Monday, October 31, 2011

Dismissed

Today, I took time off work to head in to traffic court.  Yes, they had finally sent me a court date, long after the ticket I received, which was July 5, 2011.  I had plenty of time to prepare and research, and discovered that the RCW cited by the police officer was the wrong one.  I don't recall the RCW number exactly, but it covered right of way at an uncontrolled intersection - not a u-turn.

After 45 minutes of sitting in the courtroom, watching moron after moron dispute violations like driving with no insurance, licenses, talking on cellphones, and even someone arguing that they admitted they were speeding, but that they were doing a legal maneuver to get over onto a freeway on ramp at the last minute... and plenty of face palms, it was my turn.

The judge called my name, rattled off the case number and the violation cited.  I gave the judge plenty of time to read the police report and so forth, and I could see he looked a little perplexed.  He looked at me and said, "Do you have a statement to make regarding this?"

"Yes sir, I do." was my reply.  I gave him the reader's digest version of what happened, (reference my entry titled My Ramcharger Has a Broken Leg).  I then pointed out that I researched the RCW in which the officer cited me for, and stated that it does not apply to this case.  The judge pulled out the big book of RCW's and took a look.  He then looked at me, stamped my docket, and said, "It appears the officer cited the wrong RCW for this ticket, and as a result, I am dismissing it."

"Thank you, your Honor" was my reply.

Dismissed!

Ha!

Suck it!

-James

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two New Items on the Testing Bench

I'm knee deep in the torture testing phase of my Streamlight Scorpion X.  I'll post all my findings in another entry, but my initial reason for buying the light was to use as a weapon light for my AR15.  At $50, it seems to beat an expensive Surefire any day, but the verdict is still out on whether or not it will stand up to the abuse of being mounted on a bullet hose like an AR15.

Well in order to do this, I needed to buy a weapon light mount.  I considered all my options, and since this is preliminary testing of this light, I didn't want to spend upwards of $100 on a light mount.  I'm not taking the gun to combat - I'm simply testing the light.  What chassis is used to fix the light to the gun is not important at this point.  However...

Viking Tactics produce a quality piece of gear here, and at $30 shipped, it's a good price.  Initially speaking, the mount is very stout, especially being that it is plastic.  I know a lot of guys out there will give me shit for buying a plastic mount instead of metal, and they'll toss out all kinds of cliches and stuff like "You pay more for a reason" and "if you want to trust your life with it, you'd better buy something of higher quality like [insert expensive brand name mount here]!"

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter how much an item costs.  What matters is: does it work?  If it works well, then who cares if it didn't cost a ton of money, or have Daniel Defense or Troy or whoever's name etched on the side?  The bad guy sure won't know, nor do I think he will care once I "light him up," if ya know what I mean.  Besides, if plastic is a deal breaker for you, then you'd better consider selling your AR15 all together.  Last time I checked, the stock, grip, PMAG's, and even some people's BUIS are plastic.

I didn't buy the light mount with any intention of trusting my life with it.  It's just a vehicle to test various flash lights to see what one I want to run.  However, since I'm testing lights with this mount, I might as well evaluate this mount.


One thing I can say about the VTAC mount is I really like how close it keeps the flashlight body to the weapon.  It doesn't stick out a mile.  It looks really slick.  You'll have to pardon the use of tape to shim the flashlight.  Viking Tactics includes a shim that allows you to switch from 1" diameter flashlight bodies to .80" but the Scorpion's body is .90" in diameter.  Go figure.

Stay tuned.

-James

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Pumpkin Patch

Today, we were fortunate to have a warm and somewhat dry day to get our children out to the pumpkin patch down at Spooner Farms, near Orting. Here's our kids doing what they do best - getting dirty!



-James

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maglite XL200 LED

Last August, I was cruising the Internet and just happened on a sale from CHIEF regarding a new flashlight offering from Maglite. It was their new XL200 LED light. It boasts 172 lumen's, and was on sale for $30, so I took interest. Noticing they had free shipping for this unit, I decided to click add-to-cart, and the rest was history. After waiting for what seemed like a long while (hey, it was free shipping after all), my light showed up to my doorstep. It was packaged in that usual sort of plastic packaging that seems to take way too much effort to open... that is until you remember to use a pair of scissors. The instruction manual was part of the packaging, so I did manage to snip a section of that off as I got into the package; no worries since the part I removed was written in French.

I took a good look at what came. The light itself has a nice sturdy aluminum body with Maglite's famous anodized coating on it. There was a battery tray that holds 3 AAA batteries. At first I thought it was a joke. How do you get 172 lumen's from just 3 AAA batteries? Most of my other lights use expensive CR123a batteries and they just suck the life out of them in no time! But Maglite insists that their new competitor can hang with the other guys.

Now, this light is not marketed as a "tactical light" per se. But I do think offers some features that all good flashlights ought to have standard these days. Before I go any further, I must put out the disclaimer that I'm by no means an expert on lights, nor can I verify the claim that this light can put out 172 lumen's. All I know is that when I click the switch on the tail cap, the light is very bright... well for a while anyway. That being said, I'm not going to bore you with technical specifics and a bunch of jargon. I won't whip out the light meter or a voltmeter to check current draw or any of that crap. That shit is all fine and well in the lab, but in the real world, what matter's is: does it work?!

Okay, let's talk about some of the stuff I think any flashlight coming out today should have:

1. Sturdy Housing. I hate plastic flashlights. For my money, nothing screams quality like something crafted out of aluminum. Aluminum doesn't rust, so even if the anodizing chips away and breaks off, the metal exposed beneath won't corrode as easily as steel would. Of course, aluminum does oxidize, but I've never seen it rust.

2. Water Resistant/Proof. Not all flashlights need be completely waterproof unless you plan on taking it diving, but at the very least, it should be able to withstand a quick dunk in a puddle or stream unaffected. It should, however, be weather proof, and by that I mean that you should be able to use it in all kinds of sloppy wet or snowy weather without it being affected in any way. The seals should be sufficient enough to protect it.

3. Chemical Resistant. Contact with everyday chemicals should not affect the flashlight negatively. With exception to the lens (which may fog if it comes in contact with something like Brakeleen), the seals and power switches should not be adversely affected by contact with skin, sweat, salt, motor oil, coolant, cleaners, etc. In my business, any light that would be affected by this is junk.

4. Good Battery Life. This is hard for high energy, high output lights to accomplish these days. Even the most expensive lights can burn through a set of CR123a batteries in just a few hours - even less if the brightness is at full power. On that note, any light that can operate brightly on less expensive, common batteries, like AA and AAA is at an advantage, even if that means sacrificing some light output.

5. Bright light/good reflector/good throw. Of course, any light can be bright, but I've noticed that some lights have really bad bulbs, reflectors, and on some LED lights, the LED light gets washed out further away. I've seen it with standard bulbs, krypton bulbs, LED's, etc. If your incredibly bright light can't throw it out where it is useful, what good is it?

6. Tail Stand. This is often overlooked, but it is so important to me. The ability for a light to tail stand makes it very useful for use when you can use the reflection of the light to help illuminate an area. As a wilderness light, or utility light, it is very important that it can stand on its tail and provide enough light for you to work hands free.

7. Stays Put. Round bodies make a flashlight roll. If you can add knurling, or machine in flats, or even add a rubberized cap over the bezel to keep the flashlight from rolling away, then that is a very good thing. Flashlights that don't stay put can get very annoying.

8. Size. Depending on the application, this may vary. But a good wilderness or utility flashlight should be pretty small. If I can put it in my chest pocket and forget about it until I need it, then that is compact. a flashlight I can stick in my back pants pocket and pretty much forget about until I need it is also compact enough to be useful. Of course, larger applications may call for a larger light. While my 4Sevens Micro123 blasts out over 170 lumen's and is the size of a film canister, my dim (by comparison) 4D Maglite LED lasts a lot longer, and can be used for self defense. Size matters, but size necessity is determined by how it will be used.

9. Ruggedness. I know this sounds like it should belong under the sturdy housing part of this list, and you are probably right. But I've seen some lights that look tough, but fall flat when it comes to internals. How much shock the internals can take is important because I don't know about you, but I do drop my flashlights from time to time.

10. Value. Value is going to ultimately be determined by the customer who bought the light. Paying an excessive amount of money for a light just because of the brand is not value - it's dumb. Getting something that works that doesn't cost an arm and a leg is value.

Okay, we have our list: 10 things that I use to see how well a light will measure up. Of course, your list may vary, but I use a flashlight everyday for my job, and I depend on them a great deal out in the woods and around the house. I may not be up on technical jargon, but I know what works and what doesn't. I also know that if a light doesn't get the job done, it gets relegated to becoming a teething toy for my son, or a baton to be tossed and twirled around by my baby girl. Well, on that note, some of my testing is done that way. Give it to a toddler. They will find its weakness soon enough.

There is only one gripe I have about the XL200; it's a roller. Yes, it has some knurling, which provides some traction while holding and operating, but if you lay it on its side, you will find out if your floor is level or not. This really sucks when you want to orientate the light to point at something you are working on when you need two hands to do the work. What Maglite needs to either do to fix this problem, or at least mitigate it, is to either machine in some flats so it doesn't roll, or do what Streamlight did and that is to have an optional rubber cap to put over the bezel that has flats built in to it. It just needs a little something to keep it from rolling away from you. Heck, even a pocket clip would be a vast improvement over the current design!

The light itself is exceptionally bright.  For something that operates on 3 AAA batteries, this is truly something special.  Maglite claims 2 1/2 hours of continuous light at maximum brightness.  For my work, with a lot of momentary usage, mixed with times where I need the light for 10-15 minutes at a time at varying output levels, I was able to get the batteries to last to acceptable levels of output for about 3 1/2 weeks of real world use.  That's not bad when you consider that my older Snap-On LED, which ran on two CR123a batteries lasted only a few days!  That light has since been retired due to the fact it went through batteries like a rabid wolverine in a hen house.  However, the endurance of this little Maglite is indeed impressive for the kind of work I do.  I suspect that continuous night usage, while camping or fixing your car on the side of the road, may yield different results.  In that case, extra batteries should be on hand - just in case (note: You should always have spare batteries, duh!).  But let's be honest here.  AAA batteries aren't exactly rare, nor are they very expensive.  I recently bought one of those large 40ct packs of Duracell AAA batteries at Costco for only about a tenth of a cent more per battery than the AA batteries turned out to be.  Now, if AA battery prices are your benchmark, then you can easily say that the AAA batteries compete pretty well.  The downside is that this unit requires 3 AAA batteries whereas other mini Maglites may need only two AA batteries.  But the cost benefit tips in favor of the XL200 in my opinion due to the better light quality of this powerhouse.  It throws a nice solid and consistent beam of light.

To the right, you can see a picture that I took of the hotel room I'm staying in for the next few days.  I know, it's kind of a dive, but I can't do anything about the accommodations that my company is willing to pay for.  That beam of light, reflecting off the door is approximately 25 feet away, and even though the camera doesn't pic it up, the room was actually pretty well lit; well enough that I had no trouble reading the words on the clipboard attached to the door.  A Maglite that takes 2 AA batteries would not stand a chance against this light.  In the pic, I used fresh AAA batteries out of the package that are good if used by 2017.  For a small light that fits in palm of your hand, I'd say that is exceptional.  At $50, I'd say that is a ton of value for the money.  When you factor in the low cost of usage from the small, readily available, and relatively inexpensive AAA batteries it uses, I'd say you have more than enough value to justify the up front expensive of this unit.

It's gets better too.  The tailcap switch is recessed into the back of the body so that while you can click it on and off with your thumb, it can still tail stand, which I find extremely important.  If say, for instance, the power goes out for a few hours.  You can turn this unit on and set it up on the coffee table and it will do an exceptional job of illuminating the entire room enough so that you can see and get around, even perform tasks in the dark, all without having to ever pick up the flashlight.  I would demonstrate this in a photograph, but unfortunately, the camera in my Samsung Galaxy Tab isn't that great.  Needless to say, if you doubt me, buy one for yourself and see how well it works.  It works the best when you have a nice high ceiling that is painted white; it illuminates a room like that very well.  Additionally, I never set a flashlight down on its lens.  I've accidentally left flashlights on and didn't notice until the lens melted away or cracked; that really sucks.  So, for me, it's either stored with the lens up or lying down on its side.

As for sturdiness, I can say this light is pretty tough.  Though I haven't dropped it from a building, or from a bridge, I have dropped it several times - some by accident and some on purpose.  I did toss it across a room a few times and it has even taken a dunk in a toilet bowl (by accident of course), and it seems to work just fine.  I've kicked it around, and have subjected it to chemicals like oil, grease, coolant, cleaners, diesel fuel, and other gases that I probably shouldn't have inhaled.  The seals look great; no problems there.  The lens has a good little scratch from something, but it doesn't distort the light beam at all.  Aside from a few small nicks and chips around the bezel and the tail cap, this light looks to be in good shape, appearance-wise.  Besides, a few nicks here and there add character to the light and give it a story to tell; that is, if it could tell a story.

I've saved the functionality of this light for last.  By now, if you are still reading, you are probably intrigued enough to go on.  While all these nifty features aren't as important, they are still cool, if you are into that sort of thing.  The light employs 5 functions and a lockout.  The lockout renders the light inoperable so that there is no chance of a negligent light discharge until it is unlocked.  I will list the other 5 functions in order of how many clicks it takes to select them:

1 click: Full power on.  However, the tailcap has an accelerometer built in, so if you hold the switch down, and then rotate the flashlight body in your hand, you can vary the brightness level from high to low.  It also remembers this setting until you remove the batteries.

2 clicks: Strobe.  As with the full power on mode, if you click it twice and then hold it, you can vary strobe speed.  This may come in handy if you need it to signal, but don't need it to cause the recipient to have a seizure.  Or you can keep it fast to disorientate an attacker or whatever.

3 clicks: Nightlight mode.  This causes the light to come on full strength (or whatever output you set it to when you turned it on originally) and then dim to an extremely low output when the light senses it is no longer moving.  Then, if it is moved suddenly, it goes back to full or preset power.

4 clicks: Signalling.  Simply click the button 4 times.  You don't need to hold it down.  When you rotate the body 90 degrees, it will either turn the light on or off for silent signalling.  Need to let the rebels know how the British are coming?  Easy, two flashes if by sea and one flash if by land.  Well, at least that's how they would have signalled Paul Revere if they had this Maglite then!

5 clicks: S-O-S.  Ah the good ole distress signal.  Three short flashes, followed by three long flashes, finished off with three more short flashes.  The signal repeats itself until the batteries die.  Add the fact that this light can tail stand, and you have a viable means of throwing a bright signal into the air that would be hard to miss at night.  Any wilderness light should have this function.

Will you need all this functionality with your flashlight?  Perhaps not.  I find myself using the on/off feature 99.9% of the time.  The other .1% was just function testing and showing it off to coworkers and friends.  Then again, I'm not lost in the woods, nor have I found the need to signal anyone, or use the nightlight in my tent.  But I have used functions similar to these with other flashlights, so I guess my experience with others translates over to this.  The Maglite XL200 isn't your daddy's old flashlight; it's better.

For more information on this light, check out the Maglite website.

-James

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hornady Zombie Max Ammunition!


Hornady has just introduced their new  ZOMBIE MAX ammunition... just in case.  There are seven caliber choices for this new green tipped ammunition: 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, 223 Rem, 7.62x39mm, .308 Win, and of course 12 gauge.  And why not.  Those damned zombies aren't going to kill themselves!



-James

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Face Lift!

At the beginning of this year, I got a hold of a nice tall work bench to use as the centerpiece in my gun maintenance and reloading corner.  It is a section in my basement where an oil tank used to live.  Since getting rid of my old oil burning furnace and tank, the area in this section of the basement opened up quite a bit.  After careful consideration and a few "conversations" with my wife (more like "may I pretty please?"), I got the area cleaned up and ready to turn into a work station that I could use year-round.  This is a good thing because my garage gets terribly cold in the winter, and unbearably hot in the summer.  The basement remains about 65" year round.

The only problem was that I initially set it up all wrong.  I had this old wooden entertainment center down in the basement, and wanted to re-purpose it for storing my gun-related stuff.  Plus, a couple of the spaces are perfectly sized for storing plastic bins with which to keep fired brass for my future reloading venture.  I put the entertainment center in the corner with the work bench 90 degrees to it.  At first, it was okay, but it soon became apparent that I was going to hate the arrangement.  To keep the entire shelf available, I had to locate it approximately 20" away from the corner, creating a big wasted hole, and it drove me nuts.  Plus, I soon hated having all my junk just nagging at me from my left.  Plus, there is a large air duct that I was constantly hitting my head on; at first, I didn't think it would be an issue.  Lesson learned.  Things need to change drastically.

I was not happy with having to constantly turn around to get to my tools, located behind me and to my left.  The entertainment center, now converted gun crap storage, bothered me, the pipe sucked, and the whole thing just felt claustrophobic.  Now, I'm not really one to worry about such things.  I work in confined spaces all the time.  The only difference is I get paid to crawl into spaces that are clearly not intended for humans to be in - at all.  The reloading corner was supposed to be a place to relax and get away from it all.  Hunkered in the bunker, I was supposed to be able to beat the heat during summer because the basement remains cool all year long and get away from my wife's insatiable appetite for excessive heater use during the winter because it stays cooler than upstairs in the winter.  Alas, I needed a better option.  My solution came to me last Saturday when I decided to change things up a bit.

For starters, I got the entertainment center out of the way.  Now, it lives further to the left of my work bench, which was relocated to the wall that the entertainment was living at.  I also moved the tool chest to the corner to utilize that otherwise wasted space, and create a better flow for tool access.  While I was at it, I added more daylight style lighting via 6500K heat shop lights and painted the wall behind the work bench white so the lights could work better.  Now, feeling overwhelmed with so much white, I added a little color and flair with my Spencer's Gifts "Do not feed the zombies" artwork mounted in a Wal Mart poster frame. 

As you can see in the picture to your left, I still have some more work to do.  For starters, I need to complete the paint job on the wall and perhaps pull everything away to add a final coat.  The blue Sterilite containers will be replaced with a shelf that comes up to about the level of the window above them so I can keep the work space clear of things I'm not using (like the rifle cleaning rest you see hogging up a bunch of real estate).  The floor will remain the same, but will have anti-fatigue mats where I stand, and perhaps a tall enough stool so I don't have to stand all the time while working.  That Ikea chair isn't high enough to allow me to work at the bench.  Plus, a radio of some kind might help out too.  I need to run some wires with junction boxes and a couple of light switches to tie it all in together as well.  The nice thing about that is that the extra circuit used with allow me to rewire the lighting in the entire basement, as it is only one large room.  A few more pieces of art hanging on the white walls won't hurt either (and believe me, I've got a lot of cool stuff to hang up). 

Overall, I like this arrangement much better.  The entire space opened up and I'm utilizing another otherwise useless space behind my furnace, which you can't see in the pictures.  I intend to get a metal cabinet which to store powder and stuff safely.  Since the furnace is a new model, and totally contained, it is safe.  I also have to get a carbon monoxide detector to mount in this space since it is now totally usable.  I've been spending a great deal of time down here now that I feel like I have a much bigger space.  My wife likes it too because it is streamlined and not so busy.

Anyhow, as I've said, I still have some work to do, but this is a lot of good progress in a short time.

-James

Monday, October 3, 2011

Media Silence Is Deafening About Important Gun News

From Fox News.com.

Media Silence Is Deafening About Important Gun News


By John Lott
Published September 30, 2011
FoxNews.com

Murder and violent crime rates were supposed to soar after the Supreme Court struck down gun control laws in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Politicians predicted disaster. "More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence," Washington’s Mayor Adrian Fenty warned the day the court made its decision.

Chicago’s Mayor Daley predicted that we would "go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets . . . ."
The New York Times even editorialized this month about the Supreme Court's "unwise" decision that there is a right for people "to keep guns in the home."

But Armageddon never happened. Newly released data for Chicago shows that, as in Washington, murder and gun crime rates didn't rise after the bans were eliminated -- they plummeted. They have fallen much more than the national crime rate.
Not surprisingly, the national media have been completely silent about this news.

One can only imagine the coverage if crime rates had risen. In the first six months of this year, there were 14% fewer murders in Chicago compared to the first six months of last year – back when owning handguns was illegal. It was the largest drop in Chicago’s murder rate since the handgun ban went into effect in 1982.
Meanwhile, the other four most populous cities saw a total drop at the same time of only 6 percent.
Similarly, in the year after the 2008 "Heller" decision, the murder rate fell two-and-a-half times faster in
Washington than in the rest of the country.
It also fell more than three as fast as in other cities that are close to Washington's size. And murders in
Washington have continued to fall.
If you compare the first six months of this year to the first six months of 2008, the same time immediately preceding the Supreme Court's late June "Heller" decision, murders have now fallen by thirty-four percent.

Gun crimes also fell more than non-gun crimes.
Robberies with guns fell by 25%, while robberies without guns have fallen by eight percent. Assaults with guns fell by 37%, while assaults without guns fell by 12%.

Just as with right-to-carry laws, when law-abiding citizens have guns some criminals stop carrying theirs.
The benefit could have been even greater. Getting a handgun permit in Chicago and Washington is an expensive and difficult process, meaning only the relatively wealthy go through it.

Through the end of May only 2,144 people had handguns registered in Chicago. That limits the benefits from the Supreme Court decisions since it is the poor who are the most likely victims of crime and who benefit the most from being able to protect themselves.
The biggest change for Washington was the Supreme Court striking down the law making it illegal to have a loaded gun. Over 70,000 people have permits for long guns that they can now legally used to protect themselves.

Lower crime rates in Chicago and Washington, by themselves, don’t prove that gun control increases murders, even when combined with the quite familiar story of how their murder rates soared and stayed high after the gun bans were imposed.

But these aren’t isolated examples. Around the world, whenever guns are banned, murder rates rise.
Gun control advocates explained the huge increases in murder and violent crime rates Chicago and Washington by saying that those bans weren’t fair tests unless the entire country adopted a ban.

Yet, even island nations, such as Ireland and the U.K. -- with no neighbors to blame -- have seen increases in murder rates. The same horror stories about blood in the streets have surrounded the debate over concealed handguns.
Some said it was necessary to ban guns in public places. The horror stories never came true and the data is now so obvious that as of November, only one state, Illinois, will still completely ban law-abiding from carrying concealed handguns.

Forty-one states will have either permissive right-to-carry laws or no longer even require a permit.
The regulations that still exist in Chicago and Washington primarily disarm the most likely victims of crime.
Hopefully, even the poor in these areas will soon also have more of an opportunity to defend themselves, too.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a Fox News.com contributor and the author of the revised third edition of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010)."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NRA Plans Appeal in Federal Age Limit Case

I've always believed that if you are old enough to join the military, then you are old enough to buy a handgun. Responsibility has nothing to do with age. I've known some pretty mature 18 year olds in my life. On the flipside, I still know some 30+ year old people who shouldn't be allowed to have as much as a driver's license - nevermind the handgun.

NRA-ILA :: NRA Plans Appeal in Federal Age Limit Case


Friday, September 30, 2011

Yesterday, a federal judge in
the Northern District of Texas ruled that the federal ban on dealer sales of
handguns to adults from the ages of 18 to 20 does not violate the Second
Amendment. The National Rifle Association plans to file a prompt appeal of the
court's ruling to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.


"We strongly disagree with this ruling," said Chris W. Cox,
Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. "As we
said when we filed this case, adults 18 and up have fought and died for
American freedom throughout our country's history
. They are adults for
virtually every legal purpose under federal and state law, and that should
include the ability to buy handguns from licensed dealers to defend themselves,
their homes and their families. Our fellow plaintiffs in this case are
law-abiding and responsible young adults. We plan to defend their rights
to the very end."


The case is Jennings v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives. A related case challenging Texas' ban on issuance of concealed
handgun licenses to adults in the same age group is still pending before the
same court.


-James