luc makes a Stability check, spends 2 Stability and beats threshold; losing 2 Stability. Most of Vladek's brain is clearly missing, but Luc can swears that he can see something looking at him through Vladek's eyes. Luc, on autopilot, drops the sniper rifle and the phone, draws the suppressed pistol and empties the remainder of the magazine into Vladek's face; obliterating what remains of his head.

The grip on his leg loosens and Vladek is no longer moving. There is blood all over the sniper rifle and Luc's trousers. Luc, barely able to process what he has just seen, heads numbly towards the Jeep.

In the back seat of the Jeep, Angeline is keyed up. She is full of adrenaline and proud of herself. Evelyn slowly realises that she has shot and possibly killed someone. Ron has seen this all many times before and keeps his professional head. Ron slows down as Luc approaches. Pale, in shock and covered in blood. He climbs into the back and tells the team "There's no-one else coming, they're all".

Angeline is coming down from her adrenaline high and makes a Stability check. The blood soaked into Luc's clothing, the explosions, killing someone race through her mind. She calms herself down, concentrating on the positives, the team is alive and thanks to her nobody is injured. Angeline turns to Luc and asks what happened?

Luc is staring at the headrest in front. taking deep breaths and does not respond. Angeline uses Shrink to calm him down. "You always prepare for the worst in combat. You did everything right." Luc turns slowly "I did everything right. Just like I have done before. Vladek didn't go down after two bullets to the head; what was hell?"

Luc remembers the camera feeds he set up on the sniping position. He passes his phone with the recorded video feeds to Evelyn. Evelyn watches the front of Vladek's head explode, Luc shooting with rifle and then standing up with the rifle and phone in his hand. Vladek's body is face down and motionless whilst this is happening. The feed goes blank. Just snow and digital artifacts on the phone's screen.

When it returns seconds later, Luc is standing there, pistol in hand. Smoke is coming from the end of the suppressor and the slide is locked back on an empty chamber. Vladek's head is beyond recognition but she can see that not only is Vladek now on his side but his hand is still around Luc's ankle.

Luc tries to explain to the team what happened. Ron and Angeline seem doubtful. Luc patiently states again that Vladek's head was partly missing, he was definitely dead. Ron stomps on the brakes and turns to Luc demanding to know what's the hell is wrong with him? He seems convinced that he has severely overestimated Luc's experience and capabilities.

Luc looks directly into Ron's eyes and says "Killing isn't a problem. I've had to do it before. It's not easy and I don't like it but I can pull the trigger if I need to. The fact that he was moving afterwards is what I have a problem with." Evelyn rewinds the camera footage and shows Ron.

Perhaps 30 seconds of footage is missing. The last image before the picture drops out shows Vladek on his front with arms outstretched but after the jump he has flipped onto his side and grabbed hold of Luc. This is not just a post-mortem twitch.

Angeline reaches into the nearest money bag and pulls out what looks like a bundle of €50 notes. Beneath the top, genuine note is nothing but cut up newspaper. At best there may be a few thousand Euros, certainly not the €200,000 they expected. Angeline is stunned. "They must have planned to take us out from beginning. But why? For some crazy General's private stash of weirdness that doesn't make any sense?".

Final Day
17:18 (GMT+1)
As Ron pulls away and drives the team away from the devastation they leave behind them Luc thinks out loud about parallels between the stories of the un-killable Russians and Vladek.

"All I know is he was dead. And then he wasn't." 

The Jeep moves up into the hills and the shade of the trees as the team privately gather their thoughts and think about what their next move might be...


Thank you for joining us. We'll be back again next week. If you're interested in joining the game or giving some feedback please message me via G+. I look forward to hearing from you.



Saturday, 26 October 2013

We Know *Guns* So You Don't Have To...

Hi everyone,

I'm going to be doing something a little different with this post (and several others like it). A lot of role-players live in countries with little to no exposure to firearms, or have little experience with firearms themselves. With this being the case it's often difficult for them to understand the terminology, capability and use of various weapons. This post is for them. I will cover some basic Terminology, the Reality of firearms, some online Resources and some Recommendations if you would much rather pick from a list.

I'll start off by quickly mentioning that the information below will be fairly simple. My degree of knowledge is good but not encyclopaedic. I do however, know where to find useful and reliable information. The topic is one that suffers from the "woo" factor - filled to the brim with subjective opinion, often not fact-checked and has about as much to do with reality as homoeopathy.  I do not take advice from 14 year old kids who play Call of Duty. A 20-year career Force Recon Marine's experience would probably sway me. Please feel free to drop knowledge on me if you are a subject matter expert.

My Personal Experience:
I have used several firearms in the past (including the Glock 26 9mm, S&W M&P .45, H&K USP .40, Kimber 1911 .45 and several longarms including the H&K MP5K PDW 9mm, Thompson M1A1 .45 and Lee Enfield SMLE Mark.III .303) and can safely say that the experience is not at all like the movies. More on that later under "Reality".

Comments posted in this blog do not represent my opinions IRL. Firearms are a subject that generates a lot of political arguments, particularly in the USA. I am *not* interested in arguments about the 2nd Amendment at all, from any side.


Weapons are often described as single shot, manual repeater, semi-automatic, burst-fire or full(y) automatic. Single shot weapons may have multiple barrels (e.g. a side-by-side or over-under shotgun). Manual repeaters include any firearm where the weapons action (loading, unloading) is performed by the manipulation of a mechanical device on the weapon e.g. pump-action, lever-action, bolt-action. Semi-automatic firearms fire a round, eject the casing and load a new round with each pull of the trigger. Fully automatic firearms will perform much the same function but will continue to fire, eject and load for as long as the trigger is pulled.

This is the (approximate) diameter of the projectile the weapon fires. Usually measured in either mm or inches. A 9mm round could be 9x18mm Makarov, 9x19mm Parabellum, 9x21mm IMI etc. Each of these projectiles is not exactly 9mm across but this is one of the vague things to be aware of in the world of guns. Where you see things like 9x19mm this is the diameter and the length. The 9x18mm Makarov bullet is actually of greater diameter than the 9x19mm Parabellum but is less powerful. Confused yet? Welcome to guns!

Calibre does not necessarily denote "stopping power" (another intangible thing) e.g. a .45 ACP is not more powerful than a .44 Magnum (although, just to confuse matters the .44 Magnum is less powerful than the .50 Action Express). Some calibres can be used in weapons designed to fire others e.g. you can use .38 Special ammo from a .357 Magnum ***NOT*** the other way round.

Note - In the NBA Rules it should be noted that many longarms do less damage than handguns. This is an artificial game mechanic designed to reduce PC death when being hosed down by AK-wielding bad guys.

This is where ammunition is carried. Magazines can be internal or detachable. Internal magazines are the norm for most shotguns and hunting rifles. Detachable box magazines are standard with most autoloading pistols and military firearms. Some weapons do not have a magazine, many civilian shotguns are breech-loading and many heavier military weapons are belt-fed. Revolvers use a revolving cylinder, reducing available capacity in comparison to autoloaders but with a more reliable feed mechanism.

Different manufacturers and models have varying reputations for reliability. Most of the time you get what you pay for but there are exceptions. Guns are machines and like any machine regular maintenance will make a huge difference in terms of reliability. Mean Rounds Between Failure (MRBF) is the normal way to measure reliability. There is no such thing as a self-cleaning firearm and like any tool, correct and proper maintenance will not only extend the tools life, but may be responsible for saving your character's life.

Effective Range
This is another nebulous concept. Even small calibre pistols fire projectiles that are capable of travelling thousands of feet and retaining sufficient energy to kill or maim. The problem is getting rounds on target at a range where the weapons in-built sights are useless. Telescopic sights are certainly useful for enhancing the range of your weapon but there are other means to do so as well. Effective range is, essentially, at what point does the act of me firing at the enemy become harassment rather than directly applied lethal force. This can vary from a few metres away to over a mile depending on the weapon and supporting equipment being used.

Why Should My Character Carry A Gun?
There is nothing else that combines ease of portability with lethality like a firearm. The characters will often find themselves in circumstances where their lives may be threatened and the easiest way to fight back is to carry a gun. Knives are great close in and have an added intimidation factor. At close range a knife is often a scarier prospect than a handgun as there is something psychologically more unnerving about being cut open than being shot.

A weapon capable of engaging multiple targets, in succession, at range is better than a knife in most scenarios. If your character chooses not to carry a firearm into a combat situation, they had better carry a lot of knives and be *very* good with them.

Okay, So They Should Carry One But What Sort?
Depends on the circumstances is the simple answer. Firearms can be broken down into the following loose categories (with the benefits of each following).

Handgun - Revolver, semi-automatic/autoloading pistol or (rarely) single shot target gun. The vast majority use pistol-calibre ammunition, single shot target guns may fire rifle rounds. Magazine capacity 1-20 (or more with extended magazines).
Examples - Glock 19 Gen 4 9x19mm, Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP, SIG-Sauer P239 DAK .357 SIG, Thompson Centre/Contender (single shot target gun).

Machinepistol - Handgun sized pistol-calibre automatic weapon, capable of burst-fire or full-auto. Usually comes with a handgrip or detachable stock to make it easier to control. Magazine capacity 10-30+
Examples - Mauser M1932 Schnellfeuer 7.62x25mm, Glock 18 9x19mm, Beretta M-93R 9x19mm, Tula APS Stechkin 9x18mm.

Submachinegun - Pistol calibre burst or automatic fire longarm, commonly fitted with a folding or sliding stock to aid in concealment. Magazine capacity is normally 15-50.
Examples - Heckler & Koch MP5/40 .40 S&W, TsNIITochMash SR-2M Veresk 9x21mm, IMI Micro Uzi 9x19mm.

Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) - High-velocity pistol-calibre or light rifle-calibre burst or autofire weapon designed to be carried by military units who for various reasons do not need to be issued with an assault rifle or carbine. Commonly adopted by many police forces worldwide. Magazine capacity between 20-50.
Examples - Fabrique Nationale P90 Tactical LIR 5.7x28mm, Heckler & Koch MP-7A1 4.6x30mm, Magpul PDR-C 5.56x45mm.

Hunting/Sporting Rifle - Rifle-calibre weapon, mostly commonly a manual-repeater but some are autoloaders or single shot multi-barrel weapons. Features a long barrel with a fixed stock. Hunting rifles commonly sport telescopic sights to allow long distance shooting. Magazine capacity is normally between 1-10.
Examples - Remington Model 700 .30-06 (bolt-action), Browning BAR .300 Winchester Magnum (autoloader), Holland & Holland Royal Double .375 H&H (double barrel hunting rifle).

Assault Rifle - Autoloading light rifle-calibre military longarm capable of burst or auto-fire. May feature a detachable or folding/sliding stock. Magazine capacity 25-100.
Examples - Heckler & Koch G-33A3 5.56x45mm, Colt M-16A4 5.56x45mm, Izhmash AN-94 Abakan 5.45x39mm

Battle Rifle - Autoloading heavy rifle-calibre military longarm. May be capable of burst or auto-fire. May feature a folding stock. Magazine capacity 20-30.
Examples - Fabrique Nationale FAL 7.62x51mm, Heckler & Koch G-3A3 7.62x51mm, SIG Stgw 57 7.5x55mm.

Carbine - Autoloading light or heavy rifle-calibre military longarm. Like an assault or battle rifle but with a shorter barrel, often with a sliding/folding stock. Magazine capacity 20-100.
Examples - Heckler & Koch HK416A5 5.56x45mm, TsNIITochMash AS Val 9x39mm, Steyr AUGA3 Carbine 5.56x45mm.

Squad Automatic Rifle (SAW) - Also called a Light Machinegun (LMG) or Automatic Rifle. Military light rifle-calibre fully automatic weapon used by infantry to suppress the enemy whilst the rifle unit moves forward. Usually much heavier than an assault rifle with an increased rate of fire. Some will have shortened barrels, sliding or folding stocks. Most commonly belt fed but occasionally magazine fed. Magazine capacity 30-200.
Examples - Fabrique Nationale Minimi Para TR 5.56x45mm, Izhmash RPK-74 5.45x39mm, ST Kinetics Ultimax 100 Mark 5 5.56mmx45mm.

General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) - Military heavy rifle-calibre fully automatic weapon. Before the introduction of the SAW, GPMGs were used for the same role or tripod/pintle mounted. Most often vehicle mounted, have seen a resurgence in Afghanistan where their increased range and power have an advantage. Almost all are belt fed. Magazine capacity 50-200.
Examples - Fabrique Nationale MAG-58 7.62x51mm, TsNIITochMash PKP Pecheneg 7.52x54mm, Saco Defence Mk43 Model 1 7.62x51mm.

There are many other classifications you may hear such as SPR, DMR, PPR, PDR but these are usually minor variants of one of the above. If you're interested, ask me :)

Reality Bites

Guns are LOUD. Having stupidly taken off my headphones whilst shooting a pistol I can attest to this personally. Even suppressed or "silenced" weapons can be heard from quite a distance although the sound is certainly muffled and may be confused for something other than a firearm discharging.

Guns are HEAVY. If you've never hefted a firearm grab a 1kg bag of sugar and hold it at arms length. That's a pistol. If you own any weights grab a 5kg weight and hold it two handed at arms length. That's a carbine. Add in accessories and extra ammunition and it doesn't take long to realise that carrying around larger weapons is not only tiring but that a certain level of fitness is a requirement.

Guns are NOT AS LETHAL AS YOU THINK. Living things that have been shot more often die from blood loss and shock. Unless you hit very a specific location (the brain stem for example) most targets will not be dead from a single shot. That is why soldiers and police officers fire many rounds at a given target until they assess that the threat has passed. "Stopping power" is more often about hitting the target in the right place than the calibre of the weapon. A .22 can kill if it hits you in the right place but in general the bigger the bullet, the bigger the hole and the faster the target will bleed out.

Shooting well is HARD. You've been running whilst carrying all your kit, it's dark and raining and the target is just a few metres in front of you. He turns and you raise your weapon and *Bang* you miss. What?! High stress reduces fine motor skills significantly. What you can do at the range, you can't do in a combat situation. The difference between Tier One Operators and Jimmy "One Time" the mafia hitman is a lot of practice and exposure to high pressure environments during training.


Here are some links to a few useful articles, images, videos and learning resources for firearms I've highlighted as particularly useful.

Gun Candy
Visual Guide to Ammunition
Internet Movie Firearms Data Base (IMFDB)
Gun Disassembly 2 (available on Android and PC)
Gun Policy


You've jumped all the way down here after seeing that wall of text no doubt. I don't blame you. Here are my Top 5 firearms. Chosen for quality, reputation and capability and with a little bit of technofetish babble you can adapt and steal for your characters.

5.56x45mm Heckler & Koch HK416A5D11RS (Carbine) - AR-style carbine with a sliding stock and 11" barrel. Uses 30 round polymer magazines and is fitted with a quad-rail fore-end  Designed with US Special Forces input (specifically SFOD-D/Delta/CAG). Features a cold-hammer forged barrel. Can be fitted with various lights, lasers, fore-grips  bipods and sighting systems. Reliable and accurate with a huge amount of customisation options.
The Rolls Royce of combat carbines.

5.56x45mm FN Minimi Para TR (SAW) - "Paratrooper" variant of the SAW. Shortened barrel and sliding stock. Normally comes with plastic ammo can containing 200 round. Can be used with 100 round cloth bags to reduce clattering. Bipod and rail adaptors comes as standard so can mount many accessories. Benefits from sharing ammunition with the HK416 above.
A perfect combination of portability and heavy rate of fire.

.300 Blackout AAC "Honey Badger" (PDW) - Very short AR style Personal Defence Weapon using a special cartridge. Features an integral suppressor which combined with the cartridge gives a vastly reduced sound signature whilst retaining lethality at close to medium range. Features quad-rail adaptors to mount various accessories.
Portable and lethal, a great suppressed weapon for CQB.

.45 ACP Fabrique Nationale FNX-45 Tactical (Handgun) - Heavy calibre autoloading pistol firing a subsonic round. When fitted with a suppressor is an excellent package for covert tasks. Available in various colours and comes with a 15 round magazine as standard. One of the best all round handguns available at this time, it's only downside is the size and weight so it is best considered as a backup tactical weapon rather than a main sidearm. The grip is also rather large for some females.
Covert, accurate and reliable with a solid reputation.

9x19mm Glock 19 (Handgun) - Medium calibre compact autoloading pistol. Law enforcement professionals carry Glocks more than any other make and there is a reason for this. One of the most popular handguns in the world, the Glock 19 can do anything. It is concealable, has a more than decent magazine capacity (15 or 17 with extended +2 baseplate mags) and is more than capable of meeting any task. It is reliable, accurate, tough and easy to maintain.
Compact, high capacity, reliable and accurate out of the box.

There are more specialist weapons out there; non-lethal net launchers, paintball guns and so forth but these have particular applications which are not quite as universal as hurling bullets into the enemy. They certainly have their place but try squirting a hitman with a water pistol and see where that gets you (now if it's got holy water in it and he's a vampire that's maybe different).

I'm not going to go into firearms accessories at all as this post is already far too long. I may cover them at a later date but only once I've finished the other topics. If this post turns out to be useful then great but if not I'd be more than willing to look at writing about some other more helpful topic.

Follow up posts in the same vein will include VehiclesMilitary and Police UnitsIntelligence AgenciesCriminal GroupsTacticsTradecraft and Criminal Activities. These posts will let you know a little about the subject and hopefully give you a basic understanding of the topic; at least enough to blag about it in character.