May 31, 2010

Semper Fidelis

Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


This is not just for the Marines.

This is for everyone who has laid down their life for all of us.

Every man and woman who gave their all to protect the rights we hold dear.

Never forget them. Honor their memories. Proudly fly the flag they fought for.

Keep the faith.

May 29, 2010

GMTA, Range Report

I got up this morning, and proceeded with my usual routine. Ablutions, food, beverage, switch on the internet, and catch up with the world.

As I was settling on the couch, it struck me how far we've really progressed in the last ten or fifteen years.

Fifteen years ago, I was accessing BBSes (remember those?) by dialup, on a lightning-fast 14.4kbps modem. Occasionally mom would let me use the "internet" at her office and I'd peruse what little there was of the "world wide web" using Netscape. Thirteen years ago, we got dial-up internet, on a 56kbps modem. At the end of that summer, I moved to a college dormitory, and plugged in my 200MHz PowerMac to the dorm network. Holy high-speed, Batman! Speeds have done nothing but increase as time goes by.

Fifteen years ago, dad got his first cell phone - a bag phone, actually. Coverage was poor, quality was mediocre on a good day, and plans were measured in tens of minutes per month. Twelve years ago I got my first phone. Coverage was still poor and pre-paid phones were nearly a buck a minute. Eleven years ago I got a non-pre-paid phone. 120 minutes a month, voicemail was extra, and there was no such thing as texting. Since then, plans cost about the same, but coverage is nearly universal, minutes have increased by an order of magnitude, texting is universal...

And now, they're combined. That's what really struck me. I opened my phone, tapped the "Mobile Hotspot" button, and waited a few seconds for that to connect. Then I opened my laptop and browsed the internet - by wireless, via my cell phone - at speeds comparable to that dorm network.

Then, tonight before work, I saw this post from JayG. GMTA.

In other doings, I finally got my father to the range last weekend. I've been trying to go shooting with him for a while now. He's not a gunny, by any means, but he's comfortable with them. He's also a pretty fair shot, if out of practice. (He qualified Expert-Rifle in basic back in the 60's, on the M14.)

I wasn't sure what he'd want to shoot, so I took an assortment: 1911, 5946, Mod. 67, 642, 22/45, SA Dragoon, AR, and MkII. We got to the range, set up target stands at 10 and 25 yards, and I started opening cases. I let him choose.

He reached for the 1911 right away, and picked it up with a bit of a faraway look in his eyes. He hefted it, and aimed it down the range, then lowered it and looked at it again. He looked at me and said, "You know, I always took one of these camping with the Scouts in Alaska."

"I know. I figured it would be familiar."

"It's been 40 years since I shot one of these... it feels right, but ... I don't remember the details."

We went through the manual of arms, and he dry-fired it a few times, then I handed him a magazine. He popped it in, and asked, "Which target should I use?"

"Whichever one you feel like."

He brought the gun up, and he went for the 25-yard target. His stance was so-so, and his grip was horrible (he started with a teacup, then went to the movie-classic wrist-brace), but the shots were true. He dropped the mag when it was empty and turned to me with a smile. "Can I go check my target?"

We made sure the guys at the other end of the line were cold, then went down and looked. Slow and steady, and he had put all seven shots into the 12" target.

Back to the line, and he fired another magazine from the 1911, after a few pointers on grip. I showed him high-thumbs, and he tried it - but reverted back to his teacup pretty quickly. I didn't correct him again.

He tried the rest of the pistols, and he made it clear that he preferred the single-actions. Don't get me wrong; he hit what he aimed for with every gun he picked up, but he liked the 22/45 and the 1911 the most. Can't say as I blame him.

I spent some time with the rifles, and the AR started malfunctioning (feed issues; need to oil things!), but he stuck with pistols, and mostly the 1911.

I spent more time watching him than shooting, and it struck me as I watched him ... Dad isn't as young as he was. The last time he shot a 1911 was in 1970, when he still wore OD green and a staff sergeant's chevrons. His beard is mostly white, and his hands are starting to show a few knots and spots.

He remarked on the way home that he wants to get to the range again - sooner rather than later. Maybe I can convince him to get his own pistol permit. He picked up that 1911 like it was an old friend, and I'd love to get him one of his own.

May 26, 2010

A Man's Home...

... or in this case, a woman's home, is her castle.

I was chatting with a friend online earlier this evening, and she excused herself to answer the door.

A few minutes later she came back, rather flustered... apparently an urban yoot had knocked on the door and given her a shtick about selling magazines for the troops (after making some inappropriate suggestions regarding her and a fondness for "dark meat"). She said he was now in the kitchen... yet she was chatting with me?? I asked about that and it turns out her boyfriend/housemate was with this fellow in the kitchen, so at least he wasn't unsupervised in her home.

I made a rather pointed suggestion that she escort this young man OUT. Pronto. A few minutes later, her boyfriend did just that... and NOW she was shaken. In her own (paraphrased) words, "I don't even know how he got in, he just ... was. I'm from $URBANAREA, I know better! What if he was casing us? What if Boyfriend wasn't home??"

I suggested she make a quick check that purse/cell phone/wallet/ipod/keys were all in the correct locations - they were. Next suggestion was that she consider owning and learning to use a gun. (I've taken her shooting once, several years ago. It was bitter cold and we only shot one round of trap before calling it quits.) In fact, it was mentioned that she could drive herself to Dick's, or Walmart, and have a shotgun at home tonight. I'd take her to the range ASAP for some familiarization.

She declined, for now - but the seed has been planted. She's a petite woman, so I pointed her to either a Mossberg 500/505 20ga youth model, or a Remington 870 20ga youth model. Either one is an excellent choice, and the youth models have the tremendous advantage of being much more compact than the standard 12ga models (~37" OAL as compared to 46" OAL).

So, gun nuttery aside, how did this fellow end up in her kitchen?

Simple: he's a con man. Short for "confidence man", it's someone who gains the trust of the intended victim and then uses that trust to his own advantage. It may simply be smooth talk, or a sob story. In this case, I'm betting that the guy in question didn't wait for an invitation to enter when she opened the door. He just started talking and advancing into her personal space, and as she backed up a step, he kept going. Repeat...

Most people have a pretty clear idea of personal space. It varies from person to person, but you know where your limits are. If someone intrudes on our personal space, most of us will adjust our own position to one of comfort. Out in public, that's fine. No need to be confrontational without good cause...

In the home, however, your personal space begins anywhere you want it to, and you don't have to yield an inch to anyone. In her case, it should have begun at the front door... but she didn't press the issue. It's worth getting in the habit of opening the door with one foot wedged behind it. It will prevent an easy push-past, and if you do need to slam the door shut, you're already most of the way there. It also prevents someone from seeing too much of your house - like the home theatre setup, rack of DVDs/movies, Hummel figurines, big gun case... Or the pistol tucked on your hip.

"Mi casa, su casa." Hell no. Mi casa, mi casa.

Get a gun. Learn how to use it. Be aware of your surroundings.

May 21, 2010

Another round on the sale block...

Still looking to move my Bersa, but have decided to get out of .380 entirely.

Bersa Thunder .380, satin nickel finish, round count ~140
Box and key for integrated lock
Two factory magazines - one stainless, one blue
Two right-hand holsters:
- Desantis TuckThisII (IWB with integrated mag pouch)
- JMG Holsters IWB 7.0 (leather tuckable IWB)
Two full and one partial 100-round box of Winchester 95gr FMJ (~260 total)
One full box (25 rounds) Hornady Critical Defense
Full set of like-new reloading dies w/ shell holder - Redding Carbide
As much of the once-fired .380 as I can find in the box o' brass.

Trade interests:
S&W Third-gen autos in 9mm or .45 (special preference for DAOs and TSWs)
Ban-compliant AR uppers
Bolt-action .223 (Savage especially)
What have you?

On other forums: $500 shipped FFL-FFL, $450 FTF NY
Special for blog readers only: $475 shipped, $425 FTF NY

SW 051
(No, the 642 is not included.)

(1lb 6oz, 7+1 of .380)

If you are interested, email me. Zercool at gmail.

May 20, 2010

Women With Guns

MrsZ and I hit the range tonight so she could reacquaint herself with the options. This time around, it was the semi-autos. I gathered up the 1911, the 5946, the Thunder .380, and the 22/45 (it ALWAYS goes to the range)... Bag full of ammo and magazines, and off we went.

Set up targets at about 10yd, and dove right in.

First: for those on #GBC who suggested I needed to slow the hell down with the 5946 ... you were absolutely right. If I consciously squeeze through the trigger I can keep a respectable group; as soon as I start trying to rapid-fire it, the shots start stringing down and left. Further practice is indicated, but the problem has been correctly identified.

MrsZ shot a few magazines from each gun, as did I. She continues to impress me - she's slow and steady and plenty accurate with nearly everything she picks up. This morning she made mention of going to one of the NRA "Women on Target" sessions with a friend, which I absolutely support.

One of the hardest things I see for women shooters is the male dominance of the sports and industry. Don't get me wrong, booth babes are fun to look at, but I find the print ads (from Kahr in particular - thin is sexy!) to be ... insulting. Sell me the gun, not a chick in a negligee.

Ignoring that tangent, I can usually count on one hand the number of female shooters at any event I've been to - IDPA, informal trap, Appleseed, etc. I can count on one hand the number of women I've seen in the gun shop other than MrsZ. Guns are sized to fit the "average American male"; many women have hands or arms that are too small for those average size grips and stocks. I'm lucky: the LOP of an off-the-shelf 870 fits me just about perfectly, and my hands are large enough to handle *most* handgun grips with ease.

Of course, manufacturers are catching on to the relatively untapped market of women shooters - by molding their grips in pink plastic instead of black/green/gray. It's a start, I guess, but doesn't address the original issue of *size*. In long guns, it's easy: either cut down an adult stock, or simply purchase a "youth model" to begin with. Handguns? Not so easy. 1911s are perhaps the easiest to adjust to a smaller hand: slim grip panels and a shortened trigger can knock a significant portion off the trigger reach. Revolvers can have the grips changed, but beyond a certain point (i.e., once you've reached the backstrap) it's impossible to shorten the trigger reach.

There's plenty of good information out there for women who want to read it - The Cornered Cat is the standard first reference. There's plenty of BAD information too - a quick peek through ArfCom, THR, TFL, NES, etc, will reveal lots of, "What gun for my girlfriend/fiancee/wife/mother/daughter?" threads. Many of the answers will default to "S&W J-frame", or "Glock" without ever asking for more details.

A J-frame isn't a bad gun, at all. I carry one and would readily trust my life to it. It's a tough gun to shoot well. The grips are small and the trigger reach is short. If she's willing to practice with it, then by all means, a J-frame is a good choice. If practice is less likely, a steel K-frame might make a lot more sense.

A Glock (or any other full-frame semi-auto) is a crap shoot. Some of them will fit well, some won't. The only way to find that out is to hold them, and if possible, try them... and that's where we get back to the male dominance problem.

As an example, at the range tonight, after we'd been there about forty-five minutes with the range to ourselves, another member wheeled in. He's an older fellow, and I've run into him there before. Very nice guy, and knows his shooting. Also likes to talk. A lot. (We made our excuses and packed up to leave after about 30 minutes of suddenly-very-intermittent shooting.) However, among the various tidbits he shared with us, several of them started with, "She ought to..." or, "She should try..." She (and I!) ought to make ourselves scarce!

Which brings us all the way back to "Women on Target" and similar events. (Appleseed Project does a couple women-only shoots each year as well.) By removing the (stereo)typical male shooter from the equation, women can learn about guns without feeling like they're asking dumb questions. (You know, dumb questions, like, "What's the difference between single-action and double-action?" "Dumb questions" that a fair number of male shooters also can't answer but won't ask because they'd rather be ignorant than inquisitive.)

It also gives the shooters a chance to learn a bit about themselves - without fear of mockery for not caring for a hard-recoiling gun, or for doing the brass-in-the-bra dance (about 1:05), or having to worry about a jackass handing her a DEagle .50 without a warning...

I appreciate the answers I got to my recent post about a bedside gun. Seems a 12ga loaded with #00 buck is a popular choice (and rightfully so). For the time being, MrsZ has decided she's comfortable with the 5946, so that'll remain where it is, and I'll accelerate my intention of putting on some Trijicon three-dots. A 9mm may not the BEST gun for defending the home, but it beats a mean look and a shrill scream by a long shot.

(Ladies who shoot - and I'm look at you, Tam, and you, Jigsaw, and you, Breda, and you, Roberta, and Okie, and Dixie, and Lissa, and Christina, and Snarky, and anyone else who reads this - your input is not only welcome, it's desired. If I'm being a male chauvinist pug (like a pig, but canine) for thinking women-only shooting clinics are a good thing, please, tell me - and then tell me why!)

May 19, 2010

Panic! Hysteria! Doom!

Or it could just be pandering and a lack of fact-checking.

A friend sent me a link to a "news" story today, entitled "Army OKs Hollow-Point Bullets" and the tag line, "The Pentagon's new plan to stop shootings on bases: Give MPs lethal handgun ammo that's banned for use in wars."

Without even clicking through the link, my first reaction was, "What, they issue blanks now?"


Let me repeat, in case you didn't catch it the first time:


I took a deep breath and clicked through to the article. It's roughly what I expected based on the tag line. Misinformation, mistakes, and hysteria.

"These rounds [...] feature a small depression cut into the slug's nose, usually filled with notched steel."

Not exactly. Yes, there is a cavity or depression in the nose - hence the name "hollow point" - but it is not filled with notched anything. The metal seen inside is generally lead or some alloy thereof, and the metal around the lead is copper. Steel is very unusual in bullets because it tends to damage steel barrels rather quickly. No modern ammo made in the US is going to have a steel jacket.

"their kinetic energy is lower"

Sorry, no. A 115gr 9mm slug at 1200fps has the same energy regardless of bullet shape. (And actually, the 115gr JHPs stuffed in my S&W are about 60fps faster than the 115gr FMJs I use for practice.) What a hollowpoint will do is shed that energy much faster in its target - and expand in the process. A wider wound channel and more energy deposited in the target generally leads to faster incapacitation.

"[A]s Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union asked in '98: What about when an innocent bystander—or another police officer—is what the bullet hits directly?"

Shooters learn, early on, that they are responsible for the final resting place of each and every bullet that leaves the muzzle of their gun. Police officers and MP/SP are no different. If that bullet hits something other than the intended target, they are liable for it.

"It's also not obvious to me that hollow-point bullets would have made much difference when Sgt. John Russell killed five soldiers last May on Baghdad's Camp Liberty"

Red herring. Camp Liberty is in a foreign country AND a combat zone, this directive only applies to Army installations *in the US*. The military won't issue HP ammo in a combat zone to begin with due to the Hague Conventions; usage of HP ammo in foreign countries would depend on agreements established with the host government.

In the comments, this winner:
"I can't understand why they made a choice based on what would fuck people up more."

They made that choice because when the decision to use lethal force has been reached, the goal is to STOP the threat as quickly as possible. If the same goal can be achieved with two or three shots of JHP instead of a magazine full of FMJ ammo, that is undeniably a faster stop. Fewer rounds in the air also means fewer chances of a bystander being struck.

There is a reason that nearly every police agency in the US is using hollowpoints, and nearly every person who carries their own handgun loads it with hollowpoints: THEY WORK.

Oh, and one last time, in case you missed it before:


(The original article can be found here, in the Army Times.)

May 18, 2010

Find the lessons...

... wherever they find you.

We have a detached garage with no doors on it. As should be expected, some birds have taken up residence, and the babies have been popping their heads up to watch me whenever I'm in there.

Today was flying lessons. I went out to do some work on the truck, and was greeted by a not-yet-mature robin sitting on the mirror of my truck. It took one look at me and took wing - directly into one of the exposed wall studs in the next bay of the garage.


I wandered over to where it had fallen behind a stack of lumber and found it staring up at me looking slightly confused. I left it be. (It was gone by the time I finished working on the truck.)

So where's the lesson?

Being that humans are ostensibly one of the higher-functioning animals, we should be able to *think* before flying into a wall. Some folks call it the OODA cycle, those in the fire service may recognize it as "GEDAPER/DECIDE".

At some point in life, every one of us is confronted with a Major Event. Some of us will face more than one. A Major Event is a situation that has the potential to be utterly life-changing, and is usually thrown at us with little warning or preparation.

It could be as (relatively) minor as a deer in the roadway, as long-term as cancer, or as sudden and violent as an home invasion. Each of these requires us to react in one form or another, and ideally we will do it without hitting the wall.

"OODA" means "Observe, Orient, Decide, Act". In other words, get your information, plan out your action, decide to do it, then DO IT.

GEDAPER/DECIDE is a fire service thing for HazMat incidents:
* Gather information
* Estimate potential course and harm
* Determine strategic goals
* Assess tactical options and resources
* Plan and implement actions decided upon
* Evaluate
* Review

* Detect the presence of hazardous materials
* Estimate the likely harm
* Choose a response objective
* Identify the action
* Do the best that you can
* Evaluate your progress

Either of these decision-making loops is perfectly acceptable, and shouldn't have to be conscious thought. If you train yourself to think about your actions before acting, and train yourself to specific courses of action with specific events, the loop should be entirely automatic:

If X, then Y.
Y is/is not working.
Z? Flee?

The lower animals (and a lot of people) fail on Step 2 of any of these cycles: "Orient/Estimate". They perceive a threat and go directly to either "fight" or "flight" - or worse yet, "shut down". Once you're out of this decision-making loop, it's VERY hard to get back in.

Teach yourself: think, then act. The consequences otherwise could be devastating.


In other news, this gem was posted on the S&W Forum last night:

Why do people get wound so tight in internet discussions?
I mean, what exactly sets folks off- just the fact that others have different opinions, or the fact that they refuse to adopt your opinions/preferences?

It ain't that complicated.
If you see the merits in another's viewpoint and learn something new, and want to change your opinion, change it.
If you prefer to keep your original viewpoint, keep it.

On a board primarily filled with alpha males, you probably won't have much luck forcing people to agree with you when they are not inclined to do so.

Good things to remember...

May 17, 2010

"Formal" wear

As I'm sure some of you are aware, prom season is upon us. Our local rag does an online photo gallery from most of them; candid shots from throughout the evenings. I glance through a few from each prom just to see what things look like now...

And you know what strikes me? Somewhere in the not-quite-fifteen years since I went to my prom, the idea of formal wear got lost, or significantly downgraded. IMHO, the whole idea of prom is a sort of milestone between youth and (young) adulthood. It's a time to be grown-up, without someone standing over your shoulder saying, "Don't flick your peas at your sister."

Prom was, and should continue to be, a "black tie" event.

Gents, you should be in, at minimum, a three-piece suit, and preferably a tuxedo. A black and white tuxedo. If you want to add color to your outfit, it should be done as subtle accents, or ONE piece of the ensemble: colored studs and/or cufflinks to compliment your date's dress, or a colored vest or cummerbund with the same thought in mind. Yes, it means planning in advance with your date. Shoes should low-cut polished black leather. Red Converse are completely NOT OK.

A fresh (within the preceding two hours) shower and shave and a one- or two-day-old haircut is mandatory. Nails must be clipped. If you must wear cologne, apply *sparingly*. Someone should be at close conversational distance in order to get more than a faint hint of it. (And remember that some women find "clean" to be a very acceptable scent on a man, no enhancement needed.)

Ladies, you should be in a dress/gown. Not a skirt and blouse, a dress. BELOW the knees, and ideally near floor-length. Strapless may accentuate your bust (which I'm all for), but it distracts from the effect when you're pulling up the front of your dress every few minutes. Spaghetti straps are a good thing. Solid colors are good, subtle patterns are fine. Florals or wild patterns, not so elegant. Shoes - wear something you can stand in for a couple hours. You'll probably be on your feet for a while, and honestly, walking around barefoot an hour into the evening defeats the whole idea of "adult". Also, make sure you wear the same shoes when your dress is fitted - otherwise length will be way off.

Like the gents, a shower immediately preceding is important. Nails should be done however you prefer, as long as they are neat. Hair should be "done". That may mean just washed and brushed, or it may mean a trip to the salon. Your discretion. Same rules for perfume: it shouldn't be noticeable beyond close conversation/dancing distance. A dab under the ear and on the wrist is plenty.

(Every woman should have the classic "little black dress", it's true. Prom is not the time to wear it. The LBD is not black-tie formal. It's a cocktail dress. A prom is not a cocktail reception.)

Folks, if you have kids you owe it to them and society to teach them "right" and "wrong" dress for events. Here's my rough outline, all to be considered "minimums":

- Church: Khakis and a polo/skirt and blouse. (Business casual.)
- Cocktail reception: Business casual-plus, gents - add a blazer, ladies - up to LBD.
- Court: Business casual.
- Fancy dinner: Jacket and tie over slacks, not khakis. Dress or skirt with blouse and blazer.
- Funeral: Jacket and tie over slacks, not khakis. Dress or skirt with blouse and blazer.
- Job interview*: Jacket and tie over slacks, or suit. Dress or skirt with blouse and blazer.
- Prom/Ball: Black-tie formal up to white-tie formal. (White tie: Gents, add tails to your coat. Ladies, a gown is de rigeur.)
- Wedding: see invitation. If not indicated, business casual-plus.

These are minimums. If you're not sure about something, ASK, or over-dress and risk be the odd one out. I don't know of anyone being offended by a guest over-dressing.

Last but not least, jewelry.

Jewelry is an accent, (usually) not a statement.
Gents, if you have pierced anything, go subtle. A simple gold stud is fine. Other than that, a wristwatch (ditch the Casio and spend a little for something with a metal band. Fossil on up through Bulova, Seiko, Rolex...), and a wedding band if you are married.
Ladies, no watches. ONE bracelet, ONE necklace, subtle earrings. It's tough to beat the classic gold/diamond tennis bracelet with a strand of pearls and gold stud earrings for all-purpose elegance. Wedding band/engagement ring as appropriate.

(I recognize the fact that different areas have subtle variations. For instance, some places consider nice jeans to be a suitable replacement for khakis. Texas, I'm looking at you here. Know your local standards and dress to them!)

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on Western dress standards.

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." -- Mark Twain

* - I have seen suggestions that someone dress for an interview as though already employed at the business. Bovine feces. If I did that I'd have worn no better than khakis and a polo to most of my interviews. Dress in a jacket and tie or suit and tie, at minimum. You are showing respect for the job, the employer, and the interviewer. Calling and asking what to wear for an interview is also a no-no in my opinion - they are not your parents, they are a potential employer. (If you're applying for a farm job or oilfield work, disregard this info.)

May 16, 2010

Recoil therapy

And I do mean recoil therapy in a serious way!

Aside from a bit of plinking, I haven't been doing much rifle shooting lately. Certainly nothing resembling medium-bore or precision work. Truth be told, I think the last centerfire I shot other than the AR was my shotgun during deer season last fall.

My club does a 200-yard F-class match twice a month. It was described to me (accurately) as "belly benchrest". I decided to check it out, so grabbed my .270 and a couple boxes of my loads and headed down this morning. I wasn't expecting to be competitive, just to try it out. Another shooter had already offered to loan me a bipod for the rifle, so that was covered.

Without getting into the sordid details too deeply, I found out (quickly) that my .270 is a fantastic minute-of-deer gun when shot with a proper hasty sling, and it can reliably ping steel (12x12") out to 250yd from unsupported prone. It does not, however, like a bipod, at all. As in "not on a two-by-four-foot sheet of paper" doesn't like.

After several sighters showed me that I wasn't going to be shooting this match with this rifle, I stood up - and another shooter promptly offered me the use of his spare rifle and ammo. I gladly accepted, and settled in behind his Remington 700 in .308, with some big fine-hair glass on top. Three sighters to warm the barrel and verify zero, and I was off to the races.

Forty rounds later, my shoulder was aching and the brass was collected. We all trundled out to collect targets, and I was pleasantly surprised. I'm certainly not competing at the level of some of these guys (197/200 is considered a bad day by some of them) but for my first time shooting this style, with an unfamiliar rifle, I was pretty happy with my 184/200-6V. I had a couple called fliers that were my own fault, and a couple that went a hair wide (-1's) due to some funky winds at our range.

However, putting better than thirty of my forty rounds into a 2" bull, and six of those into a 1" V-ring from 200yd ... that's actually pretty satisfying. Moreso than I expected it to be.

Now I'm wondering how I can best go about building my own setup. If I do, it will almost certainly be a .223 on a Savage action - the .308 is simply more recoil than I care to deal with for more than a few rounds at a stretch. Time to start putting away some pennies, I reckon. I have a sneaking suspicion that my AR would likely be moderately competitive in this style if I simply replaced the A2 upper receiver with an A3 upper... which would be significantly cheaper than building a whole new rifle.

And, emphasizing the "gunnies are the best people in the world" meme - the guy whose rifle and ammo I used didn't ask me for a dime for burning 50 of his handloaded .308 MatchKings. I slipped a $20 into the box with his brass when he wasn't looking; I know that will barely cover the cost of the bullets but it was an important gesture to me.

Springer Deals

Courtesy notice:
Through tomorrow (the 17th), Springfield Armory is offering 30% off in their web store. You won't find better prices on factory mags or accessories.
(Example: 16-round XD9 stainless mag: Midway: $21.49, Springfield: $20.27.)

Bedside gun

Yesterday afternoon, The Boss and I were discussing life, and she dropped this bomb on me:

"Can we get another pistol ... for me?"

That's kind of a no-brainer. I asked what she wanted it for, since I didn't think she had made the decision to carry. She told me she wanted a gun for the night table, since she's heard a few things go "bump" in the night.

Obviously, the contents of the safe are hers to choose from at her convenience, but those have all been my choices to suit my likes and needs. Before I left for work, though, we went through each of the suitable guns in the safe. She decided that a range trip will be in order to try each one again and see if we have something she's really comfortable with, or if a new purchase is indicated.

Because I am a Disciple, of course, the first thing I handed her was the 1911. She handed it back. 28-2? Back. 67? Back. 5946? "Don't you have another silver one that worked well for me?" ... I dug the Thunder .380 out of its box. Back. She went back to the 5946 and hefted it a few times, then decided that it would work for now. (I didn't offer the clearly unsuitable options.)

So. Two magazines of 115gr JHP and the 5946 now reside in easy reach for the Mrs, with the phone and G2 in their usual (bedside) places as well. We'll hit the range sometime in the next couple of weeks, and I may gently nudge her to shoot a few IDPA matches for some practical experience. If she decides the 5946 isn't the right gun, we'll go shopping.

Suggestions are welcome, but please remember this isn't a "what gun for a woman?" thread. What I'd *like* to see are the following: mid- or full-size frame; empty weight *over* 20oz, 9mm minimum, ideally single-stack mags. Wheelguns are acceptable options as well, but I already have a J-, K-, and two N-frames to pick from.

So - what's your "bump in the night" gun?

May 15, 2010

Whatever dits your dah...

RobertaX has a post up about her trip to a HAM (radio, not pork) fest/swap yesterday. She babbles about things I don't completely understand with some big price tags attached. She met some other HAMs that are big names in that world.

My first (admittedly uncharitable) reaction was along the lines of, "$750 for a telegraph key? What kind of dope would spend that much on a chunk of wood and met... Oh."

It's a passion of hers. I don't really understand it, as it's not my thing at all. (I keep putting off applying/testing for my Tech license; I've enough expensive hobbies for now.) But you know what? That doesn't matter at all. She enjoys it, and that's all that matters.

I dated a gal once upon a time whose thing was plants. Plants of all kinds, but her very special favoritest thing was Gesneriads. African Violets. She collected them, had shelves full of them, and knew the names of each individual strain. We made more than one trip to a store about two hours away that does nothing but violets. I thought it was kind of weird then (and still do now), but it made her happy and that's all that really counted.

MrsZ's thing is cattle. She knows the breeds, the strong and weak points of each, how to watch for disease of various types... Me, I look at the field and say, "That one looks tasty..."

Me? My thing is guns. I've got a small safe full of them. I know the make, model, and caliber of each one. I can discuss pros and cons of direct-impingement vs. gas-piston actions. I can run down the shelf at the store and know most of what I'm looking at without too much trouble. (Yes, I get stumped by the more obscure stuff, but not always ... I knew what I had when someone handed me a Volcanic Volition!) MrsZ ... doesn't get it. She can shoot 'em, but doesn't really care about the difference between .223 and 5.56NATO, or the advantages of a Keith-style LSWC over a LRN.

And it's all good. Variety is the spice of life, man. I'd be excited too if I was wandering down a fun show aisle and got to lust over my Grail*, or meet Messieurs Supica, Nahas, and Burg. (Dick is a hell of a nice guy, I've had the pleasure of reading his posts many times over on the S&W Forum.)

So, Roberta, I apologize for the unkind thought you never knew I had, and I hope that you come across a '73 Ultimate in a flea market somewhere, sitting on the table by the sign that says, "Everything $5"!

* - a correct shooter-grade Ithaca 1911A1, for the record. If anyone knows of one for a semi-reasonable price that might be available, please keep me in mind. I would part with more than one piece to pick one up.

May 13, 2010

Ammo "deal"

When I first started buying ammo in case lots, this would've been most of the way to a case of good brass (reloadable) ammo... or a high price for what it is. However, now, it's about the best you'll find:

Cabela's has a sale on Tula Arsenal (Russian made) .223 and 7.62x39 steel case ammo. $3.99/box of 20, or $199.50/1000. Add coupon code "5FLATMAY" at checkout for $5 shipping on orders over $150.

Also worth noting is the same ammo available in bulk packs with two of Cabela's "dry box" storage boxes for $15 more per 1000.

Tula is roughly equivalent to Wolf in quality (same factory). It goes bang, but it's dirty and may stick in tight chambers. If you're feeding an AK- or SKS-pattern rifle, this stuff is fine. An AR is anyone's guess and usually rifle-specific. My DCM A2 setup doesn't like steel-cased ammo, but I'm hoping that when I've finished an M4gery it'll have a loose enough tolerance to do well. I've seen several ARs that eat this stuff just fine. Mini-14s and Mini-30s tend to be loose enough to handle this stuff just fine as well.

Failing that, $4/box makes it perfectly good trade fodder or ammo-of-last-resort.

May 12, 2010


Weather and scheduling have conspired to keep our lawn un-cut for a couple weeks. It was approaching the point where I wanted to hire a couple gun bearers with machetes to get a start on it.

We got a break in the weather last week and I headed out to mow. Fired up the mower, started around the edge of the yard, and when I tried to turn at the end, the mower didn't turn quite right. I looked down and was greeted by the sight of the right-front tire going *flap-flap-flap* ... Limped it back to the shed, backed it in, and started arguing with it.

Got out the hi-lift jack and raised up the front end - after convincing the jack to work, which took some careful application of expletives and WD-40. Pulled the hub covers - and found that the front wheels are help on by snap rings. I have no snap-ring pliers, so I tried needle-nose pliers instead. No luck. By this point I was tired and out of time to play with the tractor, so I left it up in the air and called it quits for the day.

The next day I ran into my neighbor and borrowed a couple of awls to try peeling apart the snap rings. No joy. Finally gave in and went to Tractor Supply and bought snap-ring pliers. Took those home and broke two of the four included tips getting the two wheels off. After all that was done, anyone who had the tires in stock or could mount them was closed for the day.

Fast forward to Monday. Went back to TSC, bought a pair of front tires, took the tires and wheels to Goodyear for mounting. Eventually got them back - apparently there is only one guy there who does tractor tires, and he was late for work. Took them home and put them on the tractor, and started to mow. With an interruption for a friend dropping by to pick up some things, I got about half the yard done before it was getting dark and chilly.

Tuesday morning, I headed out to mow late morning. I made two or three circuits around the yard and the mower deck started squealing. Shut it off, backed up, started it again, and it seemed to be ok. Finished the row, made the turn - and the noise changed. No longer cutting grass... turned the PTO off and on. It's disengaging and engaging, but the mower deck isn't turning. Shut off the tractor, look underneath. The mower deck has eaten its secondary belt. Lovely.

Drive up to the garage, swearing the whole time, and park the mower in there so I can pull the deck. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I got the deck off (SIX attachment points??), and made some phone calls. Since it was off anyways, I cleaned out the accumulated crap, and put on the new blades I'd picked up over the weekend - and found that part of the reason it was cutting so poorly. Someone had installed two of the three blades upside down, so they were "cutting" with the blunt edge.

I ended up taking the whole deck to the Deere dealer (45 minutes away), where they got me the right belt (and a spare), a spare PTO belt, and I decided that since I had the mower torn apart anyways, I might as well go whole-hog... so I got a new air filter and new oil filter. Stopped at the Mart of Wal on the way home and got a jug of oil.

Got home, finished draining the oil pan, pulled the old filter, pulled the air filter, and replaced things as appropriate. Got the new belt on the mower deck, but haven't put it under the tractor yet.

Tried to start the tractor... and the low-oil light comes on, and the thing won't turn over. At all.

I spent another hour or so futzing around with and swearing at it, and got nowhere. My google-fu is weak, so I turned to the #GBC gang for ideas... I've got some things to try tomorrow, and if that doesn't get me anywhere, I may just drag the thing out to the range for target practice...

May 7, 2010

Digital Interruptions

Communist News Network had a short entry up today: Texting during sex? Some say it's OK

One in ten people under 25 wouldn't mind being interrupted by a text during sex. It's about one in twenty for those over 25.

Maybe I'm a curmudgeon, but I find text messages to be an incredibly convenient and occasionally very obnoxious method of communication. I do text - a lot. I've got this fancy-ass smart phone that lets me text, IM, email, etc etc etc, and it's great. But texting, like everything, has a time and place.

Somewhere along the way, we need to teach our kids etiquette about these things. The classroom, the dinner table ... not acceptable. When they're older - the bedroom? Are you kidding me?

The bedroom is for TWO things: sleeping and sexing. MrsZ and I don't have a TV in the bedroom, we don't have "serious" talks in bed, and there's almost no cell coverage in there so texting is out of the question... and you know what? That's the way it should be. Bedrooms are sanctuary. A quiet place.

I find MrsZ receiving and answering text messages during a face-to-face conversation mildly annoying. Either talk to me or talk to them. If she (or, in my pre-married days, any other woman) thinks a text message is so important as to interrupt intimacy... time to pull the eject handle, baby. I'll be downstairs playing video games.

May 6, 2010

Morning Miscellany

Stopped at the Mart of Wal on the way home from work this morning. Initially it was for a can of spray paint (marking tools prior to a work party at the range this weekend), but decided to check the ammo cabinets while I was there.

I've been through a few times in the past couple weeks, and either the supply and demand curves have crossed again, or the price-point has risen just enough to keep some on the shelves. Every time I've been there, there's been .25, .32, 9mm, .40, .44Mag, .45, .223, and bulk .22LR. I've managed to leave it there until today. A box of .44Mag ($33) and two bricks of Federal .22 ($19/ea) came home with me. I was sorely tempted to buy a couple boxes of RWS 124gr 9mm ($13) or one of the value-packs of 115gr WWB ($23) - but then I remembered how much 9mm is on the shelf at home and managed to leave it there. If I need more this year, I'll look for a good price on Wolf or similar.

About a mile from home I crested a small rise in the road and saw a couple small furry somethings (cat-size) playing on the side of the road a bit ahead. Right size for cats but moving wrong. Too tall for woodchucks and they don't move in threes. Slowed down, got closer. It was beautiful red fox and two kits! They ducked into the deep grass along the road as I pulled past them, but one of the kits stopped and looked back at me as I drove by. Pretty animals...

May 5, 2010

Chicken Curry

Simple dish, tasty and filling.

1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 large onions, halved and sliced
2 chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces
1 quart diced tomatoes
curry powder
olive oil

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and lightly brown. Add the onions and saute until just translucent. Add the chicken and reduce heat to medium. When the chicken is cooked through, add tomatoes, return to simmer. Add curry to taste (2-3 tablespoons is ideal). Stir well.

Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced to light gravy consistency.

Serve over rice.

May 1, 2010

Multi-tas- Ooh, shiny!

I'm well aware that Ambulance Driver hates his dipshi... er ... dispatchers. Based on what he says, with good cause - but they are working within the guidelines of their corporate environment, and that may be causing some problems.

But that's not the point of this entry!

I am a 911 dispatcher. I like to believe I'm a pretty fair dispatcher. Not "great", just "pretty fair", which translates in my mind to "a hair above average without being exceptional". Modest, immodest, it doesn't matter. I show up for work, do my shift to the best of my ability, and leave my headset hanging on the wall when I go home at the end of the day.

Some days are better than others, and what makes a "good day" in dispatch varies tremendously. Some shifts I'll come in the door tired and out of sorts, and hope for a calm shift that will allow me to read the news, play some Spider Solitaire, maybe half-watch something on Discovery or History Channel. Other days, a "good shift" is defined by a structure fire that runs well, or giving good pre-arrival instructions and ending up with a save. Or a police call that just works out *right*.

Regardless of what makes for a good day, some parts of the job never change. Our center is small enough that it is often possible to be at least peripherally aware of what is happening with ALL the agencies in the county. Perhaps not the details of each incident, but at least a rough idea of where things stand.

The corollary to that, of course, is that I need to be one-hundred-percent aware of what's going on at MY console. I need to know what's been assigned, what's pending, prioritize the pending, reassign/redirect as necessary, and keep a loose idea of where each unit is along with their status.

I try. We all do. Some do better than others, but every one of us - every single one - has a tipping point. That one last radio call or incident that brings the whole house of cards crashing down in a jumbled mess. It's not a pretty picture, and the recovery from it is even harder - because the calls *don't stop coming in*.

Picture, if you will, a waiter carrying a tray full of glasses at a black-tie cocktail party. Mingling through the crowd, and as he walks along, people are taking full glasses away and putting empty ones back. Things are going well, the party is a pleasant affair... and then someone puts a glass on the tray when the waiter isn't looking, and the balance is gone. Maybe the waiter starts to catch it and fumbles, or maybe he doesn't realize it's off balance until the first glass hits the floor. Either way, there's a hell of a mess.

Cleaning up that mess is easy - set down the tray, get a broom and dustpan, and sweep things up and carry on. But that's where our metaphor starts to fall apart. Our waiter, instead of setting down the tray and cleaning up the mess, has to get the broken glasses back on the tray in one piece, while still mingling and passing out drinks and having empties put back. Not a pretty picture, is it? In fact, darn near impossible?

I have been faced more than once with the dispatch equivalent. Eventually the "party" winds down and it's possible to get things back to an even keel, but in the meantime, all the party-goers are standing around grumbling about the clumsy waiter.

Every dispatcher has their own "tray" and ability to balance it. My question - prompted by some recent events - is this:
Is it possible to effectively train someone to a greater level of situation awareness/multi-tasking?

I.e., can they be trained to carry a bigger tray?

Any thoughts are appreciated.