May 28, 2015



I've been neglecting this blog lately; seems I have had Real Life happening. Not a lot that's been blogworthy, I guess.

Friend Brigid put up a post that's been knocking around in my head since I read it. She's not the first to say these things, but is perhaps one of the more eloquent:

The world is not a safe and happy place, something some people find when they least expect it. [...]
We believe that because we've always been the dominant political and economic power on this planet that it will always be so.
 [...]
Duty and honor weren't archaic promises, they were words I was raised to live on, no matter how bad things got.
 [...]
You see it in the eyes at the feed store, you see it in the determined step of those buying supplies and learning the use them. You feel it in the collective murmurings of concern as you chat with people at the gas station, or the grocers.
 [...]
I hope those hands are strong enough for the tasks that lie ahead.

Click over and read the whole thing. Anything I've got to say can wait.

I've seen the same thing. Eyes are a little narrower. Brows are knit a bit tighter. Our grocery bill has been climbing, yet we're cutting back on the luxuries, or buying in quantity and storing. Gas prices are creeping up again.

People aren't as lighthearted and carefree as they were ten - or even five - years ago. We're all kind of wondering where we're going, and no one seems to have a clear answer. A full eighteen months before the national elections, we're in full-on media frenzy over who's running, who isn't, and the like. It's not going to be a pretty election cycle. Expect a lot of name-calling, party-blaming, and buck-passing.

If you haven't been, tuck away a little bit here and there when you can. Canned food, a bit of cash, maybe some precious metals if that's your thing. (Brass and lead are precious metals, by the by.) I know times are tight, but I've a bad feeling it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. In that light...

There are a handful of books I would unhesitatingly recommend you own in dead-tree form:
Homemade Contrivances (and how to make them)
Handy Farm Devices (and how to make them)
Storey's Basic Country Skills
US Army Survival Manual (FM21-76)
Mountainman Crafts & Skills
Joy of Cooking
Ball Blue Book

If you have the budget and space, add a few more. Reference books, in particular - a solid encyclopedia, a good dictionary and thesaurus set (Webster and Roget's are my preference), and some literature. The Harvard Five-Foot Shelf would be an amazing addition and is on my "someday" list.

Learn to preserve your food. Learn to garden. If you can find a place, learn to hunt.

Learn to communicate. Get a ham ticket and know how to use your equipment. Even a simple 2m set will give you some communications when the rest of the grid is gone. GfZ jokingly calls my ham shack "nerd weather channel" - it gets information faster and more localized than anything the weather service or local media can put out.

Network. Quietly, discreetly, cautiously, but make some friends who are local and might be worth working closely with if things go south.

Be aware. Keep an eye on who's in your neighborhood, try to know names, habits, vehicles... if something is out of place, notice it. A strong community is the best protection many of us can have.

Be ready. There's a storm brewing.

Apr 16, 2015

BAG Day

I actually can't remember the last time I participated in Buy A Gun Day. I never actually plan for it - when I've saved up the pennies for the next gun I want, I go get it.

This year, it happened to work out. I have a soft spot (in my head, according to some) for Ithaca-Ithaca firearms. (I say Ithaca-Ithaca because "Ithaca Gun" has worked out of at least three locations in its history: Ithaca, NY; King Ferry, NY; and now under new ownership in Sandusky, OH.)

I troll through classifieds and auctions, and occasionally throw a stupidly low bid at a gun. In this case, it happened to pan out for me. I snagged this little darling:


... Er, the one in the middle. The other two were already in the safe. It's what I describe as "project-grade", although that may not be quite fair.

It started life in 1956, according to serial number records, as a 12ga, 2-3/4", fixed "full" choke, likely with a 28" barrel. Great field gun for long birds or waterfowl. An early owner had installed either a PolyChoke or Cutts Compensator on it, and that had been hacksawed off at a later date - removing the bead and leaving it choked roughly at cylinder bore.

The finish is nearly gone on the back six or eight inches of the barrel, the trigger is worn smooth, and the stock shows years of time in the field with dings and small scratches. But it also shows love. There is not a spot of rust on the gun. The bore is clean and bright.

As it sits, it'd be a great gun for close shots on field game, and probably be OK shooting skeet singles. The lack of a bead might deter some shooters, but it's not the end of the world. Adding a bead is an inexpensive proposition for any competent gunsmith. For a bit more versatility, two hundred bucks and a trip to Briley would thread it for chokes in any flavor desired.

But me? I've been looking for a 37 in this kind of condition for my own project. When I've saved up a few more pennies, the barrel is going off to York Arms for shortening (to around 14", right at the front of the barrel lug), a tritium bead, and perhaps threading for chokes. I'm still kicking around ideas and timing with the Wizard.

These old Ithacas are a treat for shooters - nothing handles or points quite like one, and the bottom-eject makes it a great gun for southpaws. The field-grade 12-gauges like I have can usually be had in the $200-250 range, and 16- or 20-gauge scatterguns don't run much higher. (I'm keeping an eye out for a fair price on a 16; those are just sweet little guns.)

A word of caution, though: these older Ithacas don't have a sear disconnect, so they can be "slam-fired". Just hold the trigger back and pump, and it will go bang every time until the tube is empty. For a new shooter, that can be a safety issue, so be aware.

(The other two Ithacas pictured date to 1947 (116xxx), and 1957 (667xxx). The BAG version is 622xxx.)

Mar 22, 2015

Long strange trip...

Truckin, got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin, like the do-dah manTogether, more or less in line, just keep truckin on.

The Grateful Dead had it right.

In January 2013, the New York legislature made a literal middle-of-the-night deal and passed the (un)SAFE Act, without public comment. It was signed into law that same day.

Within a week, I was looking for jobs out of New York.

Two years and two weeks ago, I made the first of three drives out to the Midwest to test and interview for a couple positions.

In May of 2013, I accepted an offer and gave notice at my job of eight-plus years, and in June I (over)loaded a UHaul trailer and put the dog in the truck, heading west and leaving behind hearth and home, kith and kin.

I spent the next eight months alone out here. MrsZ made a few trips as time and finances allowed, and delivered a truckload of our belongings. GfZ made a few trips as well, eventually deciding to make the move as well.

In February 2014, our house finally having sold, MrsZ made the move out here to join me.

In March 2014, GfZ joined us as well.

In May 2014, the agency I was working for announced that due to budget cuts, they'd be closing their communications division "sometime in the next 120 days." Nine of us were to be laid off, with maybe a few openings at the agency taking over the services we were providing.

September 15, 2014, the lights went off and I was officially unemployed.

October 14, I walked in for my first day at a new agency - this one with a residency requirement.

In November, we started house-hunting.

We closed on a wonderful three-bedroom house in a newer neighborhood last month.

Yesterday, with the help of friends, we loaded a 26-foot moving van and moved our entire household the 40-odd miles from a two-bedroom duplex to our new home.

I don't know what the next two years hold, but I'm hoping it's a bit less dramatic than the last two have been.

I can't begin to thank everyone who's helped us over the last couple years. Family members who sent job listings. Friends along the road who provided a hot meal or soft bed or cold drink. Friends and family that helped us pack, sell, load, move, and unload. We couldn't have done it without each and every one of you.

What a long strange trip it's been.

Feb 12, 2015

New Range!

After the dismal trip to the state-run range a few weeks ago, I was eager to try somewhere new. I made time this morning to head down to Frontier Justice and check things out. It's a bit of a drive and will be even further from the house we're buying, but for an occasional trip? Worth it.

They're still in "soft opening" for a week, so there were a few pallets of "stuff" here and there, and they were still mounting signs on display cases and the like. That said ... man, what a gorgeous facility!

Big sign on the entry door, "All firearms must be cased or holstered." Fair 'nuf. I made my way to the back of the store where the range check-in is located, filled out a standard liability waiver form, and then sorted out which range I was going to: they have three.

The first range is the "rifle" range. 50yd, rated for all centerfire calibers up to 4000fps; no AP(/I/T), no steel-core. Handguns are allowed but must be "hunting" handguns with optics.

The second range is the "pistol" range. 25yd, ditto the caliber and ammo restrictions.

The third range, which I ended up on, is the "tactical" range. Also 25yd, same caliber/ammo restrictions, with the addition of auto-turning targets. Fully electronic, with timer sequences, adjustable lighting, and so forth. Want to set up the target to be at 30ft, turn towards you for two seconds, turn away, wait five seconds, and repeat? No problem, how many cycles?

Ventilation was magnificent - I was able to watch the smoke from my muzzle drift downrange as I shot.

One of the staff gave me a quick overview of how things worked and left me to my devices. They have no restrictions on rate of fire, "But you need to keep every shot on paper; sight picture..."

At some point in my time there, one of the staff came in holding a shiny-new MP5. He got our attention and announced he was testing a full-auto piece so don't be surprised by the noise... followed by a few three-round bursts and then most of a mag dump. (I just stopped shooting and started laughing.)

Price-wise, the range is a little expensive: $25 "lane rental", but they don't boot you if there's no line. I shot for almost two hours, went through most of a brick of .22, and there were still plenty of lanes available. If I'd taken more guns, I might have stayed longer. Targets are for sale, for about a buck apiece (more for shoot'n'see-style), but you're welcome to bring your own paper targets as well.

(A side note on the price: this is going to keep down a lot of the bubbas that want to fart around with their thutty-thutty, and the mall ninjas that show up in MOLLE-ish airsoft gear.)

I took the newly-threaded Ruger 22/45, and the newly-shortened and -threaded 15-22, and the Sparrow. I re-zeroed the 15-22, then played. I did a lot of double- and triple-tap with the turning targets, mostly from low-ready, did a few mag changes "on the clock", and just had FUN. The end results were nothing to write home about, but that's fine.



I was shooting Federal bulk high-velocity .22, and in the Ruger (4" barrel) it stayed subsonic, functioned fine, and with the suppressor was nearly movie-quiet. In the 15-22, the 9" barrel was enough to bring things supersonic, so there was a bit of snap to the shots - but it was still far quieter than unsuppressed. I'm looking forward to having the Savage back so I can try out the Quiet22 ammo I got!

Other things of note...
- there were multiple tubs of the D-Wipe handwipes around the range.
- there is a sticky lead-removal floor mat on the door between the range and the store.
- there is a handwash station immediately outside the range door.
- this is NOT a "lost-brass" range; you can recover anything behind the line. Forward of the line is gone.
- sweep up your own brass. There are brooms and a floor grate to catch it.
- an archery range, somewhere. Didn't see it. Rated for crossbows as well as regular bows.
- a MILO simulator range. Spendy, but perhaps a good way to try out scenarios...

And the store ... oh my, the store. All major brands represented, they are a SilencerCo/SWR stocking dealer, and it looked like everything was marked at pretty close to full MSRP. But ... beautifully laid out, lots of inventory, and plenty of accessories of all flavors. And yes, clothing and jewelry and even a café.

Will the place survive? I think yes. They're hitting an underserved niche market that has disposable income. If I were going to live closer, I'd seriously consider an annual membership ($500), as that waives the range fees. As it is, for a place to shoot out of the cold and not have an RO on a power trip screaming about rate of fire ... well, that's worth a lot too.

Wise words!

My parents gave me a book for Christmas (as is tradition). They know my outdoors habits and figured this might be a good one.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Food, Shelter and Self-Preservation Anywhere

Tucked inside was a note:
This is an "oldie (1956) but goodie" - written back when the synthetic fabrics and high-tech electronic aids didn't exist, so what really mattered out int he woods was what you had between your ears. We first read it back in the 70's and liked it a lot, hope you might find it a fun read even now.
They were right. I am enjoying it - because when the rubber meets the road, no matter how prepared I think I am, there will be something I've overlooked. It will sit on my shelf next to the late-19th-century books (reprints) on farming and mountain men.

I've been reading it piecemeal when I have a few free minutes, and this paragraph gave me a laugh:
The sluggish porcupine is the one animal that even the greenest tenderfoot, though weak with hunger, can kill with a weapon no more formidable than a stick. All one usually has to do thus to collect a meal is reach over the animal, which generally presents the raised quills of back and tail, and strike it on the head. Being so low in intelligence, the hedgehog requires a lot more killing than might be expected.

The book is written in a fairly colloquial tone, almost a string of asides that have been organized into rough chapters. The vocabulary and style is early-20th-century and a real pleasure to read.

Highly recommended.