The Nation's Blackwater Charge a Dud
The Nation is claiming to have information from informants that Blackwater founder Erik Prince is some sort of delusional latter-day Templar Knight, ordering murders to cover up his plot to wage war against the Islamic world. If it sounds a bit far-fetched ... well, it should.
Without going into the specific allegations being made in the consolidated civil cases, logic and factual errors in claims made in the article are troubling. See this claim from a man who claims to be a former member of the Blackwater management team, identified as John Doe #2:
Using his various companies, [Prince] procured and distributed various weapons, including unlawful weapons such as sawed-off semi-automatic machine guns with silencers, through unlawful channels of distribution.
There are no such firearms as "semi-automatic machine guns."
In fact, the terms are mutually exclusive, a basic fact that any manager at a military contractor would almost certainly know. A weapon may be semi-automatic, capable of one shot per trigger pull, or it may be a selective-fire or fully-automatic-only machine gun, capable of firing for as long as the trigger is depressed and the weapon has a supply of ammunition from a belt or magazine. It cannot be both.
Nor are military units prone to using sawed-off weapons of any type.
Some units, including the personal security details (PSDs) fielded by Blackwater, use short-barrel rifles, but at no point are they "sawed-off." They are manufactured with shorter barrels. Further, many firearms with short barrels abbreviated beyond a certain length require retuning or redesigning the entire operating system to make it reliable, something generally only done on the manufacturer level.
Sawing off a modern combat rifle would make it deadly to the user. It's a preposterous claim.
It is also worth noting that there is nothing specifically illegal about the use of silencers. Correctly called suppressors, they have some limited military use in certain situations. That said, it would make very little sense for Blackwater PSDs to use them to any great degree. Why? Most suppressors function by having a series of baffled chambers that capture and slow the expulsion of burning gasses that propel a bullet, slowing them down to subsonic speeds to reduce the noise of the gunshot somewhat. To do this, a series of baffled chambers are enclosed in a long tube that attaches to the end of a gun barrel. Most suppressors are at least four to six inches in length, which presents a significant problem to security detail members that typically operate in close quarters, in buildings, and around vehicles.
Stealth is not needed, but speed and weapon mobility is life. Silencers are neither needed nor wanted by PSDs, because they make it more likely that your weapon will snag on projections or vehicle interiors, increasing your deployment time and adding no practical benefit to the shooter.
It is impossible to determine at this point if the company was using "unlawful channels of distribution" to acquire weapons in Iraq, but weapons that Doe #2 claims were shipped simply do not exist as described.