Dec 30, 2009


There is something satisfying about revolvers. Don't get me wrong, I like autos. I've got three autos, of three different makes, and they're all decent guns. I like 1911s best of the autos I've shot (although the Steyr that Marko had at the NE GBS was a HELL of a nice 9mm), and honestly, I do shoot an auto better than a double-action revolver... but that's a matter of practice, which I can find time to do.

I just picked up my new carry gun on Monday, and took a few pictures yesterday. Here's the newest member of the family:

SW 049

Five shots of .38+P in a 15-ounce package. It's definitely snappy (and I have the scab on my thumb to prove it), but entirely controllable and really not unpleasant to shoot. I'll be working on accuracy in the next few weeks, I hope.

Size-wise, it's really not much smaller than the Thunder .380 I've been carrying:
SW 051

What it doesn't have, though, is an exposed hammer, or a beavertail to make a conspicuous, pointy lump in my cover garment. In addition, the round butt and the round of the cylinder should blend into the belt line a little bit better, and the shorter, narrower barrel won't be as obvious. Or at least that's the theory. I'm sacrificing three shots (7+1 in the Bersa, 5 in the S&W) and quick reloads, but also losing about 10oz of weight. It's an acceptable trade-off.

Somehow, along the way, I've developed a taste for S&W wheelies. Don't get me wrong - Colt, Ruger, etc, all make some nice guns. I've shot an SP101 that was a joy, and the Super Alaskan in .454 Casull was just spiffy. I'd love a SAA .45LC at some point. So far, though, S&W has been my focus... evidenced by the fact that better than half my pistol collection says "Springfield, MA" on it.

A quick family portrait:
SW 061

Top: S&W 647 .17HMR
Right: S&W 21-4 .44Spl
Left: S&W 28-2 .357Mag
Bottom: S&W 642-1 .38Spl +P

Dec 25, 2009

Breakfast pastry

The day was chaotic and, while not entirely quiet, more subdued than years past have been. Mom had announced her intention of doing a "simple breakfast", which is a change from the usual multi-course holiday meal that starts around 8:00 and ends when the last person passes out. I decided to bring something to share, and made small pastries. But not the sweet donut/croissant/turnover kind. Oh no. I had to be difficult. Sausage and cheese pastries. They turned out AMAZINGLY WELL.

Night before: buy or prepare a package of phyllo dough. Crumble and brown 1lb of breakfast sausage. Drain the grease and put in fridge on a paper towel.

Morning of:
Preheat oven to 375F.

Place ~1T of sausage and a pinch of shredded cheese in the center of a 6x6" square of lightly oiled phyllo dough. Fold the corners in, wrap in another lightly oiled 6x6" square, and lightly brush the top with oil. Repeat until you run out of sausage.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet, evenly space the pastries on it, and bake for 10-15 minutes; the dough should be crisp and lightly browned.

Holy smokes, they were GOOD.

Dec 24, 2009


This Christmas is a bit of a different feel than they've been in years past. It's my second as a husband, first as a homeowner. My grandmother is in the hospital, which is putting tremendous strain on everyone else (and it's no picnic for her). The whole family is in town (although staying with my parents, for the most part) but it's going to be a subdued day.

Any thoughts or prayers or good wishes are appreciated. In the meantime, hug your family a bit tighter and please, remember, after the pile of neatly wrapped presents are turned into giant piles of less-neat paper and smaller piles of gifts (batteries not included!) ... remember what this season is all about. Even if you're not a Christian, this is a time for family. Remember that. Treasure it, because they won't all be around forever.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Dec 18, 2009


There are a million different opinions on carrying a pistol. We'll ignore the good/bad prepared/paranoid arguments; if you're reading this you likely know I fall in the "good, prepared" camp.

Once you've reached that point, it's time to decide what you're going to carry. Wheelgun or bottom-feeder? Caliber? Night sights, day-glo sights, lasers? Inside- or outside-waistband, ankle, shoulder carry?

Made all those decisions? Now it's time to actually FIND the gun you want - and believe me, there's options! Off the cuff, here's a few choices:
Wheelgun: .38/.357/.44, Small-, medium- ,or large-frame. Round or square butt. 1-7/8", 2", 3" barrel. S&W, Ruger, Charter, Taurus.

Auto: .25/.32/.380/9mm/.40/10mm/.45. Barrel lengths from Really Short to Friggin' Huge. More makers than I'd consider trying to list.

Of course, everything is a compromise. Want a .45 with a 3" barrel that weighs 20-odd ounces? No problem - but it's harder to control. .380 in a 12oz gun? Sure thing. Easy to conceal, but not as much stopping power* as the .45. Revolvers tend to be more reliable but have a steeper learning curve and are harder to shoot well.

When I first started carrying, it wasn't a 24/7 thing. I carried my 1911 Government when I thought I should. It was big and bulky and not the easiest thing to conceal, but I shoot it reasonably well and it's hard to argue with .45ACP. I was also still learning to dress around the gun, instead of fitting the gun into my wardrobe. Eventually I bought a Bersa Thunder .380, which is much smaller, much lighter, also very controllable - but a much less powerful cartridge. Very easy to conceal. For the time being, it's nearly a 24/7 piece for me.

But - something about the Bersa just isn't quite "right" for me. Part of it is manual-of-arms: I learned most of my shooting technique on a 1911. The safety clicks DOWN. A Bersa's safety pushes UP. It's a tough change. Maybe I just don't quite trust the .380 round completely. I've been looking at options and finally settled on a S&W 642. It's a double-action only J-magnum frame .38Spl+P. Five shots in the cylinder. Even lighter than my Bersa and overall a smaller gun. Power-wise, it's a hair more than the .380 has, but not by much.

My carry ammo in the Bersa is Hornady Critical Defense - 90gr at 1000fps. Not a bad little round, and I would trust it if I had to. The FTX bullet has tested well, but I have yet to hear of real-world results. The .38, though, opens up the options for carry ammo dramatically. It's an old cartridge, first introduced at the end of the 19th century, and originally loaded as a black-powder cartridge - hence the significantly larger case volume. The ammo I picked up today is Winchester's 125gr JHP +P, 125gr at 945fps - about a 25% increase in muzzle energy over the .380. A non-plus-P round wouldn't see quite as much gain.

For simple size comparison:

The .38+P is on the left, the .380ACP on the right. Tic-tac container simply for scale.

A snub revolver takes more practice to shoot well - which I don't object to. Hell, I like making things go bang! Learning a quick reload requires constant repetition. So how does one acquire that? I'll load up a box of dummy rounds. Sized brass with a crimped-in bullet, but no primer or powder. Sit in front of the TV and practice, every night. Learn the DAO-trigger? Same thing. Unload, unload, unload, then dry fire, constantly. As weather, time, and finances allow, a range trip on a regular basis; weekly if possible. Doesn't need to be lots of ammo; one box of .38 LRN a week comes out to about 2600 rounds a year. For a reloader, that's peanuts - maybe $200 in materials. A couple boxes of carry ammo annually to keep in touch with the +P snap. No big deal.

So which one is the "right choice"? There's lots of good advice out there, and plenty of bad. A new shooter going to the gun store has about even odds of hearing that a J-snub is the "perfect carry gun". A new female shooter will probably be shown a Charter "Pink Lady" or a S&W "Lady Smith"**. THIS IS BAD ADVICE.

The best good advice I can give you: make friends in the gun community. Find a nearby range. Take a handgun class (the NRA and many ranges offer these regularly). TRY GUNS. Find what YOU like to shoot, and what YOU will carry. If it takes pink fuzzy D21s hanging from the grip to do it, that's what you should get. What works well for me as a carry pistol may not work well for you. Try it, shoot it. If possible, try presenting from a holster. Even if it's not the holster you would necessarily choose, feeling what it's like to get a grip, draw, acquire sights, and shoot may change what your feelings are about a particular gun.

Edited to add:
* - "stopping power" is a fallacy. There are numerous formulas and studies and tests done showing that .357Mag has the most stopping power, and nearly as many showing 10mm or .45ACP with the same title. Others will claim that the lowly .22LR is the deadliest round out there. There is no simple formula to determine stopping power. It's a combination of the cartridge, shot placement, penetration, the target's mindset ... a vicious dog might be stopped by a poorly-placed shot from a .22, while there are documented cases of drug-addled criminals absorbing multiple center-mass hits from "guns beginning with '4'." A good hit with a .22 beats the hell out of a miss from anything.

** - Fellow blogger and occasional commenter JayG pointed out in comments that a 3913LS may be a perfectly acceptable choice for a new shooter's carry gun. He's absolutely right, and it is a Lady Smith. (According to SCSW3, a 25oz 3.5"-barrel 9mm semi-automatic Lady Smith.) I had forgotten that S&W put that label on some of their autos. Personal bias: when someone says "Smith & Wesson", I think "wheelgun". I own four revolvers and they're all S&W. My autos are all different makes. It's what many call "a clue". ;-) So, yes, a small auto may be a great choice. A light snub generally remains a sub-optimal choice for a new shooter (and for many experienced shooters as well).

Dec 12, 2009


MrsZ and I are butchering my most recent deer on our own, instead of paying someone a significant chunk of cash ($65 last time) to do a mediocre job. We spent $50 on a very good boning knife and a cheap hacksaw, and I skinned out the doe earlier this week. She hung in the garage a few more days as the temperature dropped...

Last night, we moved her into the kitchen, where there's a nice beam across the ceiling. She hung in their, encased in a plastic bag, to thaw to a cut-able temperature.

I came back from a search call this morning and MrsZ had started trimming off the slabs of fat around the haunches, and then I cut out the back straps before heading off to work. I sliced off a little piece of the strap and quickly seared it in butter, then ate it ... man, there is nothing quite like that first piece of fresh venison!

In other realizations, there is nothing quite so redneck as having a skinned-out deer hanging in the middle of one's kitchen...

Dec 10, 2009


EDC. If you do a quick google for it, the official definition is "Expected Date of Confinement", which translates to "delivery date"... So it must be when the new parents can expect to be confined to parenting for a sentence of not less than eighteen years.

But that's not what it means on the forums I frequent.

No, in my world, EDC means Every Day Carry. The things I always have in my pockets or on my person, because life without them would be less pleasant. Of course, the list changes slightly based on what I'm wearing or where I'm going, but here's the usual:

- cell phone
- Fisher Space Pen (compact and doesn't leak, writes anywhere anywhen)
- five or ten bucks in loose bills
- lip balm of some kind (Burt's Bees or Cherry Chapstick)
- wallet, containing licenses (CCW/hunting/driving), ATM/credit cards, and some emergency cash
- a small pad of paper, currently a Moleskine softbound 3x5
- keyring with more keys than I care to think about
- Leatherman Serac S2 LED penlight
- folding pocketknife, currently a SOG Twitch II (lost it today, need to find!)
- Leatherman tool of some flavor
- pistol with reload (currently the Bersa .380, looking at new options)

If I'm wearing a jacket of some kind, it's a safe bet that I have yet another knife and some nitrile gloves floating around too. If I were a true gentleman, I'd have a lighter of some kind on there - probably a Zippo, because they have class. But I don't smoke and see no need to encourage it in others. Not to mention Zippo fuel makes my leg itchy. There's a lighter in the truck (Bic) and that'll have to do when I need flame.

That's it. Every day I'm out and about, those things are on or around my person somewhere. No towel, because I am not quite a hoopy frood, but I've found them to be the bare minimum to survive in a relatively civilized society.

Now, when I go hunting, the list changes, because the needs when hunting change. I'm no longer in civilized society, I'm in the big bad nasty woods, and there are Lions And Tigers And Bears Oh My. The pistol becomes a .44Spl stoked with hot handloads, there's usually a chunk of 550 cord, a couple energy bars, a Surefire G2L, a fixed-blade hunting knife, a Buck 110, couple zip ties, a Bic lighter and so forth.

So, what's in your pockets?

Dec 7, 2009

A perfect hunt

What makes a hunt perfect? I guess that depends on your personal preferences. For me, it's a combination of things, and two completely different hunts can both be perfect. It's not any one thing, but my mood combined with the rest of the experience. A perfect hunt may not even include a kill.

Today? Today was a perfect hunt. I spent my morning skinning the doe I took from the farm last week, in preparation for butchering over the next few days. After cleaning up and looking at my honey-do list, I decided I'd rather hunt. I left the house around 1:30 with the proper accoutrements, and headed (after a fair bit of waffling) to Hunting Buddy's place, about a 35-minute drive. I already had the perfect spot in mind...

I parked the truck and finished getting ready - I end up looking like the Michelin Man when I go hunting, but that means I'm usually warm enough. Loaded my shotgun and headed in to the stand. I make no extreme efforts to walk quietly when I walk in, but I do try to keep noise to a minimum, and carry my gun at low-ready. Nothing bumped out in front of me, and I was in my stand shortly before 2:30. I settled in to watch and wait.

A light snow started falling. Something about snow in the woods, particularly when hunting, holds a certain bit of romance. The woods are quiet enough that you can hear the individual flakes of snow rattling down onto dry leaves, and there was no wind to chill things any further.

There I sat, listening to the snow, watching the woods and fields around me, and generally enjoying the solitude. As if on cue to complete the scene, a goose honked off in the distance. One lone honk turned into the melodic cacophony of a flock. For as long as I can remember, I have always looked for the "V" when I hear geese, and this was no different. I watched to the northeast, and listened as the flock grew louder - and started to sound bigger. The first "V" flew into sight above the trees and flew nearly directly over me... followed by another, and another. I looked farther towards the horizon, and the skies were filled with geese - hundreds, perhaps as many as a couple thousand. The honking grew louder, to the point of drowning out everything around me... all I could do was watch as this magnificent flock flew over me, and this is the image that came to mind. Nothing but geese, horizon to horizon, in a seemingly un-ending stream. Not one gigantic "V", but dozens of individual ones, from five or ten to well over a hundred. Amazing.

After the geese passed over, the snow stopped and the sun broke through the clouds for a few minutes. I watched and listened, smiling at the chattering grey squirrels and glaring at the woodpecker rat-a-tatting on the tree next to me. In the marshy bottom to my right, a flicker of movement caught my eye. Partially screened by a pine tree, I craned my head around to get a better look, and saw a doe moving through the brush on the far side. No clear shots from the stand, so I took a chance and quickly climbed down to ground level. My foot hit the dry leaves below and she snorted once and ran off. I climbed back up and settled in for another wait, hoping she or a friend would circle back around through the brush.

Shortly after four, a small doe (probably a yearling) picked her way up the creek bottom behind me, and started up the small rise under my stand. I'd been waiting for just this situation, and carefully unholstered my pistol, hoping to mark down another "first" in the hunting memories. The rustle of fabric as I reached under my overalls, however, startled the deer, and she stopped and stamped once, looking for an as-yet unknown threat. I gave a soft grunt on my call and she stopped looking quite so nervous. She took a half-step forward, slightly screened by a small sapling perhaps 15 yards from my stand. I extended my arm and started to cock the hammer for a single-action shot, waiting for her to move clear of the sapling. The tiny "click" of the cylinder unlocking spooked her and she ran off into the clearing 40-50 yards away as I eased the hammer back down. I could have taken the shot with my shotgun, but the deer wasn't big enough to make it worth it. The challenge of a pistol shot, yes, but not the "gimme" of a rifled shotgun.

She slowly moved out of the marsh and to the edge of the field in front of me, and I considered a few options for taking a shot with the shotgun, but decided to let her walk. I hoped there would be a few more deer following behind shortly, and I wasn't disappointed. A few moments later, a pair of doe crested the slight hill at the edge of the field and started walking across, followed by three more. I picked a likely lane and waited for the larger of the first pair to move through it. She did, I shot - and missed. *shame!* The first pair ran off, and the second group ran a few paces before stopping to look around. I drew a bead on the larger of the group and waited. She stepped into a clearing, and I shot - and missed again. (Note to self: MUST replace crappy factory irons with dot or scope!) This time, though, she didn't run - she stood right there. I took careful aim again, and pulled the trigger...

... and down she went. I gathered my stuff quickly and climbed down, walking to the edge of the field where she'd dropped. She was still panting and thrashing a little, so I shot her once more, this time with my .44. While she finished dying, I walked the edge of the field, checking for sign to make sure I had actually missed the first deer. I found her tracks and followed them for forty or fifty yards, and found no blood or hair - it was a clean miss.

I went back to the deer I'd shot and dressed it out. In the process I discovered that (A) this "doe" was a large button buck, and (B) nicked my glove and knuckle while getting the diaphragm/heart/lungs out. I tied my drag on and headed back to the truck. Home with a stop for another set of eyebolts to hang this one, and now he is hanging in the garage, waiting to be skinned and butchered next week.

So what made it a perfect hunt? Not just killing a deer - although that is a plus. The snow. The temperature. The lack of wind. The sun. The squirrels. The woodpecker. The deer that got away. The geese. The time to myself, to turn off the things stressing me at home and work and focus exclusively on the world in front of me. When I'm hunting, I can forget about my work schedule, the payments for the truck and the house, what groceries I need, what still needs fixing, etc. It's simply me and the world, and that's the best possible time out there.

Dec 3, 2009


I'm a pretty middle-of-the-road person when it comes to politics. Forced to pick a spot on the spectrum, I'm going to lean hard to conservative-libertarian when it comes to government, and moderately liberal on societal issues.

I believe in small government, the truth of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", the right to speak my mind, carry a gun, and everything else the Founding Fathers wrote into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I'm not particularly religious myself, but you can light candles and whisper prayers to whatever superior being floats your boat - or none at all if you like. I believe you should be able to sleep with whomever you want, marry whomever you love (if your church allows it - why is government involved in marriage?), smoke whatever makes you happy.

However - your right to do any of these things ends where it infringes on MY right to do these things. "Adam & Steve" walking down the street holding hands doesn't do that. Getting stoned out of your mind and getting behind the wheel? That's a big no-no, because then you are endangering MY right to live.

I don't have a problem with a hand up. I do have a problem with a hand out. You've been paying your way and things go toes-up? Need a few weeks or months of unemployment to keep you going while you land another job? Fine. You're working 40+ hours in a week but still aren't quite making ends meet? OK, food stamps or food banks - for essentials.

I guess what it really comes down to is personal responsibility. I know, not likely, but that's where my true beliefs lie.

So why the rage? Because of people milking the system.

I stopped at the grocery before work today to pick up a few 6-packs of soda. I was waiting on line to check out, and a woman with a child in a stroller asked if she could budge because she was in a hurry and only had a couple things. No worries, I let her go ahead of me.

She began having trouble with the card reader, and as I waited behind her getting more and more frustrated, things became clear. She was buying danishes, gum, and sparkling juice. On food stamps. Blood pressure started climbing. I can count on my fingers the number of times in a YEAR that I buy pastries. I DON'T buy sparkling grape juice because $4.99 a bottle is ridiculous.

WHY are these things OK to spend food stamps on? They shouldn't be. Food stamps need to be for essentials, just like WIC items. Flour. Eggs. Bread. Cereals. Milk. Cheese. Pasta. Vegetables. Staples that are necessary, not luxury items, and let's be real honest: fizzy juice for five bucks is a LUXURY.

Why is my state going broke? Because of stupidity like this.

Dec 1, 2009

Oddball acquisitions

Occasionally I come into oddball things for no apparent reason. Sunday was one of those times.

I had a chainsaw that I picked up used last year. It didn't run quite right, and I ran out of patience to tinker with it. A couple friends who are good with saws made a few suggestions about what might be wrong, but I never got around to digging into it.

A few weeks ago I placed it on the local Craigslist with a clear description of what it did and didn't do, and what the presumed problem was. A few nibbles here and there but nothing solid. One guy finally got hold of me by phone and asked if I was interested in trades. I explained that I had a functional saw and wasn't interested in another ... but he had in mind a shotgun. He isn't a gun guy, so could only tell me it was a "J Stevens Springfield 16 gauge single shot". I allowed that I may be interested, and we set up a time to meet.

I went over Sunday and met him, showed him the saw, and looked over the shotgun. It is pre-GCA, as it has no serial number. The butt stock is in decent shape, no dings or damage, wood isn't anything fancy. The butt plate is also in good shape, although one of the screws is buggered. Receiver is in good shape, no rust, but not much color left either. Honest wear. The forearm, however, has a crack and is very loose on the stud. Looks like the screw had been replaced at some point with one that is slightly mis-matched. The bore was mostly clean with a few patches of surface rust, no obvious pitting.

In mint condition, it would be a $150 gun. I pointed out what was wrong and explained that it was worth perhaps $70 or $75 to me, and I couldn't go straight across for my saw. He offered some cash, which put us in the right ballpark but was still low. He then asked if I had another shotgun - I do, both a 12ga and a 20ga. He offered a couple boxes of 20ga slugs to balance things out, and I figured that'd be a pretty fair deal.

He showed me the three saws in his garage that were "too small" for the project he was working on - and based on what I saw and my own experience, the problem isn't the saws, but probably a loose nut on the throttle.

So now I have a wall-hanger shotgun that will be trade fodder for some gun show down the road, or maybe a wintertime project to replace the forearm before selling it. The slugs will be of use in MrsZ's 870, and the cash already went into processing costs for the buck I got earlier this season.

It's nice to roll things that are taking up space into things that have some real potential use to them. *grin*

Nov 30, 2009

More hunting

A couple weeks ago, Hunting Buddy 2 and I made plans to hunt MrsZ's family farm at some point this season. We worked out scheduling and so forth and this past weekend was the way to go. Initially the plan was to go out Friday afternoon and scout/hunt, hotel Friday night, hunt all day Saturday, hotel again, hunt Sunday morning and be home by mid-day/early afternoon. We trimmed that back to hunt/scout Friday afternoon, hotel, and hunt as much of Saturday as we wanted before heading home.

I had gone out about two weeks before and hung my stand over a promising field - thick brushy grass, even thicker brush around the edges, running stream on one edge, and the woods around just loaded with oak and hickory. In short, it's deer heaven.

I reserved a hotel room for us in a Microtel about 30 minutes away; going with a non-refundable reservation meant we had a room for $50 for the night. I joked with HB2 that because our room was non-refundable, we'd likely fill all three of our tags (his buck tag and my two doe tags) Friday afternoon and have no reason to stay overnight.

Little did I know how close to the truth that would be.

The big day finally rolled around and HB2 arrived at my place around 11. We transferred his stuff to my truck, I gave MrsZ one last kiss, and we headed out under mostly cloudy skies, although the forecast was for scattered rain and snow showers in the afternoon. We ate lunch on the road and got to the farm just before 1. I gave HB2 his choice of spots with the exception of my stand; he chose to bring his chair blind along and sit in the opposite corner of the field from my stand. We were in place around 1:30 and settled in

It was cold. And damp. Maybe 33-35F, and I saw every form of precipitation possible. Rain. Drizzle. Sleet. Freezing rain. Snow. I wished repeatedly that I'd put on the extra layer of clothing that was in the back seat of the truck. I wrapped my hands around the chemical warmers and flexed my fingers, hoping for circulation. I stood up and did a few squats to get blood into my feet again. The northwest wind was a steady 10-15mph and cutting the field diagonally between us, gusting higher now and then.

For the non-hunters - deer don't like nasty weather any more than people do. When it's cold and drizzly and blowing, they tend to hunker down and not move much more than they have to. Except November is the peak of rut around here, and that qualifies as "have to move".

After almost three hours of sitting and freezing, we hadn't seen anything. HB2 sent me a text message suggesting he walk into the bottom and see if he could bump something out into the field for a shot. About thirty seconds later, while I was debating that, he sent me another saying there were four deer picking their way down the hill opposite the creek, so we sat tight. During bow season the deer that had come down the hill into the creek had come right up into the middle of the field we were in, and these stayed true to form - mostly. HB2 had said there were three does and a buck, but I never saw the buck.

The first doe came up over the edge into the field and started across, heading right into the wind at a leisurely walk. I waited and watched, hoping another wouldn't be far behind, since I wanted HB2 to bag one too. Sure enough, the other two does popped out about 30 yards behind the first. I pulled my sight onto the first one and waited for the others to be further out in the field, hoping HB2 would have a good bead on one of the other two.

The chill of the afternoon seemed to have evaporated; I lined up my sights and snapped the trigger and saw the big doe jerk and hunch and take a few wobbly jumps. I racked the slide on my 870, settled in the sights and shot again. She fell over. I swiveled back around towards the second group. Somewhere in the back of my brain I noted that I hadn't heard a shot from HB2's direction yet, and knew he was shooting a muzzleloader. The two does were finishing a quick spin around in the middle of the field, and stopped dead. I put my sight on the chest of the lead deer and waited. A moment later a thump and cloud of smoke from HB2's blind announced his shot, and the deer I was sighted on jerked. It rolled and started to stand up, and I pulled my trigger and watched as it fell over and stayed down.

I saw HB2 climb out of his stand, already reloading his smokepole, and I called to him that they were both down and staying there. I unhooked myself and hustled down to ground level, and straight out to his deer. His FIRST deer. A beautiful nice-size doe, perhaps 150-160 on the hoof. It was quite dead with two clean shots through the chest - one from each side. I headed towards where my doe had dropped ... and couldn't find her. I had seen her go down and stay there. The grass was deep enough that perhaps she could have struggled off, but I didn't think so. HB2 came over and helped me push the weeds with no luck. I climbed back into my stand and got the perspective I needed and walked him right onto her in about thirty seconds. Climbed back down and walked over and saw a HUGE fat doe, probably a 170-180 pound deer.

We filled out our tags and dressed our deer by flashlight (it was full-on dark at that point), then dragged them across the creek, and walked back to get the truck. We bounced out across the fields and down to the creek edge, loaded the deer, and took them back to the barn to hang for the night. Off to the hotel and dinner...

Saturday morning we arrived just before sunrise and picked a different spot; we both sat in blinds and promptly froze, even with extra layers. The wind was howling from the west at a steady 20-25mph and gusting to 30+; I saw half a dozen does running on the far side of the valley but nothing anywhere near close enough to shoot. Around 11:30 we were both frozen, so decided to pack it in and call two fat does a great hunt. Went out and pulled my stand, packed up the truck, loaded in the does at the barn, and headed home via a Denny's for lunch.

She's hanging in the garage now, and will be for another week or so. Biggest damn doe I've ever seen. HB2 has his hanging and took out the tenderloins for his dinner last night; the recipe he used sounds amazing and I may have to try replicating it at some point.

Other note: After fighting with the cheap-ass block & tackle set I got with a gambrel from Walmart, I decided something else was in order. I happened to be in Tractor Supply earlier in the week, and they had 12V winches on sale. I talked MrsZ into one, and it's now mounted in the garage. Talk about the easy way to hang a deer - I hung the buck with the block & tackle and much swearing and grunting. This took me three minutes and gets the deer well up off the floor. WELL worth the money involved.

Nov 21, 2009

Opening day

I've been hunting for five years now, if my memory serves. I've never taken a deer on opening day - the shots just never presented themselves.

Until today.

I made arrangements with Hunting Buddy to be at his place at 5:15 this morning - this is after working until 11pm last night, getting home around 11:30, and then having to be awake at 4:00 in order to make it to his place by the specified time.

I pulled in his driveway at ten minutes past five, and started pulling on the last bit of my hunting clothes. He came out a few minutes later, and the other hunters (three more) arrived shortly thereafter. We made a quick plan for locations and headed off in our separate directions. I was in my stand around 5:40, pushing out three or four deer in the process.

Around 6:20 I heard the first shot of the morning off in the distance - about 30 minutes before legal shooting light, but that's for them to decide. I sat and waited and watched, trying hard not to twitch each time a squirrel rustled the leaves.

About 9:00 a group of doe burst out of the brush halfway down the field I was watching, and cut diagonally across - too far and no clear lanes anyway, so I just watched them run. It wasn't cold temperature-wise this morning, but it was DAMP, and I was starting to get chilly in my stand. Standing up and stretching only helps so much, but I did as much of that as I could and started pondering when I might head back in. A few text messages with a co-worker passed a few minutes.

Shortly after 10:00, a flicker in the brush caught my eye and I looked closely, expecting to see another squirrel. Nope. A deer! I watched it pick its way through the brush coming slightly diagonally towards me; a quiet bleat on my can and a soft grunt turned him more towards me and he cut the distance from 75-80 yards down to about 60. I brought the shotgun up and picked my lane, waiting for him to enter it. He turned broadside right in my chosen lane, and I hauled back on the trigger. I was rewarded with the slam and thunder of a 1oz slug accelerating to 1500fps, and the deer jumped ... because I missed.

He didn't go far, though, which is normal early in the season. He stopped about fifteen feet forward of where I'd shot at him, now partially screened by a thin layer of evergreen branches. I looked at options and decided to take a shot through the branches.

Now, there are rounds out there that are considered "brush-busters" and guns that are "brush guns". High on the list is the .30-30Win in a Winchester Model 94. Most "brush busters" are heavier bullets at lower speeds - they tend not to be deflected by brush as much as a light-fast bullet would be. A .30-30 is usually 150 or 170 grains running right around 2200-2400fps. The slug I use is 435gr at 1500fps - it literally goes THROUGH small branches on the way to deer. I'm speaking from personal experience here; I shot a doe last year that was "hiding" behind a 1" sapling. The tree fell over about the same time the deer did.

In any case, I lined up and pulled the trigger ... and over went the deer, where he started thrashing wildly. Not death throes, but not going anywhere either. I quick-time unstrapped from the tree and climbed down and hustled over. My initial impression of the deer (medium size with a nice 6-point rack) was wrong. He was big, and had 8 legit points, even with one tine broken off halfway down.

He was snorting and blowing on the ground, thrashing in the leaves, and I shot him again with my revolver. After a minute, he was still thrashing, so I shot him once more and waited - and then shot him a third time. He kicked a few last times and died. Hell of a fighter. I sat and thought for a few minutes, then took a picture and got down to the business of dressing him out. I'm guessing he was about 200 on the hoof, and dressed out nicely. He just barely fits in the back of my truck; there's a hoof sticking up over one bed rail and an antler tine over the other.

It's good to know that we've got meat for another year, and there's plenty of hunting season left for me.


Nov 17, 2009

For sale...

A few acquisitions that I'd let go for the right price.

Mossberg 500 "combo" 12ga. Wood and blue. Includes 2 barrels: 28" ported with three chokes (IC, M, F, I believe) and 18.5" cylinder bore. Also has flashlight mount and pistol grip (not currently attached). New, never fired, with manuals and lock, no box. Won it in a raffle and strongly prefer my 870. $325 to your FFL (from an individual) or $300 FTF.

Winchester Model 94 .30-30. Wood (walnut?) and blue. Serial dates it to the early 1970s. Very good to excellent condition with some honest wear. Receiver bluing has some freckling but no rust. Includes three boxes of ammo. Currently zeroed for 100yd. This is my second try on leverguns, and I've found I just don't like them that much. $475 to your FFL (from an individual) or $450 FTF.

Smith & Wesson 28-2 Highway Patrolman, 4", nickel refinish (very nicely done). Serial #N7xxx There are a couple flea bites in the nickel and one spot on the cylinder that flaked off (about the size of a pencil eraser). Action has been worked, nicest DA trigger I've ever shot. Target grips, not numbered to the gun. One nick on the left grip where it knocked against my 1911 in the safe. Some corrosion to the nickel in the outline of original magnas, completely covered by target grips. $600 to your FFL (from my FFL) or $550 FTF, trade for another .357/.38 (see below) STRONGLY preferred.

Trade interests:
S&W Centennials
S&W J-magnums
S&W .22 revolvers
Glock Model 36
varmint rifles
Ban-compliant AR Carbine upper (5.56)
Ban-compliant AR A3 upper (various calibers)
Open to suggestion...

Reasonable offers may be entertained, as well.




Nov 16, 2009

A superstitious day

I'm not, by nature, a superstitious person. I walk under ladders, I owned a black cat, I don't throw salt over my left shoulder, I've broken mirrors (accidentally and intentionally) ... but some days, things just seem to go wrong.

In this case, it was Friday, November 13.

I'd been planning to work around the house for the morning, and go to MrsZ's family farm late morning/noonish to hang a tree stand and hunt for the afternoon.

MrsZ overslept; I woke up at 7:45 and nudged her awake, then drove her in to work. A quick stop at the store on the way home and it was nudging 10:30am. I gathered together my hunting stuff, took a quick shower, ate a quick bite, loaded the truck, and headed out around noon. Got to the farm around 1:45 as expected. Bounced across the pastures to a convenient "parking" spot.

Pulled on my clothing, put together the bow, slung my stand over my shoulder, picked up my climbing sticks, and headed toward my pre-selected spot for the stand. Beat through the brush, splashed across the creek, found my tree. Put up the climbing sticks, tied a rope to the stand, tied in to the tree, climbed up, pulled the stand up, and slowly got it hung. In the process I pinched a finger something wicked, causing me to nearly (but not quite) drop the stand and a fair bit of cursing.

Climbed down, doffed a layer since I was too warm, climbed up, hauled up my bow, and settled in to wait and watch. For the next two hours, I saw nothing, as the sun drifted westward (and into my vision) and then sank below the hill (thirty minutes before official sunset). Just as I was thinking it was time to pack up and head out, a buck walked out of the brush to my right. Large body and a tall-thin 4-point rack. Shooter. I slowly stood up and waited as he moseyed across the field about 30 yards out. A soft grunt call turned him towards me and he crossed about 20 yards out. I hadn't trimmed branches yet for shooting lanes, so I had to wait for a clear spot. I drew as he was partially screened, and waited at full draw... he stepped into a clearing, and I said my little wish and let the arrow fly...

Goddamn deer jumped the string. I've heard of it but had never seen it and didn't quite believe it. He levitated up and back about a foot while the arrow was flying, and I saw the fletchings zip about four inches in front of his brisket. He turned and ran to the middle of the field, and stood there looking confused. No grunt or bleat would bring him back my way. He slowly picked his way across the rest of the field as sunset finally became official. I stood up and started lowering my bow to the ground...

... when something came crashing across the creek from behind me. I sat down to watch and wait, and was rewarded with a doe breaking through the treeline about 45 yards to my left. She stopped cold on the edge of the field and just stood there for a moment. A few seconds later she walked towards the middle of the field. From the creekbed I heard a more steady and methodical crunching of steps. Sure enough, a minute later the four-point walked out from the same spot and followed the doe right up the field. I watched them into the gathering twilight and then set about to go home.

I bent over to adjust the length of string used for hauling my bow or gun up, and dropped my doe bleat into the brush below. No big deal. I finished adjusting the string and turned around to collect my other stuff. I picked up my water bottle, and was rewarded with the sight of my binoculars falling to the ground below - their strap had been around my water bottle. From fifteen feet up, they looked ok. I unhooked myself from the tree and started down. On the ground, the story was different - the binocs were split right down the pivot. I believe they have a no-fault warranty, however, so I'll be looking into repair/replacement and figuring out what to do for the remaining six weeks of hunting season.

After a few choice words, I went looking for my arrow ... fifteen minutes of looking (with a flashlight) and kicking at weeds yielded nothing, so I went back to the stand and looked for my bleat call. Nothing. Now I was getting irritated, so I climbed back into the stand and looked down for the bleat - and promptly saw it, buried in a pile of tops. I marked again where I'd shot the arrow and climbed back down. The call recovered from the brush, I went and looked for the arrow again, still with no luck.

I finally gave up, gathered my belongings, and headed back to the truck, and then home.

Some days you're the dog, other days you're the hydrant. Friday was definitely a hydrant day.

(Three hours in the sun, however, has amazing restorative powers.)

Nov 10, 2009

Off topic

I know this blog was intended to be mostly about shooting, preparedness, and the like, but sometimes there are things I just feel the need to share.

First of all: hunting! I've been out a bit lately, with no tags filled yet. I had a doe walk under my stand Friday afternoon (5 yards, max) and let her go at the landowner's prior request. Further discussion with him has lifted that moratorium. I still won't intentionally shoot buttons or very small deer, but does are good eatin'. I called in to work yesterday afternoon and went hunting. (55-60 degrees and partly sunny, in November, and you thought I'd be working? HA!) Picked my stand and settled in around 1:15. Over the following three and a half hours I saw six bucks, a large doe, and two yearlings. At least three of the bucks were definite "shooters" - a nice size 8-point, a big 6-point, and another big-bodied but didn't count points. None came in range of the bow (most hung up around 45-50 yards), but they'll be there come gun season.

I've finally gotten my tree stand, although in this case it's a misnomer. A tree-taj-mahal is more accurate. Hang-on with climbing sticks, it's a suspension-style seat, bit foot platform, foot rest, armrests, shooting rail, etc. I may add a canopy at some point but that's not a priority. Now I'm deciding where I'd like to put it. Part of me is thinking MrsZ's family farm has some good spots, but that's a two-hour drive (each way) and therefore won't see a whole lot of hunting from me this year. HuntingBuddy's place has some good options, but he has a number of stands in pretty good spots already. WestSideSpot has some good trees but is really a 35-acre field with the best option being longer shots from ground level. I still need to scope my muzzleloader for this place.

When a tag is filled, you'll hear it here first.


Other news. Economics of grooming! A long long time ago, in a galaxy fa... wait, wrong movie.

A long time ago, men were men and grew facial hair as a sign of strength and virility, and because there wasn't really any good way to get rid of it. Besides, how scary is a guy in a horned helmet without a beard?

Somewhere along the way, women got tired of fighting their way through remnants of food in order to get a kiss, and started insisting on smooth faces. (Later on, OSHA got in on the act and decided that firemen shouldn't have whiskers if they want to wear an air pack.)

For a long time, men shaved with a bit of soap, a brush, a straight razor, and a very steady hand. Nicks and oozers were common and shaving was a production. Over the course of the 1800s, various designs for less-dangerous razors were tried. In 1901, King Gillette created the first safety razor, with disposable blades. The razor (handle) could be sold for zero- or negative-profit, and the sale of blades over time would generate revenue and long-term profits. This became known as the "loss-leader" sales model.

For a very long time, the safety razor reigned. Not so risky as a straight razor, and clean shaves became the norm. In the 1960s and 1970s, cartridge razors appeared. No more sharp blades lying around loose, these were super-safe and promised lots of things... and then the number of blades started increasing. TracII. Sensor. Sensor Excel. Mach III. Mach III Power. Quattro. Fusion. These continued on the loss-leader model.

But there has been a quiet backlash against the loss-leaders. Nothing huge, because the cartridges are convenient. But the quality of shave is lacking something. I'd been debating trying a traditional safety razor for a while but hadn't been willing to cough up the money for a Merkur or Rooney or similar. I did some digging and found the Weishi RetroRazor. $27 and it came with a few different brands of blades so you could find one you liked. I'd been using a shaving brush and soap for a while already, since it gives a better shave (IMHO) than anything from a can or tube.

The razor arrived, and I did my first shave according to their directions. No bleeding, no burn, no bumps, and baby-butt-smooth. Oh man! I tried one of the other blade packs and didn't care for it as much (too close, razor burn!). Tried the third one and thus far it's a toss-up between the first (Personna Red) and the third (Dorco ST301). I'll get in a few more shaves with each one before I make a decision and order more blades. (A blade is good for 2-3 shaves for me. A Fusion catridge is good for 3-4 shaves.)

So how is this economical? Ignoring the comfort factor (priceless!), here's the hard numbers:

Weishi RetroRazor: $27.00
Gillette Fusion Power: $9.50 (Target)

Dorco blades: $12.00/100 blades = $12.00/200 shaves = $0.06/shave
Gillette Fusion blades: $13.50/4 cartridges = $13.50/12 shaves = $1.12/shave

I shave every other day or so. Less if I'm on vacation. One 100-pack of Dorcos costs less than a four-pack of Fusion cartridges and will last me more than a year, instead of about one month.

It's really a no-brainer, folks...

Shaving steps:
- shower (softens the hair)
- brush up some lather and apply against the grain (stands the whiskers up)
- shave! (add water as necessary)
- rinse, pat dry
- a splash of your aftershave of choice (I've been using witch hazel and it works wonderfully)
- rinse the razor under hot hot water and then a splash of rubbing alcohol (keeps the blade and mechanism cleaner)

Off you go!

Seriously, if you're considering it, try the RetroRazor. If you hate it, sell it to someone else or chuck it. You're out the price of two packages of cartridges. If you love it, then you can look at upgrading (which is my next step, maybe a Merkur long-handle). I just wish I hadn't taken so long to switch!

Nov 2, 2009

Line crossing, part II

As anyone who knows NY's maze of gun laws knows, pistol permits are a pain in the butt.

For those outside NY, here's the basic gist:
Each county appoints a "licensing agent". It's typically a judge or the sheriff, although some have civil employees for the purpose. In order to receive your permit, you go to the licensing agent and apply. Fingerprints, pictures, references, background check, etc. Wait for it all to clear and come back and wait for the licensing agent to sign the permit. This can take anywhere from 3-6 months, although longer is not uncommon. The licensing agent has non-statutory authority to put restrictions on the permit. The most common is "Hunting/Target only", and mine is so stamped. The permit is still valid as a concealed carry permit, and there is no crime you can be charged with for carrying on such a permit, but the licensing agent could theoretically use that as cause to revoke the permit.

Now, before you ask - a pistol permit is valid everywhere in New York State, except the five boroughs of NYC. So you end up with a patchwork of restrictions, but no real way to enforce them. There is nothing in law authorizing the restrictions, but court challenges have upheld the authority of the judges to place those restrictions. (Fox guarding the hen house much?)

Each pistol you purchase is registered with the licensing agent and listed on the permit. In order to do so, the receipt for the pistol is taken to the licensing agent and then a coupon is issued to actually pick up the pistol. This can take anywhere from four days (my shortest ever) to four weeks (longest yet).

I called the Sheriff's department in my new county the other day to ask about procedures for transferring my permit over. They told me that (A) they don't do restricted permits, everything is concealed carry; and (B) I needed to talk to the County Clerk's office.

I stopped in to the county clerk this morning, who explained how it actually works. I need to apply in the licensing county to have my permit transferred to the new county of residence. It'll cost me ten bucks for the transfer and fifteen bucks for new permit. When I get the permit they'll give me a coupon then and there to carry around for any purchase - meaning no back-and-forth to the gun store, and gun shows now are a practical option!

So I went to my original licensing agent (Sheriff's department) who pointed me to the county clerk in my old county. Called them, and they pointed me to a form online to print and bring in.

So that is printed and done, and I'll be dropping it off tomorrow... and hopefully I'll have a new unrestricted permit in a couple weeks!

Oct 31, 2009

A crossed line

I stopped on my way to work this evening and took a couple pictures. They're just cell pictures, but I'm using them to make a point.


A country road at sunset. Cornfields on either side, occasional farm houses, barns, trailers, etc. What makes this road special?

If I stand on this road and look east, this is the sign I see:


And if I look west?


So what's the difference? I've moved my residence from one side of the line to the other, when we purchased our house. Earlier this month our governor signed a bill that allows me to hunt with my .270 or AR on one side of the line, but only with my shotgun on the other. (It had been shotgun-only for both before.)

Thanks to NY's bizarre pistol permitting process, a permit from one side of the line takes 3-6 months and will always be stamped "HUNTING AND TARGET USE ONLY". The other side? No restrictions; true "concealed carry".

One other little bit... one is red on the map, and the other is blue.

Imagine that... and guess which side I moved to. Then tell me what the real difference is from one side of that road to the other.

Oct 27, 2009

Semper Fi...

Every picture tells a story - but this one has a much longer story to go with it.

Go read it. Please.

And have a box of kleenex handy.

On Self Defense

Most of the bloggers have already read about Caleb's adventure this weekend. If you haven't, hie thee there and do so.

Those who read my old blog on Livejournal (now lights-out) may have seen my post about self defense and situational awareness, which I'll re-post below. Meantime, though, my own thoughts on what happened to Caleb...

He handled the situation as well as anyone could have. He went home without extra ventilation and with all of his property; there is no need for a lawyer or a stay in a cell. This is a Good Thing.

A few commenters have bashed him about the caliber choice (.25ACP), the carry method, the decision to no-shoot, etc.

Addressed individually:
Caliber: .25ACP is marginally less powerful than .22LR. That said, it's a personal choice and Caleb is well aware of his own situation - moreso than the rest of us are. Would a Tomcat in .22LR be more effective? Not particularly. A 1903/.32ACP? Perhaps. LCP/.380? Undoubtedly. But Caleb has his Jetfire... and it worked.

Carry method: those of us who have to worry more about printing than ease of access acknowledge the limitations. A pocket holster for a pistol is a touch slower than an OWB anything, and maybe slower than an IWB choice. For me, carrying means IWB and *tucked*, which is the slowest thing out there... but I don't want folks knowing I'm carrying.

Decision to no-shoot: this is likely the reason Caleb didn't at least get the nickel tour of the Greybar Motel. Carrying for self-defense means that you protect yourself from threats. When Goblin dropped the knife, he STOPPED being a threat. Caleb managed to perceive that and ease off the trigger in time to not ventilate this Choir Goblin. Gamer's reflexes? ;-)

We've all seen the "Rules of a Gunfight":
(1) Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. check
(2) Bring all of your friends who have guns. not an option
(3) Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive. not needed
(4) Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss. gamerboy would do just fine, methinks
(5) If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun. not an option
(6) If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and moving. with who?
(7) Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you ain't cheatin', it's winnin'
(8) Have a plan. go home alive
(9) Have a backup plan because the first one won’t work. but it did
(10) The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get. don't get shot by a knife

Any questions?


Now, my tale of woe: (this happened in January 2009)
When I got my pistol permit, one of the things I started reading and processing more was works on self defense. There is plenty of good information out there. Massad Ayoob and Col. Jeff Cooper are two of the better-known names, but there are lots of folks with their own views and ideas. Some of it is internet trash, some of it is excellent advice, and some of it contains a few pearls mixed in with the slop. I won't tell you which is which; everyone out there parses and processes things differently and has different priorities.

One of the light-bulb moments for me was the Color Code. It's very simple, and is more of a mental trick than anything else. There are four levels: White, Yellow, Orange, and Red. NONE of these levels require the use of any kind of tool or weapon: the greatest self-defense tool ANY person can EVER possess is located between their ears. Training with that tool is the key. So, the colors:
White: You are relatively un-alert. Complacent. Familiar surroundings and so forth. In one sentence: "It won't happen to me."
Yellow: This should be a constant level if you're serious about self defense. It's not overly taxing. You aren't looking for any particular problem, but are aware of the people and happenings around you. "It could happen to me."
Orange: Someone or something has tweaked your attention. It may or may not be an active threat, but until you have decided, you are more aware and need to be looking for options. "It MAY happen to HIM."
Red: To borrow a phrase from LawDog, it's gone rodeo. Feces have met the impeller and you have decided to actively defend yourself. "It IS happening. NOW."

The other trick I've learned is the twenty-foot rule. Anyone within twenty feet of me can be an immediate threat. There are various studies on it; I won't go into details on those. What it comes down to is this: my immediate bubble is 2-5 feet in radius. That's MY space, and you best be staying WAY out of it unless I know you. From 5-20 feet, I am actively aware of you, where you're going, what you're doing, and where your eyes and hands are. Outside 20 feet, I've catalogued your presence and leave it at that.

So, with all that in mind, we'll get into yesterday's doing. Other Half had a game in Rochester, and I went along for the trip. After the game we went to the farm, where she did some animal-maintenance stuff, and then we headed out, into the midst of a pretty good snow storm. On I86, there's a rest area around Exit 41 (Campbell), and I'd been driving into the blizzard for about an hour and a half at that point. We'd been following the state plow the last twenty minutes and watching the rest of the morons on the road jockey for position and try to get around the plow. Being out of traffic and stretching for a minute sounded good. We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this." (1)

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol. For someone who doesn't carry or shoot, it looks like a tired driver massaging a stiff back or working out a kinked shoulder. It's a relatively non-threatening movement but puts me in a better position for whatever might happen. This fellow had taken me from yellow to orange instantly.

He rambled on with a long story about being out of state (from Mississippi, but wearing an Alabama Crimson Tide hat), had a disabled vehicle down the road (conveniently just out of sight), and they were trying to get it towed to somewhere, etc. I kept half an eye on him, checked Other Half's position (between the truck and the other car, focused on the guy talking to me), and catalogued the car - at least two and probably three occupants, but silhouetted such that I couldn't tell race or gender. Driver's rear window half-down (odd, in a 15-degree snowstorm). Half-listened to the fellow in front of me, who had both hands up in front of him as he talked. (2) Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all,"(3) and got into the car.

We went to the bathrooms, took care of things, and when I came out and waited for Other Half, they were just pulling out of their parking spot and heading back out to the interstate - medium blue or teal Buick sedan, older model, with New York tags. Not out of state at all, and no rental company would use a car like that.

I kept my eyes peeled for the next several miles, in case they really did have a broken-down trailer just down the road - I would have found a few bucks for them in that case. I never saw one, and I presume it was a sob-story scam. Yes, I'm a cynic and don't trust people. So be it. Was this guy an immediate threat? Possibly. I had four inches and fifty pounds on him, and I know he saw where my hand was. Could I have handled it better? I really don't think so. There are plenty of what-ifs to play out the scenario, none of which were favorable.

(1) Opened with an apology. It may be genuine, but it may also be a ploy to gain confidence.
(2) Hands up in front is frequently a sub-conscious defensive posture. My posture was a dominant one and he'd instantly switched to a submissive/defensive pose.
(3) Multiple apologies: please forget this ever happened and forget me.

After we left the rest stop, Other Half and I spent the next twenty or thirty minutes discussing self defense, situational awareness, pistols, and lightly touched on tactics. She had picked up quickly that something was twitching wrong, but didn't quite figure out what. Only thing I asked her to do? Next time, take three steps back or come around to my side of the truck so that she's not between me and targets*.

I don't carry all the time. (Yet.) Concealing a full-size 1911 can be tricky, even for someone of my size. Other Half is still not 100% comfortable with the pistols, and I respect that. However, I view a pistol as being in the same category as smoke detectors, seat belts, fire extinguishers, and insurance: you don't want to use it, but if you need it, you REALLY need it.

* - some folks are uncomfortable with the idea of a person as a target. I don't want to take a life, ever. I have had people die in front of me. It's NOT fun. The idea that I could be responsible for it is even more sobering. However, I subscribe to, "Your rights end where mine begin." Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If those are threatened, I will respond appropriately. My wife? She's an extension of me. Threaten her, threaten me. No one is a target until they prove that they need to be.

Oct 25, 2009

Ready for the season?

Those of us here in central NY got a small taste of winter last week, with three inches of the white stuff appearing one night and disappearing nearly as fast. There were some initial concerns of a much heavier fall, and the problems incident to that. Leaves still on trees means lots of stuff coming down and taking the power with it.

Our house is pretty rural. Yeah, we have neighbors, but the demographics lean heavily to "bovine". If there is a widespread power outage, our area will not be high on the list of priorities for the electric company. We have two primary methods of heating: the furnace (forced air from an oil burner), and a Keystoker automatic coal stove. Both require electricity. Our water comes from a well; the pump requires electricity. Seeing a pattern?

I dumped out my change jar(s) and started counting. I had a lot of change. Enough to purchase a small generator (1000W) straight out. I discussed it with MrsZ and laid out my reasoning: heat, refrigeration, and maybe water would be a Good Thing if we have an ice storm or blizzard, both of which seem to be good possibilities this year. We discussed power requirements, wattages, draws, starting load, and what we'd consider "necessary". The short list came down to: a couple lights, a radio, the coal stove, the fridge, and maybe the water pump.

A 1000W generator would run the fridge OR the stove, and a couple lights and the radio. No water pump, certainly. Some math and cogitation got me to a 3000W genset probably being the bare minimum; it would run the stove and the fridge and lights and radio simultaneously. Running the water pump would mean shutting down everything else while the pump started and ran, but that's acceptable. Water can be stored in bottles and pans.

So off we went to the local home improvement big box stores... neither Lowes nor Home Depot had anything that we considered reasonably priced and with sufficient power. We left it be and I did some more research at home. I looked through the catalog for Northern Tool, which had a couple "maybes" but nothing real obvious. The higher-end brand-name stuff was out of our price range, and the stuff we could afford generally didn't have the features (or reviews) I wanted.

I finally checked the web site for Tractor Supply, and they had a generator listed that looked like the right combination of features and price. I did some digging online and found the reviews were generally pretty good, and the ones that were negative were complaining about noise and weight. *blink blink* It's a damn generator. It makes power. It's going to be loud and heavy. I ignored those comments, and called our local TSC to see if they had one. They did, and I went downtown and picked it up. It's a Champion C46514, rated for 3500W continuous and 4000W peak.

Picked up oil and such from the local mart of Wal, and took the box home and set it aside. Fast-forward a week. This morning I lugged it outside, fueled it, started it, and threw a voltmeter on the terminals. It puts out a nice steady 124V on the 120 circuits, and 245V on the 240 circuits. I didn't try loading it yet, but that's next. I put a 1/2" eye bolt in one of the 6x6 poles in the garage and JB-welded the nut on - it'll take some dedicated effort to remove it. A 1/2" cable and a masterlock can secure the generator, and life is good.

The previous owner of our place built the (detached) garage right - it has a sub-panel for electric and he also pulled 6ga wiring separately from the panel with the express intention of putting in a generator. All I have to do is wire in a L14-30P and put an interlock on the main panel and I can backfeed the house, safely and legally.

Along with a generator comes the problem of fueling it... this generator runs on gasoline, and a full tank (4 gallons) will run it for about 10-12 hours at half load. We currently have 20 gallons of gas stored in the shed, which gets cycled through pretty regularly - the lawn mower, the car, the truck, etc. The generator got topped off with treated gas this morning, run long enough to warm up, and then shut down. Over the next few weeks I expect I'll add another 20 gallons of stored fuel; that will give us about 4-5 days of continuous run time... hopefully that's enough.

Oct 23, 2009

A bit of history...

Anyone else ever have a non-gun friend who gets hold of you and says, "I've got this old gun..."?

Just happened to me. A few weeks ago someone mentioned over dinner that they had inherited most of grand-dad's guns and didn't know what they really had or if they were even loaded. (!) I made it over to their place last night.

I expected one or two old guns, maybe a muzzleloader and an old JC Higgins bolt-shotgun or something. BZZZZZT! WRONG.

Friend started bringing down guns and laying them on the kitchen table. Two at a time... until the table was nicely covered with long guns, without being crowded. A couple I was able to identify easily, but we just went down the row in the order they were out.

- a breech-loading black powder gun - the bore was so clogged with cobwebs and dust that I couldn't tell if it was rifled or not. Expecting not.

- a double-barrel ... thing. One bore was approximately 16- or 20-gauge, the other was rifled and looked like maybe .45cal or so. However, the action didn't resemble anything I was familiar with for blackpowder. Not centerfire, not percussion or flint. External hammers with a tiny notch under the hammer extending into the chamber. Simple but very well-done engraving. Lever to open the action was under the forearm instead of the more traditional place on the wrist.

- a single-shot marked ".410-.44cal". Nice gun, friend thought her grandfather may have carried that as his trail gun (long story).

- several muzzleloaders of various designs. Some were older than others, all were percussion cap, and condition varied widely. One may have been loaded, I dripped oil through the nipple and poured WD-40 down the bore and tried a ball puller. No joy. I marked it and suggested they have someone with more appropriate tools look at it.

- a Ruger 10/22 in "needs some TLC" condition. Light rust pitting, action was sticky, but it can be cleaned up and saved easily.

- an Ithaca 37 Deerslayer, same condition as the 10/22. I about had a heart attack with this one. As is my custom (and that of most other safety-conscious gun owners) I worked the action when I picked it up. And a slug came flying out. So I racked it again. And another came out. And a third time for a third one. That was all. My pulse topped 200. I'd love to know what my face looked like when that shell came flying out.

Then ... the "paperweights". A small firesafe appeared, and it contained:
- a blue-anodized Star .25acp
- a Ruger Single-Six in near-mint condition
- a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless, .25acp

And last but not least ...

... a Volcanic Volition Repeater.

For those not familiar, either open the last copy of "American Rifleman" magazine and read the article about top ten pistols in history, or open the Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson (3rd Edition) to page 60. This is one of the earliest repeating pistols designed. It was a tubular-magazine-fed, lever-action pistol. The middle finger was placed through a loop below the trigger, and that was the lever. Just flick the finger back and forth.

S&W had trouble with the pistols and the rights eventually made their way to Winchester... who spun off the Volcanic Arms Company.

This one appears to be in excellent condition for the age, mild pitting on both sides of the steel, but the brass frame is nicely engraved and in fantastic shape. Bore is likely .30-.32ish. Without knowing how the action really works, I think this one may have a broken hammer spring, as the hammer moved freely independent of the lever. Regardless, this piece likely pre-dates the Colt Single Action Army (1873) and is of tremendous value to a collector. (Tam, are you drooling yet?)

I suggested they contact the local authorities in order to make their possession of these (functional) paperweights legal, get all the muzzleloaders and the Volcanic appraised by a competent authority, and then decide what to do.

Friend said they should give me something for my time and effort - I asked only for first refusal on the Single Six and the Colt 1903 if they should decide to sell them.

Apparently there may be more in another family member's house; I will be checking into those when possible.

This is a case where no sum of money could replace the excitement at holding and examining these firearms. Ever watch "Antiques Roadshow"? Know how the experts say things like, "I'm so excited you could bring these in..."? ... Well, now I really understand that. These were a THRILL to look at.

Friend was glad to have a somewhat experienced eye look things over; apparently someone had offered their father, "A hundred bucks for the whole pile, they're all rusty." When I suggested the Single Six was probably 2-300 and the Colt 5-800, the Ithaca another 3-400 ... well, friend was surprised.

I also strongly suggested they contact their insurance agency and put a rider on their homeowner's policy, since most policies limit firearms coverage to $500 or $1000 - total, not per firearm. (Good advice for all of us who own more than one gun!)

Oct 18, 2009

Lucky Day

My fire department did a "Sportsman's Raffle" this month. Nine of the ten prizes were guns and the tenth was a fishing setup. I sold a fair number of tickets and bought a few more of my own.

Today was the drawing.

I won a Mossberg 500 Combo. I chose to take it in 20ga.

Why 20ga? Isn't that a woman's round?

Hell no. A nice 20ga shotgun is a joy to shoot; they tend to carry 60-75% of the payload (and energy) of a 12ga with about half the perceived recoil. And this one apparently has ported barrels for even less muzzle flip. It may become a truck gun, it may become my backup deer gun, or it may go to the trap range with me every now and then - but a good 20ga can do 80% of anything a 12ga can do - and I've already got a 12ga.

A 12ga really shines with steel loads, where larger cartridges mean carrying a reasonable load of the less-dense material.

I expect pictures will be forthcoming whenever the gun arrives and I pick it up... and then as I consider the various options and mods that I know will happen.

Oct 12, 2009

Farmer Fire Drill

It was cold last night; killing-frost kind of cold. I left work at the usual time and got home at the usual time. MrsZ was still up, so we headed to bed and curled up trying to stay warm (we're cheap and keep the house at 60-65 most of the time). Just as we were dozing off there was a blood-curdling animal shriek from somewhere outside. It was repeated a moment later. I looked out the windows with a flashlight but couldn't see anything... pulled on a robe and went to check on the goats. From the deck, I could see most of the pasture but no goats. They weren't answering my voice either, which is more unusual - they tend to blat or at least move around and jingle their bells when someone calls them.

Went back upstairs and reported to MrsZ, swapped the robe for jeans and a sweatshirt, and opened the safe while MrsZ pulled on her clothes. Grabbed her 870 (20ga) and followed her downstairs, then went looking for the box of buckshot I knew I had somewhere. It had been moved. I settled for slugs and made the gun "cruiser ready" - full mag tube, empty chamber, hammer down, safety on. To go from "cruiser ready" to "ready" requires only racking the slide, which is already unlocked by virtue of the hammer being down. As I was heading out the door I spied the missing box of buckshot and slipped it in a pocket and continued out - where I found MrsZ already coming back from the goat pen, reporting that they were comfortably ensconced out of sight behind their hut instead of inside, where I could see them.

Given that the critters were alright, I peered around the yard again and then went back inside ... where MrsZ explained that this was the "Farmer Fire Drill". Uh-huh.

Side note: we have electric mesh for the goat fence; it's high-voltage, sturdy, and easy to rearrange. MrsZ discovered on Sunday morning that about 50' of fence had been taken down. And in fact, not just taken down, but several of the strands were torn, and a piece of twine that tied a pole to a tree had been snapped ... and the fence had been dragged OVER a bush. Best guess is that a critter (my presumption is a deer) managed to get tangled in the netting and tore it up trying to get loose. A coyote may have gotten tangled but wouldn't have torn it out that far. The goats respect it and tend to keep away. A bear is vaguely possible but I don't think it's likely.

Oct 11, 2009

Hunting Minutiae

MrsZ and I spent a few days last week at her family farm. I was under the weather, so didn't try for coyotes, but did wander around looking for rabbits and squirrels for a while. Scared a few squirrels with the .17 and then bagged one. Reminder to self: .17HMR is overkill for squirrels. Entry wound is appropriate-sized, and the other side of the squirrel is just ... missing. A chest shot didn't destroy much meat, but it made cleaning messier than it necessarily needed to be.

I gutted and skinned the squirrel while MrsZ watched. She's a farm girl, not squeamish about such things, just hasn't done any hunting of her own. I determined that my usual hunting knife was not sharpened after last season (oops), and is also too damn big for squirrels. I've never dressed a squirrel before, so I was paying more attention to anatomy and guts than I would with a deer.

MrsZ asked if it was a boy-squirrel or a girl-squirrel - I hadn't even looked, so I flipped it over and it was quite obviously a boy squirrel. While dressing out the squirrel, I happened upon the baculum. In a squirrel, this is about ... oh, 3/8s of an inch long. I poked at it and examined it, because I haven't seen one before. MrsZ asked me what it was ... so I told her.

She paused, thought for a second, and said, "So you're playing with a squirrel penis?"


Yeah. Pretty much.

Oct 6, 2009

Coyote update

I've been out twice to the supposed hot spot and have neither heard nor seen anything resembling a coyote. A handful of deer, some ducks and geese, but no coyotes.

MrsZ and I are departing for her family farm this afternoon to camp and relax for a couple days. I'm taking along a couple rifles and will be trying for coyotes as well as trying to find some meat for the pot - rabbit or squirrel is a good bet out there.

Sep 28, 2009

Rural Living

If you read Marko's blog, you already know about the dog-raccoon pit match he refereed this morning. If you don't, you should go read.

It brought to mind something from last week:
MrsZ and I were at home one evening doing our respective things around the house; I was upstairs reading, she was downstairs working on something. I heard her call for me, and I finished the paragraph I was on. She called again, and I answered her ... she said, "There's something at the front door". Not someone, something.

Being the master of witty repartee that I am, I replied, "Huh?"

"Something is scratching at the front door."

I looked out the side and front upstairs windows and couldn't see anything, so I headed downstairs. I got down the stairs as MrsZ opened the front door - and our stupid cat bolted back into the house from where he'd been sandwiched between the front door and storm door.

The two-second thought process as I headed down the stairs, though, was simple:
Gun? Yes.
It's scratching, probably small something.
.45? Next to bed, overkill.
Shotgun? Locked up, no shells handy.
.22? Downstairs in case, magazine nearby. First round is a short, though - remember to drop it...

So, the .22 was the go-to choice for that particular situation.

After the cat stopped glaring at us, MrsZ asked me, "You were thinking about a gun, weren't you?"

Duh. There is almost always a firearm of SOME type within a couple seconds of me. This time I had the luxury of figuring out which would be most appropriate to the circumstance.

Sep 27, 2009

On hunting

The weather has taken a quick turn to the cool; the first day of Autumn arrived and it's as if someone flipped a switch. Nights are regularly falling into the 40s and occasionally 30s, and spotty frost is now possible in "the colder valleys". Geese are flying south with their usual melodic cacophony, and the songdogs are raising their voices under the moon.

Hunting season actually starts around here on September 1 - various small game and geese are legal then. After that, there is something in season through the end of March, and then turkeys in May. I've been trying to find locations near the new house where hunting is an option, and it's looking pretty reasonable thus far. There's a huge (11,000 acre) state Wildlife Management Area about five minutes south of me, a National Forest about fifteen minutes north, and plenty of farmland right out my door once I get to know the neighbors and owners.

Our esteemed governor (snickersnort) signed a bill into law last week opening my county to rifle hunting for large game (deer and black bear), so my .270 may well see some harder use than in the past. I've got a couple boxes of my handloads ready to go, and supplies for plenty more available. NY doesn't have a minimum-caliber requirement for centerfire rifle rounds, so I could even use my AR for deer if I wanted to. I will need to block a magazine to five rounds, though.

Meantime, I've been offered free run of a fellow firefighter's back-forty for coyotes. His family raises a few goats and is having some concerns about predation. I went over yesterday and was pointed in roughly the right direction for hunting them. The spot to shoot from looks comfortable and easily accessible; there's both an old flatbed wrecker and the remains of a wooden deck to choose from. The longest shot I'd expect to take is about 150yd, so I've been pondering what rifle will prove most suitable. Outside of deer season, I can use the AR in .223 24/7 and probably will. During deer season, it's going to be trickier due to the vagaries of NY's laws and county lines. The .17HMR will likely be the go-to, and I'll have to wait for them to be a touch closer.

There seem to be two camps of people regarding the .17HMR for coyotes: those who like it with some limitations, and those who think it's completely inadequate for the job. Purely based on my own intuition, I fall into the first group. I haven't tested it yet, but I will soon, and here's why: the coyote is a thin-skinned animal with a relatively lightweight frame. The .17HMR will make a tiny entry hole and likely completely fragment inside the chest cavity. It has plenty of power to punch through a rib, but may not do a shoulder blade. It will certainly have enough energy to make head shots - if I do my part. It is not a 200-yard-plus cartridge; the energy falls off rapidly and wind drift becomes a much larger issue to contend with. Out to 100yd I am supremely confident in it; to 150yd I think it will be adequate. I may be wrong - and if I am, you'll hear about it here.

The other options available to me are the muzzleloader (which might be kind of fun), bow (ultra-challenging; a songdog inside 30yd is a sensing machine), .270 (overkill but very effective to 300yd and perhaps further), or a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Probably a 20ga with #3 buck, with the hopes of minimizing pelt damage.

And that brings me to the next point ... pelts! If I do bag a 'yote or two, I will be trying to salvage the pelts; either for decoration or sale. Does anyone have any recommendations for fur tanners with a reasonable price? I've found a few online but prices seem to vary wildly and references would be appreciated.

I have tags for two deer thus far, and have yet to buy my muzzleloader or bow tags - those need to be procured soon. I have some slim hopes that there may be additional doe tags available near MrsZ's family farm; her father would desperately like to remove a couple of the does from resident population. If he'll get nuisance tags next year, I can handle that in the summer time with a rifle, too.

In any case ... I've said this before. Hunting is not simply about killing. If it were, I could blast starlings and red squirrels galore without worrying about seasons or bag limits. No, hunting is not just killing. It's providing for us; it's the ultimate in "locavore"-ism; it's a way to really appreciate where my food is coming from. More than all that, it's a break from everything around me. No phone, radio, pager, tv, pets, wife, etc ... just calm. Very zen.

Sep 22, 2009

Straw poll

Alright, I'm curious ... I know I'm not the only guy (or gal) out there who has an other-half not so into guns. I consider myself luckier than some, though; MrsZ enjoys shooting (it's a zen thing for her) but doesn't choose to carry.

We went out last week for an "open house" with a company whose name starts with "Direct" and ends with "Buy". That's a whole story by itself but the short form is: they suck, it's a scam, and it's all high-pressure sales schtick. Avoid.

In any case, the store is in a city about 90 minutes from home, and this city is known for having some less-than-desirable areas. It's not shocking to hear their name on the news following the words "shooting in" or "murder in".

I almost always have a pistol within easy reach, but don't carry 100% of the time. I chose to carry for this trip. I tucked my Bersa .380 into it's IWB holster around 5-5:30 and slipped an extra mag into a front pocket of my jeans. Tucked my shirt over the butt and threw on a flannel shirt. Off to pick up the wife and then on to the store. We went through the tour, listened to the sales schlock, then did one more bit of tour.

As we were walking out of the room from the sales pitch, MrsZ put her hand on my back, presumably to knead some knots out ... and instead put her hand directly on the butt of the pistol. She jerked her hand back like she'd been burned, and kinda gave me a funny look, but didn't say anything about it.

So ... the question/request: anecdotes about spouses not realizing you're carrying, and reacting one way or another?

Sep 3, 2009

Bug Out!

About a year and a half ago, I picked up a sturdy backpack with the intention of turning it into a Bug Out Bag. Grab Bag. Ready Bag. Whatever you care to call it; the intention is a bag that is always ready to go and will keep me relatively comfortable with essentials for 48-96 hours.

In the hustle of wedding, house hunting, moving, etc, the bag got a few items tucked into it and then was stuck in the back of a closet and forgotten. As we've moved and unpacked, the bag got unearthed. I pulled it apart last night, and it's ... well, pretty empty. Right now, it contains: (1) micro LED headlamp, (1) larger LED headlamp (Black Diamond IQ), (1) large folding knife (CRKT Point Guard), 100 rounds of .22LR, 50' of OD 550 cord, (2) D-carabiners, (2) mylar "space blankets", (2) Aquamira Frontier filter-straws, and the (empty) hydration bladder it came with.

Must add:
Two universal holsters
one pistol mag pouch, 2 full 1911 mags
one rifle mag pouch, 1 full AR mag
fixed-blade knife (GLOCK knife may win this one)
spare set(s) of batteries
copies of: driver's license, pistol permit, marriage certificate, deed, titles, and birth certificate
three pairs of cotton socks
two pairs of wool socks
three pairs of underwear
two t-shirts
lifeboat rations (4500cal)
Nalgene bottle(s)
50rd .45ACP ball
50rd .223
hotel soap
$100-300 cash in nothing larger than 20s

One thing many people run into when planning their BOB is weight. The instinct is to pack as much crap as possible in, and think it'll either be tossed in the car or items ditched along the way. Here's the thing: this is three days of minimum necessities. Not niceties, necessities. Clean, dry, fed - and the clean is somewhat optional, as is the dry. You might be lugging this a ways, so keeping it light is critical.

Here's the game plan: fire, flood, riot, whatever; I have to leave. In my own truck, in the wife's car, in the back of a National Guard 6x6, on my own two feet - it doesn't matter. I've got short-notice to do this. Stop at the gun safe and grab the AR, 1911, and 22/45. Poop one last time on my own toilet. Pull on comfortable shoes and an appropriate layer of outerwear. Crate the cats and their food if possible, turn 'em out otherwise.

Off we go. Time elapsed: 5-10 minutes. Necessities on hand: 100%. I can move on foot if need be, survive for a couple days easily and longer if necessary, am comfortable with defensive needs, can supply my own clean water, and have cash to get things I may need along the way. Family, friends, motel ... but not a shelter if I can possibly avoid it. MrsZ and I have family scattered literally across the continent; New Hampshire to North Carolina and Texas to Alaska. We've got choices.

(Commander Zero Rule One: Don't be a refugee. It's good advice.)

Aug 28, 2009

Disaster Strikes

I subscribe to "Field & Stream". Its quality has declined over the past few years, but I seem to come up with a coupon for a free or significantly reduced subscription on a regular basis, so I keep ordering it. Good reading for the seat where all men are equal.

I was flipping through the latest issue (Aug 2009) yesterday, and reached the last page. The inside back cover is an advert for The Outdoor Channel's new show "The Best Defense Survival" (hosted by/starring Michael Bane). The add slugs with, "You never know when DISASTER might strike..." and has a few ginned-up newspaper page-1s, partial headlines include "BOMB KIL", "SWINE FLU PANDEMI", and "SOUTHEAST STRUCK BY TORNADOES; 6 DEAD". Tag line: "In an unsafe world, knowledge and preparedness can be the difference between survival and the unimaginable."

Anyone who read my blog previously (over on livejournal, it's now all locked-up private) knows that I'm a proponent of preparedness and "survivalism". I don't understand the negative connotations that society places on someone who is a survivalist. Others have said it better, but essentially, by removing yourself from the load on a support/relief system, you're allowing the system to focus on those who need the help more urgently. Sure, not everyone can afford to put in backup power and multiple heat sources and so forth, but a few flats of canned food and some bottled water isn't hard or prohibitively expensive for anyone.

In any case, this entry was provoked by the tag line. Specifically, "the difference between survival and the unimaginable."

Unimaginable? If option (A) is survival, and option (B) is the opposite, then (B) really isn't that hard to figure out, is it?

I realize many people are rarely faced with their own mortality. We live our lives coddled from start to finish. Warming bassinets, 18,000-thread-count ultra-fine-sateen-weave-egyptian-combed-lambs-cotton sheets, foods flown around the world, modern medicine, etc. Cars are rolling marshmallows; a fatal car accident is far less common now than it was even twenty years ago.

Don't get me wrong - I have no objection to creature comforts. I like my bamboo-weave sheets, my six-airbag truck, buying oranges year-round, griping that the apples in May are cold-storage and kind of grainy... but I've looked at my own mortality. I *know* I can die. I have no intention of making it an easy bout for the Reaper; I'm a sick twisted sonofabitch and will play every dirty trick in the book to make sure I come out on top.

And therein lies the rub ... what is often called the "survival mindset". Not just wanting to live, but more than that, refusing to die. You're not going to learn that by watching a TV show. Oh, you might pick up some useful tips, but I wouldn't stake my life on anything I've seen Bear Grills or Survivorman do. You want to survive? Be not only willing, but able to do whatever needs to be done. I've talked with more than a few people who poo-poo my hunting, then throw another steak on the grill. These people are vegetarians who don't know it yet. Unwilling and unable to take game.

At the more intimate end of things is someone who is unwilling or unable to kill to defend their life or family. This isn't a decision to be made lightly, of course - but if you're a gun owner "for protection", it's a decision you better have made before you started filling out that 4473.

I've been reading On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (USA, Retired) lately. It's dense material. It's also very good information, with many things to prompt further musing. One of the items covered is the concept of killing another human as the "universal human phobia". It's a very real phobia: Humans are by nature a fairly gregarious species. Community is critical to our well-being. Removing some element of that community is an inherently antithetical act. Being able to overcome this phobia at a critical time may be the difference between survival and death.

I sat through a training seminar recently, taught by a law enforcement officer with long experience. The training was ostensibly on active shooters and workplace violence - as you can certainly imagine, these are hot topics right now. At some point, he asked the assembled class who would be able to kill someone if it was "you or them". In a class of perhaps fifteen, only two hands went up. Mine was one. He singled me out, asking if I was a veteran. No, I am not a veteran. So I've never killed? (At this point his questioning was rhetorical, belligerent; I just sat and shook my head at him.) "You've never killed but you say you can? The only people I know that can honestly say they can kill someone are combat vets who have." He continued, "I've carried a gun and badge for [large number of] years and I don't know that I could pull this gun and shoot someone if I had to." I chose not to comment...

... but the one thought in head was, "If you are sworn to serve and protect and are that uncertain of your ability, then you need to take off the vest and shield, hang up the gun belt, and retire." A toothless sheepdog is nothing more than a loud bark - and a bark is harmless.

Death is real, folks. Very real. Every one of us will have our final moments. Those moments will be different for every one of us. Some of us will end our days quietly, some violently. Some alone, others with loved ones... but death will find us all in the end. Do not be afraid of that fact - face it, embrace it - and live your life the best way you know how.

I'll leave you with two pieces of Scripture:
John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Psalm 144:1: "Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight."

Aug 27, 2009

Minor update

Life continues apace. Two weeks ago MrsZ and I spent a late morning enjoying trigger time and general camaraderie with a fellow Appleseeder. I tried out my new handload for .45s and was pleased - 6.0gr T/B/230grLRN. Zeroed my Winchester 94; it's now handily minute-of-deer at 100yd and would be fine to 150. Toyed with the .17 rifle and pistol - can't get the pistol to hold a consistent zero and think that may be a sights issue. I have a pistol scope for it, now I need to get a rail and rings. I also got to enjoy his Marlin .45-70 levergun, which was an absolute hoot to shoot and has bumped up my desire list a bit.

Last weekend we made brief appearances at the local Appleseed, and actually managed to fit in some shooting - it helped to have a surplus of instructors for once. My Savage MkII is having feeding issues, and a thorough scrubbing is in order soon - and possibly some new magazines. I'll be coughing up for the stainless magazines next time around, as the ones I have are well-coated with rust freckles. MrsZ's 10/22 is having ejection issues, and beyond a thorough scrubbing it may require some parts replacement - particularly the extractor/ejector.

On the home front, we acquired a new grill last weekend, and I put it together Tuesday. It is ... large. Very large. Half-gas, half-charcoal, side burner, and there is an optional side-smoker that I will likely get at some point. Almost three hours to put together at an admittedly leisurely pace. Hamburgers and grilled veggies on the gas side came out beautifully, although proper grill implements are in order so I don't drop *quite* so many bits through the grate. Today I did a rack and a half of pork ribs on the charcoal side, and tried the "water smoker" method. I'm not displeased, although there is some tweaking to do. We rubbed the ribs with Dinosaur BBQ's "Foreplay" dry rub and some brown sugar last night and stuck 'em back in the fridge overnight.

I got up at 10 this morning and started the grill, put a shallow pan of beer on one side and the coals on the other, and the ribs over the beer. Closed off the dampers and started smokin' ... An hour later I remembered that I had pruned the apple trees a few weeks ago, and decided to improve on the smoke. I poked through the brush pile and found a promising apple branch, cut out a nice-size chunk, peeled it, cut it into chunks, and added it to the coals when I added more charcoal. Around 12:30 I basted one side of the ribs with Dino's Sensuous Slatherin' Sauce, cooked another 15 minutes, flipped, basted that side, cooked another 15, then pulled the ribs and covered them up...

I just finished my rack of ribs. Not too bad at all. The temperature was a little high (pushed 300 or 350 a couple times) so the edges dried out some, but the flavor was good. The side-smoker is a definite must-have to keep the temperature down some.

We got a love note from our homeowner's insurance company Monday - they are canceling our policy in 30 days because of "unacceptable risk". I called the agent for details and they told me it was because of the un-sided garage. Nevermind that the garage has been bare for over a year... and that they told us when they wrote the policy that it wasn't an issue. We did some calling around and cursing, and I placed an order for lumber yesterday - nearly 1500 board-feet of rough white pine, in order to do board and batten siding. That should be delivered Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point I'll start getting siding up as quickly as possible. Most of the lumber will be pretty green, so it'll weather and dry over the winter and then we'll seal/stain it in the springtime.

Somehow, shooting has taken a back seat to home ownership. This is ... frustrating.

Side note: Shotgun ammo prices have started to decline slightly. I went through Walmart the other day and the 100-round value packs of Remington trap loads were marked down from 24-something to 21-ish. Small, but noteworthy. ... Of course, I can't tell you the last time I shot trap. I should find the nearest range with open trap and go shoot some; it's a good way to relax on a Sunday morning.