Oct 24, 2014

Isn't this a gun blog?

Occasionally I do write about guns here... like now.

One of my acquisitions over the last several months was an Atlas Bipod. I've had a couple of the "clamps to a swivel stud" over the years and they have always felt flimsy. I found a fair deal on a gently-used Atlas with the quick-mount for a Picatinny rail, and it was off to the races. (DaddyBear or FarmDad referred to these as "car payment bipods" in chat one night. Not far off the mark: my first car payment was about 60% of what I paid for this piece of kit.)

I've mounted it on an AR and ... truth be told ... it's worth every damn penny. Swivel, cant, adjustable legs, solid rubber feet - and those are easily replaced with skis or cleats or spikes if I so desire. No, it doesn't snap into place like the Harris-style 'pods. I'm OK with that, because I don't need that. It does lock the legs into position - and has 45-degree positions for them as well.

Unfortunately, two of the rifles I wanted to mount this bipod on - my Savage MkII and Savage Model 12 - are beautiful laminate wood stocks with not a hint of rail to be found. How to fix this? Add rails, of course.

I dug out a few spare sections of bolt-on rails from a Troy Alpha handguard, and found that the backing plates are threaded 10-32. A stop at Lowe's resulted in a package of 3/4" 10-32 stainless hex cap screws, and I started on the MkII.

It comes from the factory with two front swivel studs. I removed one and used that hole to start mounting the rail section, then drilled the second one and countersunk the outside. No inletting was needed, as the stock has a pretty good channel already. End result:

I made the stop at Lowe's again for a package of 1" screws for the Model 12, screwed up my courage, and clamped the stock into my vise:
(Yes, it's an old welding glove for padding. Works like a champ.) I measured, marked, measured, drilled pilot holes, then drilled through the stock with the correct diameter bit.

The Model 12 has no relief channel in the inletting, and putting the backer plate in the existing barrel channel would likely destroy the free-float and thus the accuracy. So ... I screwed up my courage and dug out my router. Fitted with a 1/2" straight-flute bit, I started cutting away an inlet in small sections. I ended up digging in deeper than I meant to on the last pass, but there was plenty of meat for "oops" and it didn't hurt anything beyond my pride. I chose not to countersink the rail offsets on this one, so there is a slight gap between the rail and the stock... but the final result is something I'm happy with:

There are plenty of gun projects to keep me occupied over the coming months, as funds allow. I need to pick up an adjustable gas block for an AR rifle, a standard for a pistol, a couple gas tubes and muzzle devices, a lower parts kit (and maybe a better trigger), handguard, optics...

I'm starting to toy with duracoating the current rifle build into brushy camo of some kind, but not sure yet.

Stay tuned. Once in a while we'll talk guns. :-)

AR parts question

I'm pretty comfortable working on an AR. I've built *mumble* lowers and a couple uppers.

But ... can anyone explain to me why a (f'rex) Noveske-VLTOR stripped upper is worth $230, as opposed to an Anderson for $50?

Is the badge really worth that much to someone? Is there something I'm missing?

Oct 23, 2014

Budget Prepping

Bayou Renaissance Man presented us with this thought problem yesterday:

[A] reader e-mails to ask for advice.  I've condensed her query as follows:
I'm stuck with an unemployed partner and teenage kids who can't earn their own living.  We haven't been able to afford reserve supplies for an emergency, yet it's clear that even harder times are on the way.  I want to build up reserves for my family to help cope with them, so I'm selling a bunch of our stuff at garage sales and through Craigslist.  By mid-November I hope to have $2,000 to spend.  What's the best way for me to use that money?A bit of background:  she lives with her husband and two kids, a boy of 15 and a girl of 17, in a small suburban home in a Missouri city.  The local crime situation wasn't bad until recently, but it's getting worse as economic hard times bite deeper.  The family owns one older car free and clear - they sold a second, newer vehicle when they couldn't afford the monthly payments.  The mortgage on their home runs about $650 per month, which isn't too bad if both of them are earning, but for the past year her husband hasn't been able to find work.  Her income isn't enough to cover all the bills.

I've been stewing this one over in my brain since I read it, and I'm still refining it, but here's what I've come up with so far:

- She needs to make sure her financial house is in order. Eliminate as much debt as possible, starting with the credit cards. Nuke the extras. Cable? Gone. Internet? Shop around. Maybe gone. Cell phones? Kill the contracts, get prepaid basic phones from Walmart. (We have cable internet, no television service, and two iPhones on a shared plan. Total cost is over $200/mo.)

- The kids? Need jobs. Bagging groceries, flipping burgers, shoveling manure, I don't care. At 17 the daughter needs to be included in family finance discussions, and hopefully understands that she can contribute. The 15 year old? Maybe he doesn't get the big picture, but a simple, "Your school clothes are coming from Salvation Army and Walmart, anything else is on you," might be a heck of a motivator. Husband needs a job too, unless he is physically unable to work - in which case he should be on OASDI income. If he can work, there is no dishonor in digging ditches.

- I don't know what their monthly bills are, but it's time to turn the AC temp up in the summer and the heat temp down in the winter. 65-67F is fine. Add a sweatshirt and wool socks. Spend the $10-20 to get the window shrink-wrap kits as heating season approaches. Have the furnace tuned up if it hasn't been done in the last two years.

Those things alone might put a heck of a buffer in the monthly balance sheet. After that's done, we can look at the $2,000 in question and how best to use it. A lot of the comments are saying "rice and beans" ... and that's not bad advice, albeit boring and gassy. Side note: a 20-pound bag of rice will perfectly fill one dozen quart mason jars.

The woman asking the question is worried about financial hardship, not the prepper-wet-dream "TEOTWAWKI" where we all break out the colanders and gyrocopters. It's time to look not at long-term-storage preps, but daily-use stuff... so here goes.

1) Start buying "cheap" toilet paper, in bulk. ScotTissue in the 24- or 36-roll packs, 1,000 sheets per roll ... it's not as soft as Charmin' but it's a whole lot cheaper. Watch for a sale or coupons and buy two.

2) Switch as much as you can to generics/store brand. E.g., don't buy Tylenol, buy Equate (Walmart house brand) acetaminophen.

3) Buy canned goods and put them in rotation. Again, store brand. Wait for sales. Shop Aldi's. Cut down on meat and add bulk with the aforementioned rice. (Dinner tonight in our house was one chicken breast, diced and sauteed with garlic, then a jar of pasta sauce added. Simmered and served over pasta with a basic lettuce-tomato salad on the side.) Learn to cook with concentrate soups - cream of ____ makes great casseroles when mixed with some pasta, tuna, frozen vegetables, etc.

4) Cut the extras. Smoke? Start working on quitting. Drink? Cut back or quit completely. Coffee? Stop hitting Dunkin' and start brewing store-brand at home in a Melitta cone.

5) Buy meat in bulk and repackage in portions. Look for sales (the "used meat" cooler, or the ten-pound tubes of ground beef) and shop carefully.

6) Eating out/ordering in/carryout is a thing of the past.

7) Don't try to live monastically immediately. The fastest way to fail is to "splurge just this once" ... and again ... and again... (Don't ask how I know this...)

8) As you buy things for the usual rotation, buy an extra. If the shopping list (and always use a list for shopping on a budget!) calls for three cans of corn this week, change it to four and accommodate that in the budget. This is where the vast majority of that $2,000 mentioned should go.

9) Make sure ALL the routine maintenance is done on the existing car (and all household appliances). Nothing can blow a budget faster than a dead vehicle. Fluids changed on schedule, brakes inspected, tires pressured and rotated, etc. Accidents can still happen, but preventive maintenance will help.

10) Stay healthy. I know it's hard to prevent some things, but getting flu shots, a balanced diet, adequate sleep and hydration, etc; will all keep medical bills down.

11) Look in to food banks/pantries. Many don't ask about income; they assume you are being honest about needing food. There is no shame in taking help that is offered when it's needed.

A lot of the comments at BRM's post touched on home defense, including "go buy a X". I'm hoping that the woman writing has it covered already, but if not ... a suitable home defense gun and ammo could easily crush a quarter (or more) of the money she hopes to have set aside. I'm not entirely sure that's practical.

All that said ... BRM, if you can please put your reader in touch with me, being we're in the same state and all ... I'd be happy to see if I can help some. Resume polishing for the husband, I dunno ... I'm an email away.

Oct 17, 2014

Kerry said. "... If we don't adequately address this current outbreak now, then Ebola has the potential to become a scourge like HIV or polio that we will end up fighting -- all of us -- for decades."
(Via CNN.com)

No, you fuckwit, Ebola is not and will not be a scourge like HIV-AIDS.

People who catch HIV have at least some semblance of a chance at a normal life. Yes, it's going to be a contributing factor to their death someday.

Ebola kills you right the fuck now.

We may well be fighting it for decades, but only if we're unwilling to step up and make the unpleasant choices that need to be made right the fuck now.

We're having some real hard conversations around our house these days.

Oct 16, 2014


Back on 9/11/14, I posted a single picture.

I took that photo in late winter/early spring of 2002, a bare five months after our world changed forever.

Since I took that picture, I've moved a dozen times. I've held four or five different jobs. I volunteered as a firefighter. I fell in love, got married, bought a house, got a dog, sold a house, moved across the country, fell in love again, and - in hindsight - have watched myself grow up.

The one thing I have not done is return to the corner of Church and Vesey Streets.

I wasn't ready.

This past weekend I was in New York City for a friend's wedding and had a morning of downtime before the service. I decided it was time.

I took the subways down, and walked the block from Cortlandt Street over to the 9/11 Memorial.

I spent some time walking and thinking. And watching. And looking. And thinking some more.

I posted the following two pictures to my facebook account, with the caption, "The real awe is not what fell... It's what arose."

The towers were buildings. Knocking down a building is not awe-inspiring.
Freedom Tower, symbolic as it is, is not awe-inspiring.
The memorial pools are beautiful and gut-wrenching in their way, but not awe-inspiring.

No, what awes me is the spirit that is embodied in the pools and tower. On 9/11, we were forced to see the reality: we are not beloved 'round the world. And we were hurt, deeply. And we turned around and built a symbol right back up.

It doesn't matter how tall Freedom Tower is. We could have built the crudest plywood shack in the same spot and the spirit would be the same. Abraham Lincoln said it, far more eloquently than I may:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
As I walked, I saw a young girl - perhaps five or six years old - and overheard part of the conversation she was having with her father, as he tried to explain what had happened, what it meant, why it happened... He tried.

I took one other picture while I visited:
This is from the FDNY section of the South memorial; around panel S14 if memory serves. I didn't pick a name in particular, just a spot near the middle of their section.

They went up.

I cannot imagine a more fitting epitaph.

Tipping Point

I think (hope) ebola won't get any more of a toehold than it has in the US. I suspect I'm wrong. We're going to see more cases.

If some chucklehead in ISISILEIEIO decides to weaponize a handful of True Believers and send them to a hotel in $AmericanCity for a week or two, then go forth to ... Chinatown. Little Italy. The fish markets, restaurants, supermarkets, bodegas... be friendly! Shake hands! Cough and wipe your nose and handle the fruit! ... Well kids, it's going to get right sporting in these parts. (Which Clancy novel was that? "Executive Orders", I think?)

I live in suburbia now. We have a bit of victuals put back for rainy days. Enough? Hard to say. How long are we really talking? A week? Three? Ten? I don't care how big your pantry is, at some point you will reach the back of it. What then? Is the outbreak burned out? Is society still standing?

It's been a while since I read "The Stand" ... but at one point in the book, King spends a few pages rattling off the people who survived Captain Tripps ... and then died for any number of other causes. Falling down a set of stairs. Malfunctioning gun. Simple murder. And on and on.

There is a definite point where Society will stop. I've seen several reports that nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian-Dallas have been calling out in record numbers ... but haven't seen links to credible sources, either.

What happens when:
- all the trash men call out? The trash piles up, vermin multiply, and spread other diseases.
- all the linemen call out? The lights go out. In early winter.
- all the cops/firemen call out?
- all the delivery drivers/over-the-road truckers?

It doesn't have to be ALL, either. It only has to be enough to prevent the work from getting done. If three linemen show up, they can probably fix one line at a time... and when we have an early-winter ice storm, guess what? You're in for a cold and dark few months.


Going off on a tangent (which I'm good at), there's a few reasons people are Seriously Spooked about ebola. I've heard from various places and people with Letters After Their Name that I should be "more worried about the flu". More likely to $UnlikelyEvent. And so forth.

And you know what? They're not entirely wrong. I am indeed more likely to catch the flu than ebola - even though I've had a flu shot. Influenza is nothing to kid around with. It's highly transmissible, and a century ago it killed a whole lot of people. CDC treats influenza as a Biosafety Level 3 bug. ("... can cause severe to fatal disease in humans but for which treatments exist."

Ebola is a BSL4 bug. Spacesuit and special lab stuff. Severe to fatal disease, high risk of aerosolization, no known treatments. If you catch ebola, they will try to keep you comfortable, and the rest is up to you.

I'm a (relatively) healthy adult male.

If I catch influenza, I will be sick for a couple weeks. I'll have a runny nose, high fever, GIs, aches and pains and chills... I may wish I was dead. But the odds of me actually dying are pretty darn small.

If I catch ebola, I will be very sick for a couple weeks. I'll have a runny nose, high fever, GIs, aches and pains and chills... and petechiae, and hemorrhage in other fun places. I may wish I was dead ... and I'll have a pretty good chance of that wish being granted as my body's major systems shut down.

Am I worried about the flu? Sure, in the, "I just started a new job and don't want to be That Guy," sort of way.

Am I worried about ebola? You're damn right. Because our government can't find its ass with two hands and a flashlight, hospitals are making it up as they go along, and even if we cut the fatality rate in HALF thanks to first-world medicine, ONE IN THREE PEOPLE WHO CATCH IT WILL DIE.

And don't forget, we're right at the edge of the headlong dive into cold-and-flu season. Is that little ache behind your eyes just an early cold, or did you pick up something extra at the airport?

Which brings me to my final point:
If you're sick, stay the fuck home.

Oct 8, 2014


Somehow I forgot to mention this here. I was out walking the dog on Monday when my phone chirped with a new email alert. I glanced at the subject line:

eForms Application Status Change Notification

... opened it.

This is to advise you that the status of your eForms submission ... has changed to APPROVED.
With attachment... a beautiful pdf of my signed-and-stamped Form 1.

I scooted home, printed multiple copies, and slapped the upper and lower together that had been living separately for the last five weeks:

The lower is, of course, engraved by York Arms:

The barrel was also profiled/finished by York, and is a 10.1" 300BLK, with a Kaw Valley linear comp. Handguard is Diamondhead VRS-T. Stock is a Magpul MOE, grip is ERGO, and the optic is a wonderful Primary Arms MD-AD red dot on a Fortis F1 mount. The bipod is an Atlas with quick disconnect... not necessary but awful useful for bench work, and rock solid.

First range trip was today. Had some issues with handloads, particularly those using Hornady 130gr SP bullets... but then I tried some of my Nosler 125gr BTs. I think I have a cherry load that both the Pale Horse and this SBR like; I'll have to try up and down a few tenths each direction but 16.5gr of IMR 4227 looked good.

So ... I'm in a free state and my stamp collection is officially underway. :-D

Oct 6, 2014


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cooking by explosion was successful:
5-6 strips bacon, cooked and chopped, back in the pan with:
1/3lb kielbasa, diced
1/2 onion, minced
1/2lb sliced baby bella mushrooms
Cook 'til the kielbasa is browned and/or the onions are just translucent. Take off heat and set aside.

Cook 1.5lb pasta of choice. While pasta is cooking:
In a medium saucepan, melt 3T butter over medium-low heat
Add 1c. cultured buttermilk and 1c. half-n-half or milk.
Whisk in 3T corn starch and a healthy dash of pepper.
Slowly add 2lb shredded cheese of choice, whisking steadily.
Adjust consistency by adding milk/half-n-half until just creamy.

Drain pasta well. Pour the cheese sauce over it and stir.

In a deep 9x13 (3.5qt minimum):
Grease the pan lightly.
Make a layer of the bacon/onion/kielbasa/mushroom mix.
Pour the pasta and cheese over it. Don't stir, just give it a jiggle to settle.
Top with a good dash of parmesan-romano and a few tablespoons of bread crumbs.

Into the oven for 45min at 350F, or until bubbling and lightly browned.

On Interviews...

This job hunt has been ... educational, at least.

A bit ago on the bookface I commented that employers would be wise to remember that an interview is a two-way experience. (Or words to that effect.)

That was reinforced over the weekend, and I withdrew my candidacy from a potential job this morning - despite having been told I was their top choice.

I've been through the various background and physical portions of my screening for $FireDept. They're waiting on the official results of my drug screen to give me a start date, which I desperately hope is soon.

Time off is great, the bank account is fine, but I can only vacuum the rug so many times in a week before it gets old.

Oct 4, 2014

Brief range notes

MODOC range was packed today. No shock - beautiful weather and deer season is around the corner. I wanted some zen time with the .22, but it wasn't happening. Guys in the lane next to me had a new AR with a shorty barrel and 4-inch permanent "muzzle brake" loudener. Painfully so.

They spent three mags just trying to get on paper at 50yd and then 25yd before one of the ROs took them over to the pistol range for even shorter-distance work.

Ammo notes at 50yd:
Federal bulk puts in a 2" group.
Winchester Super-X will do 1.5".
CCI Tactical shot real nice, one large ragged hole and a few fliers after thirty-ish shots.

Some of those fliers are undoubtedly due to the target frame swaying a couple inches left and right in the breeze.

My beloved Savage .22 needs some serious TLC. I can't remember the last time it was detail-stripped and scrubbed, and it's showing - the bolt is sluggish to close, I had half-a-dozen light strikes across the various types of ammo, and the trigger is feeling "not right". I suspect I didn't see this during summer because whatever wax and carbon has accumulated in the action was warm enough to not be sticky. Now that it's cooler out? Bad juju.

I'll see about tearing it down in the next couple days.

Oct 2, 2014

Another York Plug

I know most everyone that reads this already knows it ... but I'm going to throw out another plug for Wally at York Arms.

He just reprofiled a monstrous barrel I had - a 24" full-bull .223 barrel - to something MUCH more reasonable (0.95 chamber-shoulder, 0.750 at the gas port, and 0.740 forward), shortened it by three inches, re-crowned, and added 1/2-28 threads...

All for a very reasonable price.