"When the balloon goes up"


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vintage68
September 18, 2008, 10:34 PM
Jeff Cooper used to say that when the balloon went up, we'd all be using iron sights within two weeks. I'm just curious, where did this saying come from? I'm pretty sure he was speaking about the end of the world or some great cataclysm, but I'm curious as to the whole reference.

Anyone?

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iamkris
September 18, 2008, 10:39 PM
Google is your friend

: : When the balloon goes up is a phrase used to imply impending trouble. This relates to the use of observation balloons in the first World War. The sight of such a balloon going up nearly always resulted in a barrage of shells following soon after. The expression was re-inforced during WWII when the hoisting of barrage balloons was part of the preparations for an air raid.

: Observation balloons also used during the American Civil War for spotting (correcting) artillery barrages and detecting troop movement on the battlefield. Any use of the phrase prior to WW1?

balloon goes up, the
The balloon, a colloquial term used of any event, e.g. "What time does the balloon go up?" the speaker meaning, "What time is the parade?"
From _Soldier and Sailor Words_, 1925

what time (or when) does the balloon go up?; with the reply, the balloon goes up at (a stated time). When does it happen? Esp., when does the barrage open or the attack begin: 1915, orig. military; then, 1919 onwards, also civilian.
From _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, Second Edition_ (1985) by Eric Partridge, ed. Paul Beale

The undertaking begins, as in _He's going to announce his candidacy for mayor - the balloon goes up on Monday_. This expression comes from World War I, when British artillery sent up a balloon to notify gunners to open fire, this visual signal being more reliable than courier or telephone. It was soon transferred to signal other kinds of beginning. [1915]
From _The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of Idioms_ (1997) by Christine Ammer

vintage68
September 18, 2008, 10:42 PM
Well Hell, I could have Googled the darn thing, but I thought it would be more fun (and interesting) to get a "gunny" perspective.
:neener:

elChupacabra!
September 18, 2008, 10:48 PM
I like Cooper in a sense - he was a visionary for his time, and brought about a revolutionary change in the defensive shooting industry / society that was much needed.

With that said, I think he was, at least at times, too set in his ways for his own good. Example - he preached the Weaver stance til his dying day, despite its virtual eclipse by the Modern Isosceles stance, not to mention much of his - honestly - antiquated social commentary.

I think this comment, about iron sights to be exclusively used at the end of the world, is another good example of his somewhat obsolete ideas. If Marines, Soldiers and Airmen can rely on red dots, scopes and holosights through very intense tours in some of the world's most demanding environments time and again, then I believe optics of all sorts will very much be alive and well "when the balloon goes up."

With ALL that said, I do have a good set of BUIS on my rifle and practice with them regularly :)

average_shooter
September 18, 2008, 10:51 PM
I believe in this context the "balloon going up" would be in reference to an event resulting in the virtual downfall of society as we know it. In such a situation, good luck finding batteries and electricity to run your fancy-dandy whiz-bang optics.

Intrepid Dad
September 18, 2008, 10:53 PM
Iamkris,

That was very interesting. I've heard the expression before and wondered how the phrase originated. Thanks.

Ragnar Danneskjold
September 18, 2008, 10:56 PM
I like Cooper in a sense - he was a visionary for his time, and brought about a revolutionary change in the defensive shooting industry / society that was much needed.

With that said, I think he was, at least at times, too set in his ways for his own good. Example - he preached the Weaver stance til his dying day, despite its virtual eclipse by the Modern Isosceles stance, not to mention much of his - honestly - antiquated social commentary.

I think this comment, about iron sights to be exclusively used at the end of the world, is another good example of his somewhat obsolete ideas. If Marines, Soldiers and Airmen can rely on red dots, scopes and holosights through very intense tours in some of the world's most demanding environments time and again, then I believe optics of all sorts will very much be alive and well "when the balloon goes up."

With all that said, I do have a good set of BUIS on my rifle and practice with them regularly

I agree. Having a lot of really great ideas, does not mean all of one's ideas are always the best all the time. Yes Cooper was a visionary, a great shooter, and he had a lot of wisdom. But not everything he said has turned out to be correct. No matter what happens in the world, optics of some kind, are here to stay.

Chuck Spears
September 18, 2008, 10:57 PM
Wasn't Cooper the guy who said you shouldn't use anything less than .454 Casull for a carry piece?

doc2rn
September 18, 2008, 11:03 PM
When the Balloon goes up, was a phrased we used often in 2/2 Fox and it meant to be called to the front. As in you will charge the enemy when the balloon goes up, so that fits with the WWI reference.

Logan5
September 18, 2008, 11:03 PM
I don't have the Colonel's quote in front of me, but I'd wager it's twenty years old. I'm inclined to think he's talking about the aftermath of nuclear war with the Soviet Union in 1988 or so, in which case he probably would have been right...
Even ten years ago, the conventional wisdom held that what passed for optics on a conventional line infantry fighting rifle better be on some kind of QD mount like the G3's, because it was bound to smash the first time you dove for cover.
Also, optics were not generally thought to be a cost effective way to increase an individual infantryman's ability to kill his enemy, and the individual infantryman's ability to kill his counterpart was not thought to be a particularly important part of how one went about winning wars.

Nate C.
September 19, 2008, 12:19 AM
In addition to being fragile (albeit things are more rugged today):

Whizbang Electronic Gear + Electromagnetic Pulse = Very Fancy Boat Anchor.

This would be (and should remain) an issue of concern to anyone in the nuclear age.

wally
September 19, 2008, 12:39 AM
If Marines, Soldiers and Airmen can rely on red dots, scopes and holosights through very intense tours in some of the world's most demanding environments time and again, then I believe optics of all sorts will very much be alive and well "when the balloon goes up."

This only works because of all the logistics support behind the troops for fresh batteries, spares etc., we won't have this!

--wally.

M203Sniper
September 19, 2008, 02:33 AM
Keep in mind, the date of the quote for one thing technology is moving pretty fast whether you realize it or not (just a few years ago I was still carrying an M16A2) and the fact that sometimes it takes a care package from mom and dad or just plan boy scouthood to keep optics alive in the field even over the past few years of conflict.

jackdanson
September 19, 2008, 02:51 AM
This only works because of all the logistics support behind the troops for fresh batteries, spares etc., we won't have this!

My aimpoint can run for a year on a set of batteries. It would also only be slightly easier to break than the Iron sights... always have irons as backup anyway.

Nematocyst
September 19, 2008, 03:12 AM
Interesting thread, Vintage. Thanks.

I believe in this context the "balloon going up" would be in reference to an event resulting in the virtual downfall of society as we know it. In such a situation, good luck finding batteries and electricity to run your fancy-dandy whiz-bang optics.As a guy with aging eyes who has GR on the 336 but a scope on the 39 (.22 LR lever, because squirrels are smaller than deer),
I've often wondered about the issue being discussed here: what about after the fall?

What happens if batteries and scope repair aren't possible anymore?

Powderman
September 19, 2008, 03:29 AM
Scopes and optics are great shooting aids, enabling precise shooting over a longer range with a minimum of training.

That being said, the first and foremost thing anybody using a firearm should do is to learn the sights on the weapon, and have them down cold.

This is to say that if your chosen long arm is an M1 Garand, you need to know how to zero and use the sights. Same for the M14, M16, related firearms and others.

All of your serious use rifles should have some back up iron sights.

Nematocyst
September 19, 2008, 03:35 AM
Words of wisdom:

All of your serious use rifles should have some back up iron sights.

elChupacabra!
September 19, 2008, 09:11 AM
I definitely agree, that any serious rifle should have BUIS. I spend more time shooting with my BUIS than I do my optics by a wide margin.

With that said, the scope on my AR doesn't require any batteries, and I doubt it would break in under 2 weeks (though anything is possible I suppose).

And for those with Aimpoints, one charge of batteries can now last a year or more.

Spare batteries are not hard to keep around, either - I've got 2 dozen spare batteries for the FastFire I've got piggybacking on my scope... so being prepared goes a long way from a logistics perspective.

Either event, of course I've got good BUIS and expect that eventually, I'll need to use them... But I highly doubt it'll be within 2 weeks ;)

oweno
September 19, 2008, 10:10 AM
As I understand the expression, in the late 1800's a major celebration, political rally, etc. (both here and in the UK) would kick off with a hot-air balloon ascention. Thus, the party would start when 'the balloon went up'.

Come World Wars I and II, the expression was modified to "When the balloon goes up, it's come as you are." Meaning: When the enemy attacks, you'll have no warning so you'd better be well prepared and ready for battle.

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