Nov 27, 2015

turkey recipe

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

Oct 24, 2015

I've a problem...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 13, 2015

Home again

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

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

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

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

Sep 20, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 11, 2015

37SBS: Repaired

After the failure to load or eject when I took the 37 to the range the other day, I spent a couple hours on the living room floor with screwdrivers and oil and parts diagrams.

I tore everything apart, carefully cleaned and oiled what few pieces might still have needed it, and then reassembled it with frequent reference to a parts diagram at Numrich's.

No go.

I swore at it a few times, got up, stretched, then tore it back apart and got another 37 out of the safe to compare.

With that in hand, it took about ten seconds to identify the problem. Part number 19 on the diagram, "Shell stop spring, left", was reversed. It's got a ramp on one end and a hook-nub on the other end. It will fit into the slot either direction. If the hook-nub end is forward, it narrows the magazine tube just enough that a 12ga rim won't slide past it.

I took that piece back out, turned it around, and put the ramp end forward. Reassembled... and ran my snap-cap through a couple dozen times with perfect cycling. The action is a little stiff, as I expected to be the case... but all the internals have a fresh coat of CLP and I hope to run it through a lot of rounds next month at Blogorado.

I'm chicken to carve on the original fore-end grip to add the retention strap... so I ordered a new one from Numrich that I won't mind so much if I bugger it up. Meantime, I'll start working on cutting the leather to shape and size...

Sep 7, 2015

37SBS: Initial Review, range report

Headed out to the SekritRange this weekend with an AR I just finished building, the 15-22SBR, the 37SBS, and a couple new plate targets.

The AR? Ran like a top. It's hands-down the softest-shooting AR I've used. 21.5" barrel, heavy components, and a good muzzle brake (Nordic Components Corvette) combined to make a wonderful gun. Light recoil, decent trigger (Velocity 3lb single-stage), just a pleasant gun. I didn't get it REALLY dialed in, but we were dinging the 8" steel plates at 100-some yards with boring regularity.

The SBR ran as beautifully as always, and at 25 yards it was easy to just ding the plates back and forth as fast as the sight lined up.

The plates are 8" AR500 that I ordered from Gong Target Systems via Amazon... and they were great. One tiny ding where a 5.56 round winged the edge in the heat-affected zone, otherwise they are still perfectly smooth after 100 rounds of 5.56, a hundred or so .22s, and a box of .380 ball. (Six inch version here.)

And finally, the Ithaca 37 SBS.

I pulled it out of the case, grabbed a round of 12ga birdshot, and started to load it. Tried to. The shell inserted into the mag tube about 80% and then stopped moving. Using a finger I confirmed the mag follower was moving freely, so I tried a different shell. Same problem.

I finagled a shell past the loading fingers and chambered it, pulled the trigger, and it went bang as expected. I pulled the fore-end back, and ... nothing. Shell was stuck tight. I worked the slide a few times with no luck, then tried removing the barrel and prying out the shell ... still no luck. I set the shotgun aside for the afternoon and went back to the AR.

When I got home I stuck a rod down the barrel and popped the shell right out; when I have a free couple hours I'll tear down the action again and make sure everything is put together right, as well as carefully oiling everything up.

To those who recommended a strap for the handguard - I stopped at the local Tandy Leather and picked up some 1-1/4" latigo strap and the hardware to attach it. Now I just need to grit my teeth and start cutting on the mint fore-end on that 37 ... OR find a donor piece to cut on.

Sep 3, 2015

The Stamp Collection grows...

Four months from submission to approval.

It started as an Ithaca 37, 1956 vintage. I picked it up for a very fair price with plenty of character.

It promptly went off to Wally at York Arms, where the barrel was shortened to 12.5" (originally planned for 14.5, but some technical issues required another couples inches to go away), all the metal was refinished with black oxide, NFA engraving was done, and a XS BigDot tritium bead was put on.

It came home today.

I'm still planning to sand down the wood and give it an oil and satin-poly finish, and I'm debating fabricating a strap for the pump. But that can wait. This weekend, I'm taking it to the range for testing.

Aug 24, 2015

Spiked Watermelon Sorbet

One medium watermelon, puréed and strained (food mill works great), about 8c.  of juice
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
Small handful mint leaves
One cup sugar
One cup water
2/3 cup citrus vodka

Simple sugar from the water and sugar plus mint and lime zest. Strain and cool.

Lime juice and vodka into melon juice. 

Add syrup to taste (about 1/2c is probably plenty) and chill 2-3 hours. 

Into the ice cream maker, let it freeze, and then portion into smaller cups and into the freezer to firm up completely. 

Makes about eight generous portions. 

Aug 16, 2015

Parts mash-up

As anyone who has put together more than one or two ARs knows, there is usually an assortment of cast-off parts floating around. I've got a couple cardboard boxes labeled "AR PARTS". I'm finally starting to piece together a few things and finish out another rifle.

I had a 24" bull-barrel upper that I didn't like. The barrel went off to Wally for shortening and re-profiling, the handguard found a new home, and the receiver sat in a box.

I whistled up a gas block and a gas tube, and found the block is just a hair too small - tolerance stacking defeats me! A brake hone from the parts store should fix that in short order, though.

I trolled classifieds and found a handguard I like, and still need to find a muzzle device and scope. As this is likely to be a long-ish distance AR (I'm hoping to use it on p'dogs this fall), I'm probably going to put a Bushnell 10x on top, and leaning towards a JP Recoil Eliminator brake.

When that's done ... I'm going to have fewer spare parts floating around. I think there's still a 10" .223 barrel in a box, and some miscellaneous other small parts. I'm sure I can turn it into something down the road...

Aug 13, 2015

Banging on silver again...

Life has been life, lots to keep me busy away from the keyboard lately.

Silver tanked over the last several months, spending the last week or so well under $15/oz spot price, and it was possible to find generic pieces in the $16/oz range. I don't know if it'll go lower. Hell, two years ago I'd have bet it wasn't going under $20. I keep buying a little bit where and when I can. Most of my recent purchases have been "junk" US coins, mostly in the form of half-dollars. For some reason 90% quarters just don't interest me. Dimes and halves, please.

As to spot price, though...
One of the sites I read had a comment about "and then it goes to $1000/oz next month!"

This would be a Very Bad Thing. Spot moves around every day. A few percentage points up or down is a normal day. Ten percent is a big day. For silver to go to $1000/oz would be about a 6000% increase. Six thousand percent. For that to happen, the US Dollar would have to be massively devalued, otherwise known as hyperinflation.

The stories of wheelbarrows of cash to buy a loaf of bread, always from falling countries behind the Iron Curtain or third-world dictatorships? Yep. That's what we'd be talking about.

I picked up a Zimbabwean ten-trillion-dollar bill a while back for about US$3. In June of this year, they decided to end that currency, basically a hard-reset of the Zimbabwe currency system. The exchange rate?

Z$35,000,000,000,000,000 to Z'$1.

Thirty-five quadrilliion to one. My Z$10T note is worth about a thirthieth of a new Zimbabwe cent (10/35000ths of a dollar).

Fiat currency ... quite literally, not worth the paper it's printed on.

Jul 23, 2015

Standing guard for the recruiters?

Subject: USAREC Policy – Armed citizens at recruiting centers ATO’s,
Situation: The USAREC COC has received reports from two Brigade ATOs, social media and TV coverage that law abiding armed citizens are standing outside of our recruiting centers in an attempt to safeguard our recruiters.
1) Recruiters will not acknowledge the presence or interact with these civilians. If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens; be polite, professional, and terminate the conversation immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement and complete USAREC Form 958 IAW USAREC 190-4 (SIR)
2) Do not automatically assume these concerned citizens are there to help.
Immediately report IAW USAREC 190-4 (Suspicious Behavior)
3) Immediately report any civilians loitering near the Station/Center to local police if the recruiter feels threatened. Ensure your recruiters’ clearly articulate to local police the civilian may be armed and in possession of a conceal/carry permit. Ensure recruiters include any information provided by local police in their SIR reporting the incident.
4) Ensure all station commanders implement FPCON Charlie 6 (Lock and secure entry points) addressed in previous email.
5) I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior.
*** The timely and accurate submission of 958s (SIR) is imperative to track these incidents and elicit support from TRADOC, ARNORTH and NORTHCOM.

USAREC 190-4 is available here (pdf warning).

If I'm reading this right - and that's a big "if" since it's a government publication...

Pages 5 and 6 list out the rough chain of events, and since they are treating volunteer guards as "Suspicious Incidents" and Force Protection ... short form: within 24 hours, and likely within 12 hours, your information will be passed through the chain of command for that station up to Branch CID. You're going to be on One More List. Is that worth it? Your decision.

(Side note, I saw an absolute hand-wringing panicked headline that one or two of the Marines in Chattanooga may have returned fire on their attacker - and how dare they, how could they, because they aren't allowed to have guns. *spit* is all I can say to that.)

Jul 14, 2015

Something new...

... except something old.

We wandered through a just-opened Scheel's over the weekend, and I left a few noseprints on the glass gun cases. The Winchester 1895 in particular caught my eye, although I was a bit puzzled when I looked at the hang tag and saw it labeled as "Caliber: .30-06".

I craned my neck around and the breech was marked ".30 GOV 03". I'd been expecting ".30 US", aka .30-40 Krag, and this was a new one on me.

I did some research on the phone real quick before I said something to a clerk about a mis-labelled hang tag, and learned...

.30-03 was a midpoint cartridge between the .30-40 Krag and .30-06 Springfield, with some features of both. The long and short of it, near as I can tell, is that it is safe to shoot .30-06 in a .30-03 chamber, but you may see some cracked case necks. What I could find also suggested sticking to the 180gr and heavier bullets, as the .30-03 was designed around the 220gr bullet of the .30-40 Krag and most have twist rates to match.


May 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be ready. There's a storm brewing.

Apr 16, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 22, 2015

Long strange trip...

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

The Grateful Dead had it right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In March 2014, GfZ joined us as well.

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

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

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

In November, we started house-hunting.

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

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

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

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

What a long strange trip it's been.

Feb 12, 2015

New Range!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wise words!

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended.

Feb 7, 2015

"In the woods, it's just you and what you really are. You can't pretend to be something else when it's so quiet and empty. The woods are about truth."

-- "Swords of Exodus", by Larry Correai & Mike Kupari

Feb 5, 2015

We have a pretty firm closing date for the house we're buying. Should be done by the end of the month. Then we're going to spend a week or two going through and cleaning-touching up-repairing as needed. THEN we start moving stuff in earnest.

One of the really nice features of this house is the extra-deep three-car garage. With a workbench and cabinets around the back edge. On the list of tools I want/plan to acquire are a new compressor (probably a permanent mount upright), a benchtop drill press, and a benchtop mill. Other stuff ... probably going to happen. Eventually. As with the rest, money first...

But I'm looking forward to having space to work in again.

Jan 30, 2015

Most gun owners are...

"Most gun owners are cheap bastards."

*blink blink*

That was the statement I read in a forum recently regarding a new indoor range that opened nearby.

I don't know if or when I'll go try it out - it's not a cheap range. $25 for non-members (they say unlimited shooting "unless busy"), and annual memberships begin at $500. Life memberships exist too, and are well into four-figure prices - plus a monthly maintenance fee.

They spent a LOT of money on this place. 50-yard rifle range (three lanes), 25-yard pistol range (14 lanes) and a 25-yard "tactical" range (6 lanes) with moving/turning targets. The backstop is advertised as being rated to .50BMG (don't be in the lane either side!), and word on the street is "anything up to 4,000fps" - which means most common AR chamberings, anything rimfire, and ANY pistol. (Things that are out: .204Ruger, .220Swift, .22-250, and things of that ilk... and most folks shooting those want a lot more than 50 yards to play with.)

But back to that original statement. "Most gun owners are cheap bastards." He thinks the range isn't going to do so well because it is spendy. Of course ... how many of us have the box o' holsters? I do. Not as bad as some, but there are a dozen or two holsters of various flavors kicking around my house. I boxed up part of my reloading bench this morning in preparation for a move. At last count I had about 15 pounds of powder and 12-15k primers ... plus several thousand bullets of various calibers. And let's not even get into the sagging shelf of ammo cans in the garage.

Am I cheap? No. I'm frugal. I will absolutely buy quality; I know how hard I work for every dollar and I want to get the best value I can. If the best value is a $350 Eotech sight, that's what I'll buy. If I'm putting a sight on a range toy, maybe the $150 Primary Arms sight is a better value for me.

Meantime, "boutique" shooting ranges are springing up and catering to the new generation of shooters. The ones that don't want the dark wood, nicotine stains, and dead-animal mounts of a traditional gun club. That don't want the gruff retired guy behind the counter telling them, "The little lady needs a snubby."

This is a totally new breed of shooters. They're the ones buying the designer CCW clothes. And the semi-bespoke guns. And you know what? They're the future of shooting sports. They have disposable income and are spending it left and right on their hobby. We need to encourage it.

So ... I'll be making a trip down there when my schedule allows.

Jan 28, 2015


eForms Application Status Change Notification for Permit/Control No: 201512345

This is to advise you that the status of your eForms submission with the subject Permit/Control number has changed to APPROVED

This would be my 9" S&W 15-22. The barrel is still off at York Arms being shortened, threaded, and re-finished... but should be back here very soon.

I need to run the lower by the laser shop for engraving in the next few days.

Submission to approval time was 41 days.

Now? I need to get on the stick about finding some more 1/2-28 muzzle devices to protect threads when the can isn't mounted.

Jan 24, 2015

Range report

Ever leave the range wondering, "Why did I waste that time and ammo?"

I had that day today.

I swapped the sight from my torn-apart 15-22 upper to the new-used/spare 15-22 upper and took that for zeroing. Aside from a horrible flinch, it did fine. No major adjustments needed, but I'm starting to consider ditching the dot and getting a magnified optic. Or maybe just putting it on the SBR 15-22 when that's ready to assemble. In any case ... sixty rounds, one malfunction (light strike, near as I can tell; it went bang on a second run through), no real thrill.

I took the Savage .308 for some 100yd work ... and was horribly disappointed. 2-2.5" seemed to be the best I was doing today.

The tone for the range trip was set by one of the range staff when I got there - I uncased my guns and racked them, then sat back on the rear bench to wait for a cease-fire to go hang a target. I pulled a granola bar out of my pocket and started to unwrap it when she tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You really shouldn't eat that here, don't want to ingest lead, you're already breathing enough of it." I smiled and said, "Thanks, but I'll take my chances." (Note: I hadn't handled any ammo yet, it's friggin' granola bar, and I eat those from the wrapper, not with bare hands.) She scowled at me and said, "NO, you won't. If you want to eat that you have to go back to the patio." I stuffed it back in my pocket. I should have just left and demanded my range fee back.

I've had run-ins with this miserable wench before, and I'm sick of it. I'll be contacting the range management to complain during business hours.

While I had the .308 out I heard the loudspeaker call a few times, "Booth X, keep your muzzle downrange." Then the RO went to that booth and told him a couple more times to watch his muzzle. Then I started seeing puffs of concrete dust from in front of that booth, out around the 50-yard line... Bubba, if you can't (1) keep your muzzle pointed mostly downrange and (2) are knocking loose concrete at 50 yards (meaning striking either four feet low in the ground or six feet high into the baffles) ... I don't want to be anywhere near you.

So I packed up my stuff and headed home. And I'm still grouchy about it.

I want a range where I can shoot what I want, when I want, from the positions I want (i.e., prone or seated, not off a concrete slab), at targets more exciting than a piece of paper.

Jan 20, 2015

ATF eForms update

Everyone is focused on SHOT right now, and understandably so... but the ATF emailed me an update on NFA processing and eForms this morning, and I think it's worth sharing... so here it is, copy-pasta'd, and some followup thoughts below.

In follow-up to ATF’s letter dated April 16, 2014, regarding the status of the eForms system; this update is being provided to inform the industry of ATF’s progress in addressing eForms and paper NFA applications. To accommodate the substantial increase in application volume that has recently occurred, ATF is working diligently to decrease processing times while continuing to enhance the eForms platform. 

What is our progress to date?
From a peak of over 81,000 pending NFA applications at the end of February 2014, as of  January 14, 2015, ATF has reduced the number to less than 38,000 applications pending (54% reduction in pending applications). In the last four weeks, although the NFA Branch received over 19,500 applications, the Branch processed more than 22,300 applications.
- The authorized staffing level of 25 Legal Instrument Examiner (LIE) positions for the
NFA Branch has been reached.
- ATF continues to expend overtime for those employees processing NFA applications.
- ATF has cross-trained and utilized LIEs from various other ATF branches to support
NFA application processing. This is an ongoing process and has already beneficially
impacted application processing.
- ATF has trained and utilized 23 Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs) in the
processing of NFA forms and utilized these IOIs for a 3-week period to help reduce the
- ATF has dedicated additional data entry contract resources to continue to reduce the
time it takes for an application to be entered into the National Firearms Registration and
Transfer Record (NFRTR) and to keep it reduced in light of the volume of submissions.
- For paper submissions, the processing times for NFA forms have been reduced to:
o Forms 1 and 4 – 6 months
o Forms 3 and 5 – 2 months
o Forms 2 and 9 – 1 month
- ATF Forms 1, 2, 5, 9, 10 and 5300.11 have been returned to service in the eForms
- While eForms 3 and 4 have not yet been restored to service, there has been progress.
ATF has engaged a new vendor to create a more robust platform for the processing of
the eForms 3 and 4.
The new platform will be designed to eliminate the issues that caused the removal of the
eForms 3 and 4 from service. The new eForms will also provide enhanced functionality
such as batch processing and possibly some automated approval functionality for certain
forms. The vendor has recently been cleared and has already started to work with ATF
in engaging the industry for system requirements on certain processes. Once the
requirements have been finalized, we will begin the design and review of the new
eForms platform. We hope to have eForms 3 and 4 returned to service by late 2015.
- ATF met in July in a roundtable discussion with some of the larger users of the eForms
system to exchange information about the development of the new system. There have
been additional information sharing meetings since July with the goal of additional
industry input to the design and review of the process.

Look, I think the whole NFA tax-stamp nonsense is stupid too. The backlog on processing is obscene. Hell, I'd even grind my teeth and continue to pay the $200 stamp if I could do it at the same time my NICS check is done when I buy an item ... as in "cash and carry".

That said, the ATF  has made huge strides in their processing. My suppressor was turned around in five months (paper form  4), and my first SBR was done in five weeks (e-filed form 1). I'm right at five weeks on the second SBR and expecting the magic email anytime now. Knocking down half of an 80,000-item backlog in eight months is damn impressive, because they are still getting applications at record rates.

If they can get e-filed form 4 processing down to a consistent 4-6 weeks, and don't get stupid about trust/corporations and NFA items ... I can see a rather rapidly-expanding stamp collection. I'd really like to add a couple more suppressors (primarily in rifle calibers), and there are some other wants on the list in the AOW category... but I don't want to deal with 6-month waits to get them out of limbo. Will I? Probably. Eventually. Still don't want to.

Jan 9, 2015

BX-25 trigger

GfZ got a BX-25 trigger for Christmas. It finally arrived today. We haven't installed it yet (a five-minute job of two screws and two pins) but it's in a "try me!" plastic package. So we did.

Not bad at all. VERY clean break, and definitely lighter than a factory 10/22 trigger. I'm impressed. And since it's drop-in, it doesn't have the fiddly line-up-the-parts game of a Volquartsen trigger kit.

(And at a third the price of a Timney set, it's a great deal!)