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*