Dec 30, 2011

I know this tune

Adaptive Curmudgeon (who you should have in your blogroll anyway) writes some real gems from time to time. I'm torn between gleeful laughter and rancid commiseration.

He had a plumbing issue. It's been detailed in four parts. Highly recommended reading.
Mystery Plumbing I
Mystery Plumbing II
Mystery Plumbing III
Mystery Plumbing IV

I commiserate because I also am the proud (?) owner of a mid-to-late-19th-century farmhouse, which occasionally does odd things and has had six-plus generations of interesting work done to it.

If you recall early this year, what started as a simple shutoff valve replacement devolved rapidly into a complete remodel of the downstairs bathroom and replumbing the kitchen drains. It's never simple, and an $8 valve becomes a $3000 bathroom-and-kitchen project in the blink of an eye.

Dec 29, 2011

Creative Editing, Memory Hole

Uncle posted a link to a non-NFA 14" shotgun arrangement. I think it's neat. I also foresee some potential problems.

I commented on the linked post as such. Specifically, I mentioned the ATF and constructive intent, and the legality of possessing both the as-pictured firearm and a bone-stock Mossberg 500 at the same time. You see, that's constructive intent - your 14" barrel could fit the stock firearm, or the stock could be switched over; either way it's a short-barrel shotgun and an unregistered NFA item. Big no-no.

I pointed out that while I think it's a nifty concept and I'd love to have one, I have no interest in being the test case and spending a whole lot of money on a legal defense. My final line was, "Neat. Pass."

The original poster edited my comment before approving it, as pictured here, with my followup comment - in case that gets ignored, or finds the white-out/memory hole.

Shady, unethical, distasteful.


Edit: I got an email from the original poster with an apology and my comments on his site were deleted as I requested. He also pointed out that thanks to the court decisions regarding Thompson/Center Contenders and their change-barrel/change-stock configuration that constructive intent wouldn't apply.

Personally, I'll stand where I am: it's a neat item, but not neat enough for me to take a ride and spend money on legal fees.

Thanks to Marty at Shockwave for doing the right thing.

Dec 21, 2011

Thought of the day

It's not a mid-life crisis car.

It's a, "I finally got all my debt paid off, the kids are out of the house, and I have the disposable income to purchase that car I always dreamed about when I was younger," car.

(I reckon mine is about six to eight years away.)

Dec 20, 2011

What's next?

I had an interesting revelation the other day. It's been a half-formed thought in the back of my head for a while, but it really struck home when I was skimming across a list of gun classifieds.

I have all the guns I need.

Truth be told, I probably have far more than I need. Now, don't go confusing "want" with "need".

I have a .22 rifle.
I have a smallbore centerfire rifle.
I have a midbore centerfire rifle.
I have a .22 pistol.
I have a pistol suitable for personal defense and carry.
I have a pistol suitable for field use.
I have a shotgun.

Fortunately, I have the luxury of picking out what interests me, at least to a certain extent. As my collection has grown I've picked up some oddballs and sent some on down the road to others. My tastes have evolved, grown, and changed a bit.

I won't say my collection is complete - far from it. There are lots of guns out there that I'd like to have, and as finances allow, I'll acquire some of them.

But I can open my safe and know that I've got the right tool for almost any circumstance I'm likely to deal with. Now I can focus on collecting what appeals to me on a more selective basis, and on upgrading what I do have. Some of the collection won't go away - my Ithaca 37 is a permanent fixture, for example. On the flip side, my Remington 710 will likely be supplanted by a Savage 114 or 111 (or if money allowed, a Dakota) in the same caliber (.270).

It's a neat and strange feeling all at once.

Dec 19, 2011

On the wagon...

Uncle posted a bit about diversity in carry pieces, and I decided I'd play that game. Mostly because my first instinctive reaction was, "Jesus! Pick one and stick to it!"

Then I got to thinking... "Just how many guns do I pick from as carry pieces?"

The list got long, so I decided to take a picture. Every gun pictured has been in my carry rotation at some point in the past twelve months. What I carry is determined by wardrobe, location, activity, and so forth.


Clockwise from 12 o'clock:
S&W 642, .38+P, carry with Federal 129gr +P Hydrashok JHP
Kahr PM9, 9mm, carry with Winchester white box 147gr JHP
S&W 21-4, .44Spl, carry with handloaded 240gr LSWC (this is a field/hunting gun)
Kimber Eclipse Custom II, 10mm, carry with Federal 180gr Hydrashok JHP
Springfield GI, .45ACP, carry with Winchester white box 230gr JHP
S&W 5946, 9mm, carry with Winchester white box 147gr JHP
S&W 4053, .40S&W, carry with Winchester white box 180gr JHP

Seven guns in the carry rotation. Weights from a hair over a pound to north of three pounds. Muzzle energies from "moderate" to "massive". Only two patterns, though: double-action, and 1911.

They get carried IWB, OWB, pocket, and off-body in some cases. All with at least one reload, and all ready to shoot. (Full mag, one in the chamber, and the 1911s are cocked'n'locked.) When I shot IDPA it was a 1911, so the thumb-sweep of the safety is habit. All the rest are just point-click-bang.

And for a slightly better size comparison:

So, what's in your holster?

Dec 13, 2011

Hunting Hypothermia

It's worth mentioning this, because (A) it can happen to you, and (B) it happened to me last week.

Hypothermia is a very real concern in hunting: you're likely to spend hours sitting in one place or moving slowly, in all kinds of weather. It's easy to get cold - it kind of goes with the territory. The trick is learning when "cold" has moved to "dangerously cold", and there's no easy answer.

Here's what happened to me:
I went out for an afternoon, getting on stand just before 1:00, and intending to stay all afternoon - until about 4:45 when legal shooting light ended. It was chilly - in the low 40's - with a steadyish breeze. The weatherman was calling for showers, but it had been just overcast.

I sat in the stand and watched the world go by, flexing fingers and wriggling toes to stay warm as best I could. The afternoon dragged on, a tiny doe went by (at perhaps ten yards; I drew my pistol and had her lined up with my finger on the trigger before deciding she was too small), and the afternoon continued. It started to mist a little, and I shivered a few times as I sat there.

Eventually I decided that it was not a good day to hunt, even with 20-30 minutes of legal shooting light left. The mist had turned into a light drizzle and the wind had continued to blow. I was cold, damp, and pretty miserable.

I made my way down the ladder and plodded the quarter-mile back to the truck, set down my hat and gloves, and tried to unload my shotgun. Tried.

The Mossberg 500 has a catch in the shell feed opening that allows you to eject the shells one at a time without cycling them through the action. It's not hard to operate once you know where it is - just push "out" and catch each shell as it slides out. I couldn't get it to work for me, so I ended up cycling the slide and ejecting the shells into my hat.

Then I tried to get my coat off. I knew I was cold, but it was when I couldn't make the zipper on my coat work that I realized just how dangerously cold I was. I finally got out of my coat, tossed my gear in the back seat of the truck, and sat up front with the heater running for the next ten or fifteen minutes.

My only early warning sign was that bit of shivering (that I ignored). I'm used to being chilly while hunting: no matter how many layers you put on, sitting still in the cold wind leads to a chilly hunter. This went beyond chilly to true hypothermia. The difference on this particular day was the precipitation and the humidity. Overcast and windy isn't unusual around here, but the weather was, simply put, damp.

It's easy to stay warm when you're dry. As soon as you get damp or wet, things can go downhill in a hurry.

I related this incident to my father a few nights ago, and he remembered his army days: stationed in Alaska, where temps were well below zero, he was never miserably cold. Walking post in Georgia at 38F and raining? That was the most bone-chilling cold he's ever experienced.

Take care of yourself out there, kids.

Dec 6, 2011

Outta the park...

Go over to The Gregarious Loner and check out this post. Watch the video. It's eight minutes of Mike Rowe and he's not hard to watch. He's making a pretty important point, for those who are willing to listen.

TL;DR: we're afraid (as a society) of hard work, and it's going to break us.

It's true. Think about it. You call the garage because the Open-Wallet light on your dashboard came on. When are they going to get you in? A week from Tuesday? Do you think that's because they have a card game going on that they won't put aside for you? No. They are *busy* - doing skilled labor. Think those mechanics all have college degrees? Unlikely. Most of them have been turning a wrench for years.

Call a plumber because a drain is clogged. Same thing - you're going to wait. They're not hurting for business.

Welding - which Mike touches on in the video - is a dying art. An former coworker of mine had a son who took the VoPro welding track at the local BOCES during high school. He finished the track, graduated on time, and took the state welding certification test (or something like that). He had three offers of employment when he got his high school diploma, and not one of them was under $40,000 a year.

During my time at BBHIS, I saw this disconnect first-hand. Customers would come in, ask for advice, then argue with the answer they got because "it doesn't sound right". That red vest pretty much guaranteed that I was going to be treated like furniture at least once a day. I'm not a construction expert, but I know the basics and know where to find the answers I don't know.

Related anecdote: had a customer come in because she wanted to pour a new front stoop from concrete. 4x4 and eight inches thick. Anyone who's worked concrete knows that's a fair pour. Not huge, but fair. She wanted to know how many bags she'd need. I did the quick math and told her it'd be about twenty bags of concrete and a piece of re-mesh to do it. She told me I was wrong and she only needed eight or ten bags and no mesh.

*shrug* Whatever you want to do, ma'am.

I'm not skilled labor. But I have a clue. And you know, that welding certificate is looking better every day...

Dec 4, 2011

Alan Gura video

Rolls put this in comments to my previous post, but it's worthy of it's own post:

LaserLyte - again

I don't recall if I mentioned this or not, but after LaserLyte replaced the defective Rear Sight Laser on my M&P, I took it to the range, where it promptly began having issues and has since failed completely. I bought a set of TruGlo TFO night sights and the slide is at the fun shop now having those installed.

I also decided it was time to mention the issue to LaserLyte, and sent them the following via their "contact us" link:

Back in May of this year I purchased a S&W M&P9 with your RSL. The original unit was defective and was replaced by your company (quickly and efficiently, much appreciated) with a new RSL. I installed that and some time later took the pistol to the range. Unfortunately, the new RSL had significant issues as well. Initially it would cycle modes with each shot - from off to steady to flash to off etc. Eventually the switch failed completely and the laser will not turn on at all.

At this point I can only assume one of two things: a bad lot of switches, or the switch was never up to the demand of recoil (115gr Winchester 9mm, btw) and the motion of a slide. I have since purchased and installed a set of tritium night sights which are meeting my needs nicely.

I'm not sure what you can actually do about it at this point. I have no confidence in the RSL arrangement, and feel that another replacement would be a waste of your money and my time, as I wouldn't install it on the pistol. I just felt you should know that there is a clear issue with the product. If you have any questions, suggestions, ideas, or requests, I'm open.
(The original RMA was ####, if you care to look into that one as well.)

We'll what, if anything, they choose to do, and I'll post results here.

Dec 2, 2011

Great Hunt: Fizzle!

For those of you who were intending to attend the Great Hunt and had to postpone 'til next year: you didn't miss anything.

Yesterday's weather was gorgeous, and I saw ONE deer. A tiny button buck with a semi-recent injury that I won't shoot on principle.

Today's weather was horrid: low 30s, windy, and intermittent rain/snow showers. We saw ... NO deer. Almost sixteen hours of hunting in two days; two of us out yesterday and three today.

I'm sore and exhausted and not sure if I'll go out again tomorrow. The hills and mud have taken their toll.

Nov 29, 2011

Gura, brain dump

As mentioned, I went to hear Alan Gura speak at the Federalist Society meeting here tonight. Turnout was sparse, to say the least (liberal university, in a liberal town, hosted in the law school, two weeks before finals) but Alan didn't seem fazed in the least.

Time flew listening to that man speak. I scribbled notes as I could and filled up a full 8.5x11 page with my chicken scratch. I'm mostly transcribing that here and will fill in as best I can. Anything in quotes is as close to a direct quote as I can come.
Many comments have been made that the Heller and McDonald decisions were vague and provided no real interpretation for further 2A cases. Alan (AG) disagrees and believes the decisions were well thought out and provide plenty of guidance and potential for future decisions.

There are several points upon which suits may be based:
1) A ban on functional firearms.
(Which is what was overturned by the Heller decision.) If there is a right to keep and bear arms, the right clearly means *functional* firearms. (Massachusetts, I'm looking at you here.) AG made a point of saying, "Yes, you could own a shotgun, rifle, etc, but it had to be secured or disassembled, so if someone broke into your house you could ... what, club them with it?"

The main purpose of the Second Amendment is self defense. AG did NOT specify defense from whom, however.

Post-McDonald, Chicago implemented a ban on accessing or operating a firing range within the city. This was litigated against and overturned in the 7th Circuit, as Chicago requires firearm training in order to receive a firearms permit, but then made receiving that training effectively illegal.

2) Categorical ban on types of arms.
The Second Amendment specifies "arms", not "firearms", and therefore many types of arms are affected - AG mentions knives, clubs, and nunchuks, specifically. (Apparently there is a case pending in NYC regarding nunchuks.)

Part of the Heller decision noted that handguns were commonly used in crimes as well as for self defense. The court noted that the potential for criminal use was irrelevant to the rights of the public.

AG mentioned the "common use" doctrine along with the possibility for new technology; if a new technology is developed and quickly banned it can't become "commonly used". AG notes that this would be analogous to a 4th Amendment expectation of privacy; an item can't effectively be banned during development [haha, says the ATF - Z.] and thus may enter common use before further restrictions can be written.

California has a case pending along these lines regarding the "approved handgun rosters" (MA, you again!) and the idea that it is not the legislature's place to determine what's acceptable and what isn't. Case in point, the "Assault Weapon" Ban in effect in several states, which bans firearms based on primarily aesthetic features.

Ref AWB - "Heller 2" is still pending, the circuit court upheld the ban based on the fact that there are "other suitable firearms" available that don't violate the ban. AG's argument is that this "balancing act" is pointless and fallacious. [I didn't totally follow at this point, he referenced a few things I'm not familiar with and didn't scribble down. - Z]

(Side note to self - look up Wilson v. Cook County, IL for info.)

3) CCW.
Three (four) methods of handling this so far: constitutional, shall-issue, and may-issue (and IL, no-issue). AG acknowledges that states have the right to place restrictions on carry; e.g. bars, restaurants, schools, etc.
May issue: "This type of law is doomed." AG believes it indicates prior restraint. A right may be licensed but requires consistent objective standards, which may-issue does not have. [In NY it's at the county judge level, and his personal politics enter into it. - Z.]

RKBA means outside the home. Court has confirmed that the Second Amendment (and all the others) must be interpreted using their original common understanding. "Bear" means "carry". Not in your own house, but out and about.

Interestingly, there was no argument in Heller's case (from Heller/Gura) about carrying in public - but DC argued against it, and lost. If DC hadn't argued against it, the court wouldn't have had to express an opinion.

However, if there is carry in public, the laws about "sensitive places" and banning carry therein are presumptively lawful; but there's a corollary to that: if sensitive places are forbidden, then non-sensitive places must be OK.

Historically speaking, a ban on CCW was accepted because it only proscribed one manner of carry: concealed. It was seen as the method of less-savory individuals, and a gentleman wouldn't hide his arm. Modern society has reversed this and the state has the authority to define the method of carry (open/concealed) but may not completely ban carry. Obviously, CCW is the currently-preferred method from that standpoint.

4) "Catch-all"/"Construction Zone"
Suits where constitutional interpretation may not provide a resolution. First and Second Amendment have similarities in this area. Suits with lower standing (e.g., domestic violence and firearms possession, felon-in-possession, etc) will likely receive a lower level of scrutiny but still require the government to prove their case. Better standing leads to stricter scrutiny. AG mentions a case in the 7th Circuit, Azell (sp?).

Alan opened the floor for discussion at this point, after 35-40 minutes of talking.

Q: does the 2A have to play catch-up to modern society as technology improves?
AG: No. 2A (and the rest) are not stagnant. 1A and 4A have kept pace with technology, to cover broadcast, cars, electronic media, etc.

Q: Brown v. EMA (sp?) and government control of ideas - could this have any bearing on 2A issues?
AG: Possibly. Reference range ban in Chicago, which was clearly gratuitous with no study or supporting evidence. "We're not trying to show malice on the part of the government. We're not litigating over the state of mind of the legislators, only that they exercise lawful authority."

Q: Question about choosing plaintiffs and suits to pursue.
AG: Not easy, many things factor in. However, "no one is more arrogant or reckless than a pro se individual, [... and] they are probably the biggest threat we have in the 2A community".

Q: ref Kachalsky v. Westchester.
AG: Appeal brief filed with Circuit court early this month, government brief due in February.

Q: Why/how did you choose 2A law?
AG: I've always had a strong personal belief in the Second Amendment, and while I was in DC I got a call from Bob Levy that they needed a litigator for a case. Went from there.

Aside from AG: Not sure we'd ratify ANY of the Bill of Rights in today's society, but the framers left us an excellent document to work from.
AG: Palmer v. DC still pending decision (manner of carry in DC).

I asked if he had any hopes/desires/plans for the Hughes Amendment and/or GCA68, and the answer was a very blunt, "No." Alan did elaborate then, however: there are bigger fish to fry, and that'd be an uphill battle. He has suits for people that simply want to own a handgun, which is a much easier and clear-cut case to win.  "Why waste time making bad law?" Alan is sorry some of the MG fans feel like they're being ignored or "thrown under the bus", but that's his choice as a litigator - and his job is to win cases.

This is a point of view I agree with: baby steps. Let's get everyone to legal carry first, then we can worry about dismantling GCA, NFA, Hughes, etc.
The whole thing ran just over an hour, and RollsCanardly and I got our picture taken with Alan just because. I'll drop that up here sometime soon. Epic night.

Mr. Gura, I presume?

In a room with Alan Gura and RollsCanardly. No live blogging, but I'll take notes.

Nov 25, 2011

Car Geekery

I'm not a gear-head. Never have been. Someone starts talking about swapping rings and ratios and my eyes glaze over, I start nodding, looking for an exit, or trying to change the topic. That said, I developed more of a taste for cars when I was selling them.

And this little piece from BRM really gets me going...
Starting from cold entails letting the engine spin with the ignition off to get the vital fluids circulating (64 litres of coolant, 57 of lubricant for the engine, 16 for the gearbox). Then flick the twin magneto switches (ex-Lancaster) and push the starter button (ex-Spitfire).

A V-12 aircraft-based motor turning 660bhp, that requires a step-up gearbox to get the power to the wheels in a usable form? Estimated top speed of 160mph - because there's a rev limiter on the motor that keeps it under 2,000rpm? Body work and appointments that scream "mid-1900s luxury"?

Yeah, I dig that.

Nov 19, 2011


It's no secret that I'm a fan of Smith & Wesson guns. I own several of their handguns - both wheelies and bottomfeeders - and they've all been great guns. (Aside from the zit one one of them, but that's cosmetic.)

They consistently do things right.

Case in point:
The M&P 15 "Sport" (SKU 811036 or ban-compliant 811037): a major-manufacturer 16" flat-top AR-pattern rifle in 5.56x45, with a list price of $739. Right now they're still on allocation but street prices I've seen are in the $650-675 range. Much as I like the lego factor and building an AR, if you're not looking for a moderately obscure setup, this is a *smoking* deal for a quality rifle. Seriously.

Price out a build, if you like:
Bare lower $100
Parts kit $50
Stock/buffer tube/buffer $75
DPMS A3 upper $400

By my math that's about $625, plus an hour or two of time to knock it all together.

For my money, I'll take the name brand. With the lifetime service plan.

As an aside, if you go to the S&W site and click into the M&P Rifles section, they have a whole portion set aside with their ban-compliant rifles. Handy thing for those of us behind enemy lines - no poking through all the specs to figure out stocks, muzzle devices, what mags ship, etc.

Nov 16, 2011

M&P 15-22

Tried one at the range the other day. WAY up the "want" list.

Nov 13, 2011

Recoil Therapy

Brief range trip this morning. Lots of .22, a bit of .38, and a few magazines of 10mm. The Kimber looks to be a phenomenally accurate gun but had a few weird lock-ups. Specifically, the slide latch would bump its way up during recoil and lock the slide back with several rounds left in the mag. This happened several times with no apparent pattern, and I did check my thumb positions. Any ideas?

Nov 11, 2011

Pocket 9s

Uncle mentions that he's maybe sorta looking for a pocket 9. I've been using a Kahr PM9 as a nearly-everyday carry gun for quite a while, when I'm not slinging the .40 into the tactical murse instead. (All depends on circumstances.) It's a great little gun and very accurate for what it is. The biggest bitch about it, which didn't directly affect me, is cost: plain-jane it's a $700 (street price) gun. Add another hundred or so for night sights, etc.

Someone mentioned the Kahr CM9 in conversation the other day, and I hadn't heard of it, so I went looking.

Dimensionally and weight-wise it's identical to the PM9. It lists for $230 *less* than the PM9. Down side? It only comes with one magazine, so cough up another $30ish for that. Other than that? It appears to be a mechanical difference: the PM9 is polygon-rifled, the CM9 is traditionally rifled (lands/grooves).

I'm not a gunsmith or an accuracy freak. The only think I know about poly-rifling is that you shouldn't shoot cast lead in it. Aside from that, is there any real ($200-worth of real) advantage to the different rifling?

If not, the CM9 is a HELL of a good price for a pocket 9.

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.

-- John McCrae

Thank a veteran today.

Nov 2, 2011

A Girl and Her Gun

Dragon sent me the link to this one:

I stood there completely helpless and I decided that I would not be in that position again.
Before that I day I was very anti-gun. I didn't want them in my house and I was very afraid of them.
I skimmed through several entries and I like what I read! I need to go back to the beginning, and really read - which I intend to do over the coming days.

In addition to that, she is running a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. If you can drop a fin or a sawbuck in their jar, you're entering a raffle for not only a training class (provided by FPF Training in Culpeper, VA), but a custom Talon holster from Dragon Leatherworks.

If you're not familiar with DLW, you should be. I have two of his holsters (provided gratis) and the Talon is an absolutely top-notch OWB holster. I had already been planning to order another one for the Kimber when Jay decided to auction off his prizes from Kilted To Kick Cancer, and I was top bidder on the holster... so that's in the works, and I'm already thinking I'm going to want at least one more...

WWP is a VERY worthy place to send some charity, and I'm going to be doing just that on payday.

Oct 31, 2011

VZ Grips - excellent!

I have to give credit to VZ Grips. I looked at their products at the NRA show but didn't feel like putting the cash down right then. Nice stuff, but not the right time.

Then someone posted a coupon code over the weekend - 20% off with code HALLOW11. That was enough to push me over the edge, and I whipped out the wallet and ordered a set ... except the order failed because there was an address mismatch.

So I tried my other address and it failed as well. I tried a few combinations. Every single one failed. I figured they were having a computer glitch and decided to try again this morning. Failure again.

I checked my credit card account and saw a stack of "Pending" from VZ Grips... uh-oh.

Their phone number is on their site, and their office hours are listed.

I called, pushed one menu option, and was answered by a real person. Who spoke English. American English.

I (briefly) explained what had happened and he transferred me to billing, who checked and confirmed that they had no pending orders in my name. Billing asked if I wanted to place the order still (yesplease) and transferred me back to sales - the same guy I'd originally talked to.

He took my order, checked inventory, applied the coupon code, took my billing and shipping information, and told me the grips would go to the shop for milling tomorrow and probably ship out tomorrow or Wednesday. I went back to my desk and there was already an email with the invoice sitting in my mailbox.

That is exactly how customer service is supposed to work.

(These are the grips on the way, plus a thumb notch, and a set of their Radiation II grip screws. I think they'll look quite good on the Kimber, which I still owe you pictures of...)

Oct 30, 2011

No ice cream

.. working.

FTOing a newbie at the Day Job, and filling holes from two missing full-timers at BBHIS.

I'm scheduled for a total of 148 hours in this pay period.

I'll see you in a week or two.

Oct 25, 2011

Vicious Circle

And here, the origins of the Vicious Circle... that is, pre-internet days.


(Click to embiggen.)

Oct 23, 2011

10/22, a day late

I don't have any pictures of the 10/22 MrsZ has in the safe - but it's an International, with the stainless barrel and grey laminate stock. Purty rifle, that one. It needs some attention soon. The trigger is mushy (but very light) after I put in a Volquartsen sear and spring kit, and it has been stovepiping a round or two every few magazines. Given that they are down to $175, a Timney drop-in is a likely candidate...

And since I'm on the topic, there is a special production run of the "International" style out again, through the Talo distribution network. I saw one at the fun show last week for $350ish, and they're running through Gunbroker in the high $200s. If you want a sharp looking plinker, they're tough to beat - but don't plan on much modification. Sure, you can play build-a-rifle with it, but you'll be taking it out of the beautiful Mannlicher stock you just spent the extra money on. ;-)

Oct 21, 2011

The Snark Runs Deep

We all have the right to pursue happiness, not have it spoon-fed to us on the taxpayer's dime.

Maybe my title is misleading. That's not snark - that's blunt truth.

Another gem I have run across recently:
America is the land of opportunity; guaranteed equal opportunity ... but not guaranteed equal outcome.

The formerly-great hunt 2011...

Last winter I proposed a group hunt for some of you bloggers... and got several takers. As life has a habit of doing, things moved around and circumstances changed, and the intended hunt of 6-7 people has been reduced to ... two.

I still intend to hunt the farm for the mentioned dates - specifically 11/30-12/3. The in-laws have notified the usual hunters that the farm is off-limits from the 30th to the 2nd.

As such, I'm re-opening the invite. If any of the usual suspects would like to join me for a hunt or learn how to hunt/kill/dress a deer, then ping me or reply here. I would gladly take 3-5 additional people for this fiasco. Lodging is intended to be a Country Inn & Suites, and pre-paid rooms are running about $80/night for that time range. Double up and save money.

For those unable to attend - please don't take this as a guilt trip. Best-laid plans of mice and men, etc; I completely understand how life can take us down unexpected paths. I was in the same boat with Northeast Blogshoot this summer and only made it up thanks to the generosity of Bubblehead Les.

Hoping to have at least a couple of you pipe up!

Oct 19, 2011


Had some stuff happen at Day Job earlier this week. I can't get into specifics (of course) but suffice it to say everything was done right on my end of things, and the outcomes were still far less than desirable.

It's not the first time, it won't be the last, but for some reason it's just kind of tweaked my mood for the week.

I spent yesterday hunting the in-laws' farm with a regular hunting partner. Just about a perfect day. Took a very long walk in the woods after getting turned around in the creek, the weather was cool and slightly breezy but not cold, the sun was out...

I dozed off in the pasture waiting for Greg to make it out of the stand for lunch and enjoyed my short nap. The afternoon was a gentle push through some woods and then a few hours watching the sky get dark from a tree stand.

I reckon we both walked several miles in the process, and I can't wait to do it again. A much-needed respite from the staggering amount of crap that's been going on.

Oct 17, 2011

Hello, fall.

The Kimber-porn will be a few days out. I collapsed when I got home last night before taking any pictures, I'm working both jobs today, and tomorrow I will be sitting in a tree and waiting for the tricksy deers to walk by and get shot with arrows. (In other words, I will enjoy a day in the woods watching the world go by.)

The weather is definitely on the down-slide here. The weekend was classic autumn in upstate New York: windy, rainy, and moderately cool. The temperature isn't a problem so much as the pervasive dampness - and I'm too cheap/lazy to fire up the coal stove quite yet, so the house is cool in the mornings.

This morning, though, was the clearest sign yet of impending winter.

I got up to put the dog out at my usual time, and when I stepped on the deck I glanced up at a sky that was partly cloudy with a waning gibbous moon... and saw those three-stars-in-a-row that only appears in winter, as Orion's belt. It's still a late-rising constellation, since it was in the eastern sky, but it's up there.

And the air between the clouds? Crystal clear.

My seasons are here.

Oct 16, 2011

Why yes...

... That is a Kimber in my pocket. And I am happy to see it.

Gun pron forthcoming...

Oct 12, 2011

First Car

ASM826 started this one, as near as I can tell.

I'll definitely jump in on this one.

About 2/3 of the way through my freshman year of college, RIT announced they were closing one of the high-rise dorms for renovations, and the incoming freshman class was the largest ever. As such, all non-freshmen were being kicked out of the dorms. University-owned apartments were available by lottery, or we could take our chances on the local market. I opted for the campus apartments, and ended up in the only "on-campus" complex that was not part of campus - it was a solid 3 miles down the road with relatively regular bus service.

Mom and Dad talked over the summer and decided I needed a car. Who was I to argue? We went shopping on a couple consecutive weekends while I was home from the camp I worked at, and looked at a few options. Nothing was combining condition, price, and reliability the way we needed it to, until I glanced at the used-car listings for one of the local dealers.

We went down and looked at a 1990 Honda Prelude SI. We drove it. I loved it. It was at the top end of the price range my parents were willing to consider, but I had to go back to camp and left the decisions in their hands. They called me later that week and asked if I could come home after camp on Friday to pick up the car. Well, duh.

The car was awesome - black with a tan interior, sunroof, power windows, 5-speed stick, and more power than it knew what to do with. The little 2.1L I4 cranked out about 140hp but the car only weighed 2,400lb and was geared short. It would take off like a rocket if I put my foot down and could chirp second gear... Not that I'd do something like that.

That car was a dream - it handled well, cruised well, got good mileage, and was incredible in the snow. I wish it had stayed together better, but it reached the point of needing major mechanical work (both CV's were shot and would have been approaching the value of the car to replace, then my then-girlfriend's father backed into it and crunched the fender - that was the death knell) and was traded in on a newer car.

Adventures? Not many. I got punched in the face at a gas station the first night I had the car - adding a small bloodstain to the seatbelt where I bled on it. Trying to drive stickshift at night at moderately high speed while stopping a bloody nose with one hand? That's talent. ;-)

Another night coming home from college I had a jackwagon in a minivan trying to set the speed limit for the highway. I had the cruise set at about 71 (speed limit +10% is my norm on the highway) and some guy passed me, pulled in front of me, and promptly set his cruise at 67. I slowed down until I had an opening to pass and did so, then set my cruise back to 71 and kept going. A minute later he passed me again, pulled in front of me, and slowed down. Repeat a couple more times. About the third time I kept my foot down when I passed him and put a solid half-mile between us. A couple minutes go by and he repeated the act. I put more distance between us, and he did it again... or tried to.

By this time traffic was nil and the road was wide-open. When I saw him coming up beside me, I shot him the bird and blipped the gas whenever his front bumper came into view in the corner of my eye. I kept this up as we continued down the interstate, and he never got past me. I saw the sign for my exit coming up and glanced down - we were going at a speed a bit short of plaid. Whoops...

Oct 11, 2011

Kilted to Kick Cancer

The boys put together a hell of an effort and brought it some incredible prizes.

Jay is turning it up to 11 and auctioning off his prizes.

My bid is in... is yours?

Oct 10, 2011

Flinch, a case study

One of the things that I've found VERY helpful with shooting is taking video of the process and examining key parts frame-by-frame. A $100-150 point-n-shoot digital camera from Walmart can now record 720 or 1080 HD video and dump right into your laptop for immediate review. 30fps isn't quite stop motion, but it's a whole lot faster than your eye can process an entire image.

I took some video of Kay and Karl this weekend with the AR, and they both have a pretty standard flinch. Most of us have it to one degree or another, but it can be controlled with a lot of repetition and a good dose of ball'n'dummy drill.

We'll start with Karl. These four frames are from the same shot sequence, and we'll go through one by one. As always, click to embiggen:
Karl has a pretty good shooting position here. Nose is not-quite to charging handle, not dragging wood, good cheek weld, buttstock is tucked well into the shoulder... I'm not a fan of the magwell grip, but for bench shooting there's nothing terribly wrong with it.

The trigger is back, the bolt is mid-recoil (on the back-stroke), and Karl's just been tapped in the nose by the charging handle. And his eyes are closing/closed.

The rifle is at the back of its recoil stroke, the brass is ejected and the bolt is closed on the next cartridge - but Karl hasn't finished his recoil stroke yet. Full-on face-squinch... but wait, there's more!

That pop in the nose from the CH was enough to break his cheek weld. His eyes are coming back open here but his cheek is off the stock still. In any kind of precision shooting, consistency from shot to shot is the key. Losing your cheek weld (and getting smacked in the nose by your rifle) is not a consistent shooting platform.

Looks like some ball'n'dummy is in Karl's immediate future!

On to Kay:
Due to vision issues, Kay doesn't sit her nose right on the charging handle. Aside from that, this isn't a bad arrangement. An A2 stock is a hair long for her - note the position of the buttstock relative to her shoulder - but that's not something I can readily fix. (An A1 stock would be a big improvement, I think. Sadly, a carbine stock isn't legal on this rifle.)

Kay has just started the trigger pull, and her eyes are already closed...

Brass ejected, bolt is back forward, and Kay's eyes are still closed. She did, however, keep her trigger back like I taught her - so it's not all bad. It's also worth noting that the stock has slipped *up* on her shoulder by a fraction of an inch, which would have the lovely effect of throwing shots low.

Also to her credit, Kay didn't lose her cheek weld through this whole process, meaning she was riding the recoil perfectly.

If you have new shooters - or are just curious about your own form - a video camera and tripod can be a great teaching tool. It's easy to say, "You flinched." ... it's MUCH more impressive to SHOW them their flinch.

Busy Weekend

The weather flipped to Indian Summer late last week, and the weekend was fantastic - the kind of days that change this area from "generally ok" to "wonderful". Nights in the 40s and 50s, days in the 70s without a cloud in the sky. The trees have all started to change, and while we're not at peak color, it's not far off. With the wet summer we had and a couple nights of hard cold I'm optimistic for a banner year on foliage...

Given the weather forecast, and a weekend roughly aligning with MrsZ's, we took advantage of the weather.

Saturday morning I met my new shooter Kay and her son Karl at the range for a bit of playtime. Since it was finally nice out we were able to use the outdoor range, and set up zombie targets at 25m and 100m along with a couple water bottles at 100m.

We started small, after a quick review of safety rules, with my Savage MkII. As always, it performed like a champ and both Kay and Karl were knocking out quarter-size groups at 25m. We switched to 100m, which is well inside the capabilities of the rifle, and they both put a couple magazines worth of headshots into poor Zombie Bob. (For those curious, the come-up for Federal 550 bulk pack .22 is about 6MOA between 25m and 100m.)

Both of them were pretty bored with .22 by that point, so I brought out the AR. We went over the function of the rifle and then they settled right in with it. A couple boxes of .223 later, Bob was well-ventilated and Kay had knocked over the half-gallon milk jug. A few tries on the half-liter bottles were unsuccessful, though...

Last but not least, I got out my .270, showed them the difference in cartridges (with a note about the trope of "high power assault rifles") and let them have at it. My .270 is nothing to write home about; it's a budget rifle with budget glass but it can turn in respectable groups and has a not-bad trigger. Each of them put a few rounds in to Bob, then I showed them the 250m plate we have at the range. Waaaaay back there in the treeline... I smacked it one for three, then let Karl take a crack at it - that young man knocked it two out of four. One of the nice things about those mid-bore rifles is a pretty forgiving maximum point-blank; a 150m zero will give me a 4" MPBR of about 280-300m, with plenty of power for a deer anywhere in that range.

Range trip over, I dumped the guns back in the safe and grabbed lunch with MrsZ and my folks, then it was on to work at BBHIS. Nothing of note there.

Sunday morning we slept in, then wandered over to the "gun" show in a nearby county. Talk about disappointing. The web site listed it as a 350-table show, which would have been well worth the trip. It was on an indoor soccer field, and they used perhaps 1/3 of the available space for perhaps 80-100 tables. Fewer than half the tables had guns of any kind, and those were mostly field guns... bolt- and lever-action rifles, double shotguns, etc. There was one display with modern pistols; all over-priced, and a half-dozen black rifles of various flavors. ($950 for a "Delaware Machine" no-name AR, MSRP for a S&W M&P15-22, and no interest in negotiating.) Lots of milsurp of various flavors, and a LOT of Nazi-ish stuff. (MrsZ came to me after about 15-20 minutes of wandering and asked why there were so many swastikas on display.) A few tables of ammo at ridiculous prices ($10/20 Silver Bear .223). Overall, very disappointing. I'll save some pennies for the spring show in Syracuse, I think.

Sunday late afternoon I put the gable walls into the barn, so that's nearly done. It needs a few more pieces of trim work and such done, but it's weather-proofed and will stay dry for the winter. We watched a movie with dinner and headed for bed early...

And today it's back to work. I'll be working on things outside this afternoon and as many afternoons as possible while the weather holds. There's plenty of cleaning and organizing to get done; bow season starts this coming Saturday, and and and...

On the plus side, we've got a good start on getting things put up:


Oct 6, 2011

Vague ideas

After my discussions with my new shooter - particularly about not knowing where to turn for "this is how to start" instructions - there is a vague idea floating around in my head of trying to start something at the range. I suppose getting NRA RSO/Instructor creds would be a good start...

Somewhere down the road ... my own range?

Let me put on my bus drivin' hat

... and watch as the Wall Street Journal tosses the pres_ent under the bus.

What is it that Mr. Obama doesn't like about the United States—a country that sent him hurtling like an American Idol contestant from the obscurity of an Illinois Senate seat to the presidency in a mere four years?

Read the whole thing. And note that through the whole article he is referred to as "Mr. Obama," not "President O" ... interesting.

Oct 4, 2011

Damn, kids

Ambulance Driver went and started a contest/fund drive to raise money for cancers last month. And they kicked some major ass... Over eight thousand dollars. Unbelievable, and incredibly generous of all of you: the contributors, the prize donors, and the men who were confident enough in their masculinity to wander around in a kilt. (Thus called because that's what happened to the last man who called it a skirt.)

My hat is off to all of you.

Sep 26, 2011

New Shooter Followup

After I wrote the last post I pointed Kay to it and invited input - I wanted to be sure I was getting the story right. I also asked her to take a couple pictures of the targets and send them along, which she cheerfully obliged.

One of the points that I didn't include previously: Kay is pretty far down the political spectrum from most of us. In her own words, "I'm a progressive with a libertarian streak." She has an upper-tier higher education focused on the liberal arts and works in a related field. In other words, the antithesis of the stereotypical gunny... Not anti-gun, just not educated to our ways.

From her email about my blog post comes this tidbit:
The one correction I'd make is that I was NOT intimidated at Perry; I just realized quickly exactly what I didn't know (like how to load a gun, that would have been useful information, LOL). It takes an awful lot to intimidate me, a lot more than a cheerfully obnoxious Master Sergeant and a really big gun. The whole experience was fascinating; I took in everything. The people on my team were really nice, although when exchanging notes later, my son and I discovered that we had both avoided like the plague any conversations that reminded us that the people around us probably didn't think like us - like the Master Sergeant's descriptions of the Afghanis, and his animated recounting of his attempts to trap snow leopards.

(For what it's worth, I think many of us do the same thing. I have several friends who I agree with on many topics and others we just avoid like the plague. Their friendships are worth more to me than a lose-lose shouting match about beliefs.)

I do have to give Kay a lot of credit for doing this, though. Driving two states away to learn how to shoot a service rifle from the US Army Marksmanship Unit - with zero prior firearms experience - takes guts.

During our latest email exchange, this little gem really got me to thinking:

I think the shooting world is somewhat inscrutable, and if one hasn't grown up around it, it's pretty hard to figure out what to do. In fact, the way I found out about SAFS was by googling "rifle instruction," because it doesn't seem like instruction is readily accessible at the community level.

Read that again, because that is the key to success, hearts and minds, etc.

I didn't grow up around the "shooting world". I wheedled my parents into a BB gun after I'd successfully earned my rifle merit badge at scout camp one summer, and then hung up shooting for several years after high school. Plinking thereafter was self-taught and informal (tin cans in the woods), and it wasn't until I started hunting that I really started digging in. Beyond that, I can't point to any one thing that made me want to take the next step in shooting.

The vast majority of what I've learned has been self-taught, with a fair bit of help from the Appleseed program a couple years ago. I don't know it all, but I know enough to be dangerous. If I went to one of the run'n'gun schools that Tam frequents, I'd be That Guy. So be it. There's one in every class, it might as well be me!

So what point am I trying to make here? Simply this: no matter how welcoming we are - and I can't count the number of fellow bloggers who will gladly take new shooters to the range - we're still not reaching the right numbers of people. Programs like Appleseed are a great resource, but speaking as a former instructor, it's not a program for new shooters. The NRA runs training classes nationwide on a regular basis - even classes exclusively for women - but they aren't generally reaching the absolute novice either.

I want some input, kids. How do we fix this? Shooting as a culture is a mystery to outsiders. We have our own code, of grains and feet-per-second and muzzle energy and come-ups and zeroes and windage and so forth. Is it possible to run a new-shooters night at your range once a month? Once a week? Bring a bag full of .22s, a couple bricks of ammo, and a handful of willing instructors. Start small. Safety, basics, single-shot from bolt guns, short distance. Break the ice.

Maybe I'm spitballing, but I think there's potential here... and potentially a market. Something to think about...

And now, the photos that Kay sent along:

The group in the center is hers, using the Savage MkII at 50 feet with a front rest. The top left group is mine, off-hand with the Savage. The top right group is the first set she shot with the Marlin 795, and the bottom right is the second group once we discussed sight alignment a bit more. (See why I love the Savage for new shooters?)

Bob's upper half - well-ventilated. The handful of larger holes around his collar is from the Model 67 at 5 yards, single-action.

Bob's torso. Note the tiny group under his name patch, as compared to the group around the eye shown above? We figured out that the mid-grays and random-ish patterns of the face provided a less consistent aim point than the white oval of the name patch.

And a handful of rounds from the 22/45 - literally.

We should be hitting the range again this week, and we'll see what she wants to shoot! If I ask really nicely she might let me take a picture of her with a gun. Maybe. ;-)

Sep 25, 2011

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow knows...

And apparently the wife of Sleep Talkin' Man.

This one made me laugh out loud here in the office. Some things are hard to explain... but this is going on the feedlist.

Sep 24, 2011

New Shooter

It's not often I get to take a truly new shooter to the range. New York's gun laws are a bit of a headache, and a lot of gun owners are "closeted". There's no secret handshake or anything, some of us just don't talk about it.

I had been chatting with Kay a bit when she mentioned a picture I had posted, taken of me at a clay shoot a couple months ago. She asked if I had other guns and said she'd been to Camp Perry to try shooting but found it a bit overwhelming for a new shooter. (Imagine that! ARs and the National Matches overwhelming a new shooter!) The instructors there apparently did the best they could but suggested she get a .22 and some practice. We set a date and headed off to the range with several .22s along...

When I got to the range (slightly ahead of time) I opened up, turned on the lights/vents (oh did it need the vent, too... musty!), hung a basic target, opened up the rifle cases and set them aside, etc. Kay arrived a few minutes late (mediocre directions combined with a poorly-marked range) and we had a brief rundown of the safety rules.

That's when she dropped a bomb on me: she's cross-dominant. Right-handed and left-eyed. At Perry, their answer had been, "Well, you can either learn to shoot left-handed or right-eyed. Good luck." My answer wasn't much better, but she had been using iron sights at Perry, and my rifles are mostly scoped. I suggested she try shooting right-hand/right-eye with the scope and see what happens.

One of the things I've found with new shooters - particularly new female shooters - is that they don't often have a preconceived notion that they Know How To Do It. A 20-something guy coming to the range for the first time might be offended by starting with a bolt-action rifle, single-loaded, and a front rest. For Kay, it was a logical start to the process.

I brought out my MkII, dialed the scope all the way down (our indoor range is 50', 3x is more than enough magnification), and ran through the basic manual of arms. The bench at our range is at a weird height, so we found a stool for Kay to sit on, and I had her dry-fire a few times to get used to the trigger feel and how the bolt would work. We put on ear and eye protection, and I loaded one round into a magazine, and showed her how to load the rifle. She smacked the trigger, flinched, and jerked her head off the stock instantly to look for where the shot went.

Half an inch low and right - right on the edge of the X-ring. I haven't seen a grin like that in a long time, and it helped to remind me why new shooters can be so much fun.

I showed her how to load a magazine, and we used two rounds so she'd have to work the bolt between shots. Those two went a half-inch low center and a half-inch low left. My rifle is zeroed for 50yd, not 50ft, which explains that consistent half-inch low. I explained that to Kay along with a brief touch on ballistics and she got it. She kept on plinking from there and turned the center of the target into one ragged hole - the Savage is great for that.

After a few magazines like that, we started addressing form issues - trigger slap and follow-through in particular. One trick I learned from my Appleseed days to correct trigger slap and teach follow-through is to ride the shooter's finger with your own - and then hold it in place after the shot breaks. After I did that twice she was doing great on her own. Then we talked about maintaining the cheek weld. I showed her what happens when the head is moved after a shot, with a slight exaggeration of effect.

She didn't quite believe all that could affect the bullet while it was still in the barrel, but agreed to try keeping her head down... and the groups she was shooting went from 1.5" down to nickel-sized. Then she believed me. ;-)

After she'd torn out the center of the target with the Savage, we tried the Marlin 795. Again, a run down of the manual of arms, then she put a couple rounds down range ... and not one of them was even on the paper. We talked about sight alignment a little more, and determined that she had focused on the front post (good) and completely ignored the rear notch (bad). When she lined those up, she put a nice 3" group on the page. Not great, but the factory sights on the 795 are awful, and it's nowhere near the inherent accuracy of the Savage. Two magazines later, she went back to the Savage, and we swapped to a Zombie Target.

Kay asked, "Where should I shoot it?" The answer was obvious: "It's a zombie. Only head shots count."

She settled back in behind the Savage and started chewing up the eyes, then started trying other spots. A dime-size group on Bob's nametag. A quarter-size group in the "V" of his collar. And so forth.

As we ran out of time, I offered to let her try the 22/45, which she seemed a little hesitant about but was game to try. We talked about grip and stance a bit, then ran down the manual of arms, tried one shot, then a half-magazine from five yards. She did fine, putting in a 5" group at a steady pace.

With that done and her hesitation gone, I offered her the last gun I had with me - a S&W Model 67 loaded with my mouse-fart target loads. It's certainly a step up from .22, but so mild in recoil that nearly anyone can handle it. She jumped at the chance, so we looked over the revolver and I had her try dry-firing. That worked fine, but when it had live ammo in it, she wasn't able to pull the trigger through a double-action stroke and keep the sights on target. I'm not sure if she hadn't realized it when dry-firing, or if this was a mental block. We unloaded the gun and I explained single-action and had her dry fire it that way a couple times with much better results.

I put two rounds in the gun, closed the cylinder to the right chamber, and handed her the gun. She lined up her sights, cocked the hammer, and squeezed off a nice shot into the upper chest of poor Bob. Another shot and his collarbone was gone. With those two gone I asked if she wanted to go for more and she nodded enthusiastically. Six more shots, six more holes in Bob. Not bad at all for a first-time shooter.

During some of our down-time Kay was asking some really good questions. She has a pre-teen son at home, and she asked what the best way to lock up a gun was if there were kids in the house. I suggested a couple padlocks on a hard case as a minimum and pointed out that an actual gun cabinet - even one of the sheet-steel StackOn types - was far more secure. I also explained that I believe guns in the house should NEVER be a mystery or taboo topic for kids - they should be a tool like any other, and if Junior wants to see Mom's rifle, all he has to do is ask and it can come out for show and tell.

She asked if we have kids (we don't) and how I stored my guns given that only adults live in our house. Some people will scream "OpSec! Don't tell anything!" ... I am not one of those people. The best way to bring people into the shooting world is calm, rational answers, and that's what I gave: a gun that is not in use - either on the way to the range/field or being carried by me - is secured in a fire safe.

She asked what other guns I have, and THAT one I did deflect a little. Since she had shot ARs at Perry, she asked about that in particular - and I confirmed owning one. As to the others, I simply left it at, "I have a few other rifles and a couple shotguns."

When we were talking about pistols, I mentioned that I sometimes carry a revolver (which surprised her) and she asked if I had a concealed weapons permit. (I do.) She expressed some reservations about that concept and a bit about gun laws, and I pointed out that someone who has gone to the trouble and expense of getting a pistol permit in NY is, generally speaking, a very law-abiding citizen. I didn't push the issue, but I saw the wheels turning in her head.

She also asked how a .22 would cost, and I was fortunate to have the gamut along for the ride - from the bottom-end Marlin 795 at a hundred bucks, through MrsZ's 10/22 for a couple hundred, up to my Savage for several hundred. I offered to help her pick a rifle when she decides she wants one, and to go with her to a local gun shop for the process. Yes, Dick's has them, but they have a limited selection and moderately high prices; a gun shop will order anything she wants and she'll get MUCH better service.

The wheels were definitely turning and I think we have another one on the edge of becoming a citizen.

(No pics to protect Kay's privacy.)

Sep 23, 2011

Great Hunt Preparations

One of the locals who will be hunting with us on Great Hunt 2011 and I went out to the farm yesterday to hang tree stands. We got out there around 10:30 and drove out to a convenient parking spot in the pasture, hung the first stand in a known-good spot, and then started scouting for the next spot. Until...

The skies opened. Not quite torrential downpour, but it was coming down. We scrambled under a nearby evergreen and waited for it to slacken a bit, and after ten minutes of steady rain we decided to make a beeline for the truck and lunch.

We sat in the truck and dried off and watched the rain, which stopped shortly thereafter. I decided I was still hungry so I ripped open one of the MREs I stash in the truck (and they're due to get rotated out anyways). If I was starving, it probably wouldn't be as bad, but the vegetarian penne pasta with sauce was pretty awful. I ate everything else, though.

Once we'd eaten and dried off a bit we headed out to hang a few more stands. We found a nice spot with a view of a field and a bit of the creek bottom below, and hung one there. A bit of trimming opened up the view nicely, and there's LOTS of sign around the area.

We went back by the first stand on the way to the truck and trimmed the branches there - as seen here, Greg got himself a nice piece of ash:


I had a rough spot in mind for the next stand, so we drove to that end of the pasture and dragged a ladder stand into the woods. A bit of up-and-down hiking later led us to a great spot overlooking a large clearing full of goldenrod and raspberry brambles with good open woods on either side. We set up the ladder stand - a balancing act in and of itself - and headed back to the truck.

That's when we discovered that the strap for the last stand is missing. Somewhere between my garage floor and the pasture, it disappeared. So be it. I'll go hang that stand during bow season so it's set for gun season and the Great Hunt.

One other thing of note. Greg snapped this picture of me as we hiked out of one spot:

Ignore the goofy-ass grin and compare it to this one, from the NRA show in May:

Apparently this "physical labor" shtick has something to it after all...

Sep 22, 2011

Hunting season approaches

Put this one in the can. When you read it, I'm going to be at the in-laws' farm hanging tree stands for the Great Hunt 2011. I've got four stands to hang and a few locations already in mind.

In the meantime, entertain yourselves with the hunting series I wrote last year:
Part 1: Hunter Education
Part 2: The License
Part 3: The Gun
Part 4: Dress for Success
Part 5: Possibles
Part 6: Over the River and Through the Woods
Part 7: Have a Seat
Part 8: Take the Shot, Mav!
Part 9: After the Shot
Part 10: Rough Cuts
Part 11: Hang It, Slice It, Dice It

There's one part I didn't mention before:
Part 12: Whiskey


Sep 21, 2011

New header

If you're reading this from a feed, do me a favor - click on over to the actual blog. I've added - finally, after a couple years - a new header image.

I took the 22/45 and Marlin 795 to the range last night and played inside on the 50-foot line for a half-brick or so. My accuracy remains minute-of-zombie. I also tried putting the camera (Canon SX130IS) on the bench, facing straight up, and recording HD (1080) video. The new image is a still frame from that video, cropped to appropriate dimensions.

Side note: Eley Sport rimfire ammo STINKS. Not accuracy-wise - it seems to be pretty good stuff, actually, and I'll run a box through the Savage shortly to verify - but it smells. BAD. That's going to be an outdoor-only ammo for me.


I am not making light of missing children - some things shouldn't be joked about - but ... 8 children with the same name are abducted by their mother during a (apparently poorly) supervised visitation?

No, I'm not making it up.

The NYPD is searching for a mother accused of abducting her eight children, all with the same first name.
The mother, identified as 28-year-old Shanel Nadal, is accused of removing the children from Forestdale Child Agency in Queens. Nadal allegedly took the children, all named Nephra Payne, without permission Monday night.

Seriously. Speechless.

Sep 20, 2011

Prank Fail

Look, I've been a firefighter for nearly a decade. I've been through rookie pranks. Pulled a few of my own. Generally speaking the pranks done in good fun. The rookie looks a little silly, but how s/he reacts to it will flavor their career for a long time. If they're gutsy, the rookie will pull a few of their own right back.

The key to a good prank, of course, is that (A) no one gets hurt, and (B) it doesn't affect job performance. (Having to put on a dry shirt or pair of pants from a water fight is not affecting performance. Delaying response to an alarm by screwing with someone's gear is.)

All that said, this "prank" is WAY over the top, and could have gone WAY wrong:

Generally speaking, on-duty carry is not permitted in fire departments. I won't say I've never heard of it happening, but it's usually verboten. Still, firefighters as a group tend to be pretty much type-A take-the-bull-by-the-balls folks. If *one* person had been in the truck bay instead of the ready room, it wouldn't surprise me to see a rookie lying on the floor with the business end of an ax sticking out of his bean. I am still surprised that not ONE of the crew didn't try to fight back... but then again, it's easy to Monday-morning quarterback this one.

No word on whether the rookie still has a job - but I'm betting on not.

(For a few more interesting and less job-endangering ideas, try this site.)

Sep 19, 2011


Fine, Weerd. I'll play.

Pull out the knife/knives you have. Right now, immediately accessible. Take a picture. Post it.


Left to right:
ESEE Izula, Leatherman c301, Victorinox Classic AlOx, Kershaw Zing, Leatherman Core.

Yes, every single one of those is within reach at the moment. The Zing and Classic are in/on my pants, the rest are in/on my tactical man-purse.

Water Heating

We are at a bit of a crux in our home ownership. One of the negatives about our house - which we were well aware of when we bought it - was the antique water heater and furnace: they're both oil-fired.

We've had the oil tank filled a few times in the two-plus years since we bought the house, but oil is reaching all-time highs - as the gas pumps can attest. The last number I saw was $3.60/gal, meaning our 275-gallon tank would run right around a thousand dollars to top off.

Simply put, that's insane, and way outside our realm of comfort.

We can make do without the furnace - our primary heat for the winter is coal, and in the "shoulder" weeks we can use space heaters and add a sweater as necessary. Making do without hot water, however, isn't high on my list of Fun Things To Do In Winter. Thus, I'm exploring the options for replacement.

We have two options: propane or electric. A propane heater would require plumbing in an additional gas line and a new vent/chimney, not to mention the recurring propane bill - also around $4/gal at the moment. An electric heater would be more consistent in costs but has the negative of a lower "first hour rating".

Flip side: an electric heater is MUCH less expensive to install. A 50-gallon electric water heater is about $300 and I can install it in an afternoon, while a 50-gallon LP heater runs $500 - plus the cost of installation, which I am not qualified for (or comfortable doing).

And last week I discovered a third option: a heat-pump/electric hybrid water heater. GE released this about a year ago and I hadn't seen it - since I had no reason to go looking. However, what I *am* seeing looks good. Reviews have generally been positive, and it uses (nominally) about half the electricity of a standard electric heater. It does cost more initially - they're currently on sale at Lowe's for $999 - but the long-term savings look good. Even in our cellar, which is cool in the winter, it should prove a reasonable choice.

I haven't made up my mind completely, but I'm seriously considering it.

Sep 16, 2011


BobS knocks one out of the park with an epic-level fisking of an article on CNN.

I agree with the vast majority of his sentiments - while acknowledging that there are some really good teachers out there - but noted (in comments there as well) that he's writing this from the point of that rara avis: an involved and concerned parent.

Too many parents have abdicated their roles and responsibilities to the (broken) education system: before-school program, school breakfast, school, school lunch, school, after-school program, maybe athletics, drama, yearbook or other clubs, and so forth. It is not an understatement to say that a child in today's education system may spend as much as 14 hours per day in the care of educators. When I was in high school, I was on the bus at 7:10am, classes started at 8, track practice began immediately following school at 3 and went until about 5, and yearbook ran from 6:30 until 9:30 (twice a week).

That said, my parents parented me. We talked. Not a one-sided lecture from them, ignored or grunted at, but a talk. They'd ask how my day was, and ask questions as we went along. I didn't really talk to them about my relationships in high school, but then again, there weren't a lot of relationships to talk about. ;-) I knew they were always there to listen if I needed it.

They had expectations of me, and I met those expectations, or I faced consequences. Nothing so pedestrian as corporal punishment... no, my parents were the masters of disappointment. A look, a sigh, a shake of the head - that worked far better than a belt ever could have. A few teachers managed the same thing in my years at school - I wanted to please them, because I was hungry to learn, and the more I pleased them, the more I could learn.

I have a sneaking suspicion that type of teacher is a dying breed in our education system... parents, step up and fix it.

Sep 12, 2011

Not-quite Hiatus

Haven't had much of the blog muse lately. BBHIS has cut my hours back to something resembling reasonable, so I've been getting a hair more sleep and even starting to find time to do the things that need doing. We avoided the flood by about 40 miles and ten inches of rain (we got about 5" in 24 hours, an hour drive east of us ran closer to 15" in the same time period). The lawn is mostly mowed. Finishing the damn barn is the next major step, and if the weather cooperates this afternoon it should be well under way.

I did find time to head to the range for a bit this weekend, taking along the young lady I took last time and a friend of hers who was visiting. We took an assortment of hardware and burned a fair bit of ammo. Mistake on my part: I had forgotten to swap the comb on my 500 from the cheek-riser to the standard, so it was impossible to get a good cheek weld and use the beads. Of course, with deer season coming, I'll be swapping the barrel anyways, so the comb can stay as-is.

And a few pictures just because:

The 1911A1 .45: Yeah, it's a chick gun.

Me in the background, HerFriend foreground with the AR:

And Her with the AR:

Sep 11, 2011


The north tower has collapsed.

I go back to my desk, as there's nothing new to be gained from CNN.

Our call volume has gone to nearly zero as the northeast telephone system is swamped. An outgoing call can take five to ten minutes just to get a dial tone.

A coworker and I go to Applebee's for lunch. It's nearly empty and CNN is on every TV. At some point they turn off the audio and turn on their music. I ask them to turn the TV audio back on and they agree.

I spend much of the rest of the day talking to clients with little sense of geography; they ask if I can see the towers from my office, if anyone I know is/was there, etc.


Flight 93 has crashed in Shanksville, PA.

CNN is still on the loop of the south tower collapsing, but as memory serves, this is a ticker item across the bottom of the screen.


The south tower collapses.

My coworker and I had been leaning on my car in the parking lot, listening to the news on a local AM station. We dropped the cigarettes (yes, I had bummed one) and ran inside to the break room where a TV had been on CNN for a while. We arrived just in time to see the first footage of the tower collapsing.


Flight 77 has crashed into the Pentagon.

A coworker grabs me for a "smoke break" - I'm not usually a smoker but step outside with him anyways.


Flight 175 has just struck the south tower.

I'm still at work, half-watching CNN streaming (and failing miserably as their site has become wildly overloaded), and this is no longer an accident.

I keep working and trying to keep half an ear on the news.


Flight 11 has just struck the north tower.

I am sitting in my cubicle at work, taking calls from clients on the east coast and into the midwest, along with a few early-risers on the west coast. A friend IMs me something to the effect of, "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."

Quick reviews of CNN are thin on details, and I go back to work.

Sep 5, 2011

100 Sci-Fi

After a week or two of seeing this I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Here it is, NPR's "Top 100 Science Fiction Novels", with the ones I've read in bold. (30/100; acceptable I suppose.)

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange, Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Sep 1, 2011

Brain Dump

The past week or so has been a little crazy. The family at large rolled in late last week and we buried Grandpa's ashes on Saturday, followed by a memorial service at the old-folks home he lived at. (Yeah, yeah, "assisted living facility" ... it still smells of Bengay.) The service was good, positive, and some unexpected attendees were there. Grandpa's barber closed shop for the afternoon to come - he passed up income to pay respects. There aren't enough like him left in the world.

After the memorial service we all changed to human clothes and started the process of packing and sorting his apartment. A lot of it had already been done by one of Grandpa's sons (my uncle) and his wife - they did a tremendous amount of work, taking clothes to the Salvation Army, disposing of old newspapers, and the like - and labeling items that already had been claimed.

There were a few minor meltdowns along the way, and one major, but that wasn't unexpected. We finally stopped moving furniture to storage around 9, loaded a few more boxes into cars, and had dinner around 10. Sunday morning we all slept in, had a late brunch, and then dug in again.

We were really hitting the smaller stuff at this point, and making claims to things we wanted - and doing so remarkably well. There had been talk of selling Grandpa's coin collection as a lot and splitting the money; I spoke up and took that. He has some fascinating coins, and likely some valuable stuff. I cleaned out a drawer in his dresser of all sorts of small stuff - his 1930s-vintage Boy Scout rank cards, a box full of pocket knives, his daily journal from 1945-49, and so forth. Sitting in the bottom of the drawer was a bag full of 1960s JFK half-dollars, and a few loose coins - including an 1842 US penny. I'm looking forward to sorting through the rest of the collection over the coming months, and reading his journal. (Entry on the day my father was born: "Went to bed around 2 am, got up and took cab to Presby. Hosp. around 5, sat in reception until..." etc.)

Most of the family has departed, although there's a bit more furniture to move, and MrsZ and I are trying to figure out where our new stuff is going to go.

Work has been a bit ... well ... nuts. The kids are back in town, and call volume has increased commensurately. BBHIS has been crazy-busy with people outfitting dorm rooms and apartments, and contractors trying to get the last few projects in while the weather holds.

Speaking of weather ... Irene. Sounds like we dodged a bit of a bullet on this one. The track had been pretty consistently east of us, so I wasn't terribly worried; nonetheless I made sure we had full cans for the generator and tanks in the cars and picked up a few extra cases of water. We ended up with a morning of steady wind and about two inches of rain. No big deal. Out east of us, things didn't turn out so well. That said, we're doing what Yankees do - picking up the pieces and getting on with life as best we can. My thoughts are with those who have lost so much - good luck to them.

And finally, this line from Tam has been provoking much thought lately:
"Dude, where's my country?"

Tam, it's all around you. Yep, things are in rough shape. The economy sucks. Our liberties are being trampled upon left and right. But it's still America. I'm still proud to say, "I'm an American." I don't think we're past the point of no return - but it's an uphill battle and it's not going to be pretty.

Tam also writes:
Except people being interviewed are saying things like "...and then 9/11 happened...", like it was an earthquake or blizzard, and " husband died...", like he'd just had a little myocardial infarction at his desk one fine autumn day. 
That's easy: the attacks of 9/11 *are* like earthquakes and blizzards. They affect all of us, but are beyond the ability of any one individual to control, avoid, or prevent. And "my husband died" is simply trying to cope with something that is generally beyond our realm of reference. For a grieving widow, what's easier to say? "My husband died" (like he had a heart attack) or "My husband was murdered" (and either died in an jet-fuel-fed inferno, or chose to jump 90-odd stories, or rode those 90 stories down and was crushed)?

Is it self-deception? Yes. Is it acceptable? Yes. It's a coping mechanism. The person who is coping in this method knows - absolutely and unequivocally - how their loved one died. But I can't fault them for trying to find some solace in it, and perhaps making the mention of it less likely to create uncomfortable situations in conversation.
Grandpa's funeral was good, small storm, people deal.