Mar 22, 2016

Thoughts and prayers with Brussels this morning

Multiple explosions in Brussels, Belgium this morning. Reportedly two at the airport, and a third at a metro station. Some reports of a third device, undetonated, located at the airport.

Listening to Sky News quietly in the background, and they are being refreshingly honest about the inability to secure places like airport check-in lanes and metro stations. It's an unfortunate truth: a determined and dedicated attacker can not be stopped with zero casualties.

Question: If Johnny Jihad wants to strap on a Semtex vest and wander in to your local airport, at what point is he going to be detected? What if it's a NY subway station? Ever seen Grand Central or Penn Station at rush hour? A ballgame?

Where does the security begin? When you arrive at an airport, think about the usual course of events:
- park the car, wait for the bus to the terminal
- ride the bus with 5-20 strangers and their luggage
- enter the terminal for check-in, stand in line with 20-200 strangers and their luggage
- stand in line for Security Theater with dozens or hundreds of strangers and their carry-on

There is no good answer.

Nov 27, 2015

turkey recipe

The turkey took a long time to cook but was incredible. Brined 24 hours in:
4 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 onion, quartered
2 small carrots, chopped
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
4-5 bay leaves
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon pepper corns
8-10 whole cloves
1 gallon water
Bring above to simmer and cook for 1-2 hours. Chill.
Rinse turkey and put in a large bucket, add brine, and add water to cover. Put in the fridge and wait.
On cooking day, remove from brine and pat dry. Quarter another onion, an apple (granny smith!), and an orange. Put the onion and apple in the bird's cavity. Put the orange slices (peel on) in the bottom of the roaster around the bird. Pour a half-inch of apple cider into the bottom of the roaster pan.
Slit the skin in various places and put a pat of butter in each slit, total about 2/3 stick of butter for a large bird. (Put the remainder in the cavity.)
Rub the entire outside of the bird with olive oil and dust liberally with salt and pepper.
Roast at 350F, tightly covered with foil until the last 30-45 minutes. Remove the foil to brown the skin.
Remove the bird from the oven and rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
CARVE AND OVEREAT.

Oct 24, 2015

I've a problem...

... being allowed to play on a legitimate long-range range has utterly spoiled me.

I'm going to visit the public range in the next week or so to check zero on my deer rifle, which means popping a few rounds at 100yd to make sure I'm still minute-of-deer out to 250ish.

But after the luxury of a 750-yard playground earlier this month, I've had a few realizations...

One: Having the room to play at long distance is wonderful.

Truly, nothing can wring out both equipment and shooter like working with distances of a quarter-mile or more. Simply finding a target can be a challenge. Then comes the task of positively identifying it, even with a reasonably powerful scope. I found out that my budget mil-dot scopes (Bushnell Elite 3200s) are pretty good scopes for the price, but they sure don't compare with scopes that cost a few times more. When you're doing most of your shooting at 100-200 yards, the aberrations in an inexpensive scope aren't as relevant.

Two: It might be counterintuitive, but I shoot less at long range than I do at short.

I've never been much of one for mag dumps to begin with - they're a great way to turn money into smoke and noise, but for effective fire they're not so useful. An Appleseed instructor (and former military guy) I knew back on the East Coast used to say that while full auto was okay for making someone keep their head down, nothing encouraged it like accurate aimed fire.

If I want to make my shots count, I'm taking my time on them to a certain extent. Holding for a pause in the wind. Waiting on mirage. Watching the grasses and leaves subconsciously to see where the gusts are doing funny things. And yes, keeping the barrel cool.

Three: A good shooter can make any rifle work; a good rifle won't make a bad shooter work.

I was lucky to have some very good shooters who were very happy to coach and help me with distance. I'm also fortunate enough to have a few rifles that are capable of effective accuracy at the ranges we were playing with. And yes, I was able to feed my ego a little bit, because I'm not a bad rifle shot. Once I got a feel for how my rifles were handling, and with good wind calls from good spotters, dropping shots in at distance was challenging but not frustrating.

While sitting with MattG popping prairie dogs, he spotted one out on its mound around 375-400 yards. I dialed up a few clicks of elevation, held a half-mil of Kentucky windage, and let fly. I missed.

By four inches. Laterally. My wind call was off, my elevation was perfect. I'm awful proud of that miss.

Four: At any kind of significant distance, reactive targets are almost mandatory. Punching paper is great for getting a zero, after that it's much more effective to ring steel. And if you have the space to do it, boomer targets are even better. Like, for instance, a defunct car with a bit of dynamite stuffed into it:

That's a lasered 300ish yards, on a target about the size of a pop bottle, with the winds one might expect from the high prairie in the afternoon. The rifle is one I spun together from a bunch of spare parts, shooting Federal's outstanding 50gr ballistic-tip .223. (Seriously, some of the most consistent non-match ammo I've had the pleasure of using.)

Five: A good spotting scope and/or binoculars is a must. My little 8x32 binoculars are great for finding deer, not so much for 3-inch targets at 250 yards.

Six: Shoot the rifle you're comfortable with. I know I'm somewhat recoil sensitive. My .308 Savage is a twelve-pound rifle, and comfortable to shoot pretty repeatedly. The AR mentioned above? I can shoot that all day long. The old saw about "a man with one gun" does have some basis in truth.

Seven: I am blessed with some of the best friends in the world. Seriously, you guys... the best.

Oct 13, 2015

Home again

We made it to Blogorado this year. Finally put faces with names in meatspace, and got to spend more time with folks I haven't seen in far too long.

It was ... well, it was a great weekend. I'm not going to go into a ton of detail. Nor am I going to shower you with pictures, mostly because I didn't take many.

But a few high points over the course of the weekend...
- busting clays with Ambulance Driver. That dude can plain run a shotgun. After a rough start I settled in wonderfully on a youth-sized 20ga 870 - which sounds a little odd but man that gun pointed right, down to busting a double with one shell.
- sitting in the shade of MattG's truck with him and FarmDad and Scribbler, shooting the breeze about guns and life and then popping shots at prairie dogs of opportunity.
- sitting in the dark with Tam and Spear and a couple other folks and just chatting guns. First guns. When guns entered our lives. Etc.
- Cougar hunting. No, really. Dynamite on an old defunct Mercury Cougar. Out around 350yd. My latest AR build turned in three of the four explosions on that car, with targets about the size of a two-liter bottle.
- Reaching out with the new AR (p'dogs at 400yd) and the Savage .308 (solid hits at 750yd) with distances I've never played at.
- FOOD. Oh god, the food. Next year, I'm packing my Sansabelts.

Now ... laundry is in progress, unpacking is started, and I've got a lot of guns to clean.

Sep 20, 2015

Leatherworking

Well, just barely leatherworking. Not something I've done beyond stamping my name in a bracelet at scout camp twenty-some years ago.

In a previous post I mentioned wanting (needing) to put a strap on the fore end of the new shortie. That choice was affirmed by several of you, including graphic photo evidence. 

I made a stop at Tandy Leather (they've a shop within easy drive of home, no mail order wondering needed!) to pick up a roll of latigo strap and a few basic tools. Lowe's had the t-nuts and cap screws I needed. 

I ordered a replacement fore end from Numrich to try my hand at - and when I test-fit it, it was an eighth of an inch too small. Derp. Instead of trying to source yet another replacement, I screwed up my courage and started working on the original. 

I learned some time ago that using the right tool for a job makes it a lot easier. I pulled out my Forstner bits and chucked one into the drill press, and just kissed the wood enough to inset the t-nuts. A second pass with a twist bit opened the center up to get the t-nut in, and careful application of channel-lock pliers had the nuts well-seated.

I trimmed the edges and rounded the ends of the leather with a sharp knife, then used an edge beveler to clean up the cuts, and spent a few more minutes burnishing the result. With that done, I punched in holes for the cap screws and attached it to the fore-end.

A few dabs of grease in strategic places, and I reassembled the gun...



Final thoughts... the strap is a bit wider than I'd really like. I may take it off and cut it a bit narrower, then re-finish the edges. It's also a rather spacious loop - as in, I could fit my mitt in there with winter gloves on. With luck, it'll fit around MattG's paws next month... but I fully intend to handicap AD with this when we start flinging clays. :-)