Aug 28, 2009

Disaster Strikes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 27, 2009

Minor update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 16, 2009


I'm stuck at work this morning, working an overtime shift - this is actually an OK thing, since it will mean a bump to my Toy Acquisition Fund. Sunday mornings are often slow, and the calls for service tend to be legitimate, as nearly anyone involved in emergency services can verify. Sunday afternoons are anyone's guess, but can be calm depending on who's playing football and whether or not there's a race on. After the games and the race, the phones start ringing again. (Standard quiet times: Sunday mornings, Christmas morning, New Year's Day morning, Super Bowl game time, NASCAR races. Afternoons and other sporting events have no standards.)

In any case, I swung through Dunkin' on my way in for a bite (their bagel sandwiches are really quite good) and grabbed our local rag on the way out the door. Buried on page 11A (Business) was this AP slug: "Dealers yet to see cash for clunkers". It's over about eight column inches of text, which I skimmed.

Short form: dealers have taken in trades under the "cash for clunkers" program, officially known as the "Car Allowance Rebate System". Dealers then fill out paperwork and submit it to the government for the rebate - this is a standard process in the car business, which I was involved with a lifetime ago. A car is sold for X but has a rebate of Y on it; the rebate is applied to the bottom-line price and the difference (X-Y) is the price paid by the customer. At delivery/closing, the customer signs a rebate form assigning the rebate to the dealer. The rebate amount is fronted by the dealer until the manufacturer cuts a check back to the dealer...

Problem: dealers are expecting the US Government to write checks back to them in a timely manner. As anyone who has filed their income taxes knows, this is about as likely as birthers and truthers sitting down and having a friendly discussion about the next candidate for the US Presidency.

When you have excess taxes withheld from your paycheck, you are providing an interest-free loan to the US Government. Some of us choose to do that for various reasons, others do not - matter of personal preference. Either way, you still receive the majority of your paycheck.

Dealers, however, are running a business. They pay for their inventory up front. When a customer buys a car, they are not buying it from Ford - they are buying it from the Ford dealer franchisee. The profit margin on the car is what pays to keep the lights on, the A/C running, salaries for employees, etc. The manufacturers know this and cut rebate checks back to dealers quickly - usually on a weekly basis, if I recall correctly. Keeping the doors open is what sells cars, and stiffing the dealers for their money will not make for open doors.

With that out of the way, the article notes that the NHTSA - the agency overseeing the rebate program - has received approximately $1.5 billion (with a B) in rebate requests. They have not disclosed how much has been disbursed. There are, however, dealers who are claiming unpaid rebates in excess of $3 million (with an M). I realize, of course, that this amount is likely the exception rather than the rule, but large numbers aren't going to be unusual.

A bit of fast math: if every purchaser received the maximum $4500 rebate, that dealer has sold in excess of 650 cars since the program inception. Clearly, this is a large, multi-franchise dealership, and probably does a high volume to begin with... but $3 million is a hit that very few businesses can afford.

End result: dealers are starting to announce that they will not offer the "CARS" program. No doubt there will continue to be some who will, but if this becomes widespread, the government's plan to invigorate the auto market will have effectively failed.

Aside: We've all seen the YouTube video of mechanics pouring silica suspensions (read: sandy water) into the oil fill and running them at ridiculous speeds until the engine overheats and seizes. Doesn't this strike anyone as near-criminal? The video I saw looked like a fairly late-model Volvo sedan being run to failure. I'm a bit of a car geek, and while I don't like Volvos (personal preference), they are well-built and extremely safe cars. Now, this car which had been a perfectly acceptable family sedan is so much scrap metal - destined for the pick'n'pull and the engine block going to the junkyard.

Where do we strike the balance between supporting labor and the economy, and continuing use of the functional resources we have available?

Panem et circenses, indeed...

Aug 15, 2009

New boomers tried

Spent a couple hours this morning on trigger time with a nearby gunny and fellow Appleseeder. Tossed several guns in the truck and a bag of ammo and headed off.

We spent some time getting my S&W 647 zeroed at 25m (got it close, not great)... then tried and zeroed my new-to-me Win94. It's shooting minute-of-deer at 100yd which is all I need from it. Trigger still sucks - I'm hoping some shooting or dry-firing will smooth that out. Might need to get some snap caps.

Re-zeroed my Savage MkII... it had been adjusted for 100yd shooting, and I brought it back to 25m.

Brought out the Savage 93 and worked the kinks out. Had it happily zeroed at 25m and then it fell from its position leaning in the corner and the zero went bye-bye. I was unpleased. Re-zeroed. It is now 1/2" low at 25m and dead-on at 100yd - just about perfect for squirrels and other small game.

MrsZ re-zeroed her 10/22 to 25m as well.

Played with the MkIII 22/45, the 1911, the Bersa ... tried a Springfield XD9 ... and spiffiest of all, a Marlin .45-70. It didn't kick like I thought it would. Stiff, but really not any worse than a 12ga with a slug. Definitely worth consideration.

Side note, I tried my latest batch of handloads for the 1911. Trying a new powder, RamShot TrueBlue. Not bad. I'll be loading up a couple boxes of that for competition.

Aug 5, 2009

Epic ... Just Epic

As previously mentioned, I was heading up to NH for the Second-ish Annual Northeast Bloggershoot.

I got up Saturday morning and loaded the truck (after re-locating the pile o' gear I had set aside the morning before, and MrsZ had helpfully put back into appropriate places), then headed for Major Caudill's place. The first part of the drive was fine - some minor construction on I88, but nothing serious. Just north of Albany, the confusion began.

Mapquest directions had me taking an exit off I87 towards Bennington and taking the scenic tour across southern Vermont. TomTom wanted me to continue north on I87 for another 40 miles. I followed the Mapquest version, and wound my way up and down across Vermont, most of the time stuck behind tourists and other slow drivers who were busy taking in the scenery - there doesn't seem to be an interstate that goes East-West across VT, or at least not in a convenient spot. I eventually made it on to I91 and then I89 and arrived at Marko's just in time for dinner with his lovely wife and two sweet kids.

After dinner we moseyed into town for a cup of coffee and his postponed Dadcation, gassed up his people-mover, and I grabbed a couple sundries I'd forgotten in my packing haste (toothbrush is a good thing). Back to Castle Frostbite, and bed. I had been assured that a 2- and 4-year-old would negate the need for an alarm clock, so I didn't set one - and was awoken the next morning by Marko knocking on the door... Seems the kids decided to sleep in too.

A quick breakfast (waffles from scratch!), and we transferred my pile o' hardware to Marko's van, and headed towards the range. Picked up another shooter along the way, and off to DoubleTrouble's SooperSekrit range...

We arrived around 11:45, and made introductions as necessary. Some folks (I'm looking at you, JayG) needed no introduction. Quite a group - and a wildly impressive collection of hardware. C&R galore, black rifles galore, bottom-feeders, wheelguns, leverguns, single-shots ... rifles, pistols, shotguns, NFA ... Oh yes, my friends, there were rifles with a giggle-switch, and pistols and rifles with suppressors, and a short-barreled shotgun... bayonets hither and yon, on rifles, on shotguns, on pistols... and on an Uzi. Yes, a REAL Uzi. Short-barrel, full-auto, folding stock.

And ALL of this hardware is 100% legal where we were - in NH.

Several folks tried the hardware I'd brought along, I tried many other pieces of hardware (NAA Mini - that's a hoot!) and got to shoot the full-auto AR. Fun - VERY fun - but I could never afford to feed one even if I could own it here in NY. Owning a full-auto gun - of any kind - and shooting it semi-auto only is like (to quote Marko) owning a Porsche and driving it at exactly 55mph all the time. What's the point?

There was an unofficial BOOM contest - which was handily won by the Ruger Super Alaskan in .454 Casull. Holy wrist-wrench... but surprisingly manageable for what it was. Still, stiff. I didn't get a chance to shoot the Snubbie From Hell, but I expect there will be another opportunity sometime.

After burning ammo for several hours, completely demolishing the Pikachu (see the other AARs for that tidbit) and several Zeds, and enjoying some great time with awesome folks, we loaded up Marko's mover again, and headed back to Castle Frostbite. Once there, I swapped my hardware and ammo back into my truck and headed back to the southwest. I left his place in a light rain around 7:30. It rained all the way across Vermont - and this time I tried the TomTom directions just for variety. It took me out across Vermont, through Woodstock, Rutland, and I picked up I87 in Glens Falls or thereabouts. It rained the whole damn time - and those mountains in Vermont only make it darker. I stopped in Rutland for a quick bite and gas and kept on moving...

Sometime after 11 I made it through Cobleskill and was getting sleepy; I found the next rest area and pulled off just before midnight. No late-night adventures in this one, unlike the trip to Rochester earlier this year, but I dozed for a couple hours with a Condition-1 1911 in very easy reach. About 1:15 or 1:30 I woke up, tried to sleep some more, and finally gave up around 2. One last trip to the bog, and off I went for home. The roads are nearly empty at that hour on a Monday morning, and I made good time; cruise set around 75 and rocked and rolled. Got a cursory inspection from a trooper somewhere along the way; I noticed a car pacing me in the left lane and eight or ten car-lengths back, then noticed the inside-the-headlight front marker lights ... notched two off the cruise and waited, sure enough, the blue'n'gold CVPI went tooling on by. He took the next exit and I put the two back on the cruise and kept going. Cross-country for the last seventy miles, and rolled in the driveway just after 4am.

I can't begin to explain how much fun I had on this trip, and how great it was to put faces along with names and meet some new folks.

The official list of attendees:
JayG from MArooned
Bruce from No Looking Backwards
Doubletrouble from Rattail Bastard and Mrs. doubletrouble
Weer'd Beard from Weer'd World Arrrr
Lissa from Looking for Lissa
Borepatch from Bore Patch and #2 son
David from Fighting for Liberty
JD from Tekmage's Blog
Marko from The Munchkin Wrangler
TOTWTYTR from Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire
zeeke42 from Young and Crotchety
Commenter Wally
Mopar and Mrs. Mopar
Scotaku from Scotaku in America
Paul from State Line Guns
Commenter Andrew, his mother Barbara, and his son Matthew (the youngest shooter!)
Meataxe from Men are not Potatoes
Commenter stickman
Commenter Libertyman
Zercool from Panum et Circenses... et Plumbum

All of you, welcome to the blogroll!

I took a few pictures, and a minute or two of video (before the battery died on the camcorder), but they all have far more stuff up than I could. Oh, and all of you - feel free to post pictures of me and/or my hardware if you like. And if there are any pictures of me, I'd love to have a copy if you don't mind!

If I have a moment tomorrow I'll try to post a picture of the pile o' stuff I brought - goodness knows I brought WAY too much ammo.