Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finland saved by mittens?

Via Metafilter:
Simo Häyhä is often revered as the deadliest sniper in history. Using nothing more than a Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle with stock iron sights, Häyhä is credited with felling 542 Soviet soldiers during the Finnish Winter War (with as many as 150 more kills by SMG). Nicknamed "The White Death", Häyhä spent weeks in snow-covered forests, enduring sub-zero temperatures while sniping Russian officers, weapons crews and snipers. The Soviets placed a bounty on Häyhä's head, utilizing counter-snipers and artillery fire in an attempt to kill him. Over the course of only three months, the 5'3" Häyhä (a farmer by trade) killed upwards of 800 of the Red Army soldiers deployed to Finland. Despite eventually being shot in the face by a Russian sharpshooter, Häyhä recovered and passed away in 2002 at the age of 96.
When asked in 1998 how he had become such a good shot, he answered, "Practice."

But the secret of Häyhä's success may have been in his mittens:
One of the reasons Häyhä was so successful, believe it or not, was because of his mitten ensemble. They consisted of three layers: the bottom layer was an incredibly finely knitted tight-fitting glove made of handspun yarn, finer than commercial woolen knits could be found at that time. The second layer was a fingerless mitt that stopped short of the base of his fingers, while covering his wrist and the first joint of his thumb. The outer layer was made of heavy, thick wool, in a technique unique to scandinavia called nålbinding, which was looped rather than knitted. This nålbinded mitten, in addition to being virtually impervious to cold, also had a split in it for his trigger finger, so he could fire his rifle without taking them off.

The underglove was fine enough that he could reload his rifle without taking THAT off, drastically reducing the amount of time that his hands had to be exposed to the cold. And if he did have to do maintenance on his rifle that required the underglove to come off, he could put the wrist-covering mitt back on; because that covered the pulse point in his wrist, it kept his blood warmer longer and kept feeling in his fingers.

The Russians, by contrast, had thick, bulky gloves or mittens in a single layer. The gloves had to be taken off to reload, which caused a lot of wasted time due to numb fingers. And the mittens had to be taken off even to FIRE the gun! Numb, frostbitten hands were the cause of many poor shots and lost ammunition, or even parts of the rifle if field maintenance had to be done.

so. Hoorah for mittens! Warm hands, strong people!
My mittens are not this cool.
blog comments powered by Disqus