Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our New Puppy


Well, say hello to the newest member of our family.  This little guy is a 10 week old American Akita male.  He has beautiful coloration and he's very sweet.  He's already taken a big liking to the women of the house, especially my 2 year old daughter.

I swear, this dog is about the most chilled out puppy I have ever seen.  He's also very patient with the kids.  Even though he's only been home but a couple hours, he played with my son and daughter and whimpered a little when they had to go to bed.  He's a little cautious around me still, but that's okay.  I'm a really big and tall dude compared to all the other shorties in the house.  Besides, I'm the alpha.  As long as he understands that, no problemo!

We've been considering a dog for about a year now.  We wanted something that would be a good guard dog, but not be a constant barking SOB to piss off all our neighbors.  We also wanted something that would be good to grow up around our kids.  Lastly, I wanted a 4 legged companion for hiking around in the woods and for camping.  I think this dog will be perfect for us.

Unlike the Japanese Akita, the American variety is a larger boned, more muscular dog.  I met this pooch's father and mother, and they were both big dogs.  The dad, standing on the hind legs, is easily as tall as I am, and I'm 6'2".  They are sturdy dogs with deep bellowed barks and growls that seem to make the room rumble.  But as soon as they realized we were okay, they were sweethearts.  The dad was still a bit aloof to me, but I had only seen him for a few minutes.  The big dogs were very gentle toward our kids.

We chose this puppy because he was the most calm of the bunch.  He was also the most beautiful, in my opinion.  The others were almost irresistible as well, but this one's sort of auburn brown coat with the silver double made him too good to pass up.  It was tough though.  The breeder had some beautiful black ones and some others with cow spots and boots on their front paws.

Now, we just have to decide on a cool name for the little guy.  Until then, I'll just call him "dog."

-James

A Tale of Two Mag Pouches

I read a lot of stuff about holsters.  Most often, the discussion always leads to getting the proper holster for the gun.  I've been really lucky in that I don't have a dresser drawer full of junk holsters I don't use.  I feel that in my experience of wearing and purchasing holsters, I've made some really good choices that suit my style and preferred method of carry.  However, among all the talk about holsters, it seems that carriers for extra ammo are regarded as an afterthought.

Back in the day, when I bought my very first pistol, the venerable Beretta 92 FS, I needed a good holster.  I turned to a relatively new (at the time) company called Blade-Tech Industries.  I ended up buying an IWB kydex holster and an accompanying polymer dual magazine pouch.  This combination served me well, as I was able to carry no less than 45 rounds of ammunition on my person at all times; 46 rounds if you counted the cartridge in the pipe.  I preferred this method of carry for years.

After going back to school, I didn't carry for quite some time.  My employer didn't allow guns on the property and my school seemed to have a dim view of the prospect of its students carrying weapons on the campus.  My gun sat at home for the better part of 3 years while I chose not to carry a weapon.

After graduating college, and getting a better job elsewhere, I moved to a town that certainly had a higher crime rate than the place I previously called home.  While I have yet to experience a crime in my neighborhood, I decided that it was time to reapply for my CPL and get a new carry gun.  I am a bit thicker than I was 10 years ago.  Plus, I needed an excuse to buy a new gun.  If you read the blog, then you know I'm a fan of Ruger pistols and Crossbreed holsters.  My go-to carry gun by default is the Ruger SR9c, with the LC9 and the LCP coming up a very close second.  I've made sure that my holsters are perfect for these guns.

The problem, however, is what to do with the spare ammo.  I'm going to focus on the double stack magazine of the Ruger SR9.  I carry one spare 17rd magazine for my SR9c.  I don't carry two extras anymore because I'm confident that 28rds of 9mm are sufficient to do the job.  Besides, all that extra ammo can get tiresome after a long day, and after sustaining a lower back injury 5 years ago, I like to keep it light.

At first, I purchased a leather pouch from Tagua.  I thought the snap would be a good idea, but soon learned that it wasn't.  The weight of a loaded 17rd magazine made the snap unsnap within minutes of wearing it.  I replaced the snap with a screw and nut much like the hardware on the Crossbreed Supertuck, and converted it into a slide on belt pouch.  After a year of carry with this thing, I became sick of it.  The loop is much too large and with no way to adjust it, the dang thing always rode up on my side and slide around on my belt.  I needed a different option.

Completely forgetting about my dual mag pouch, I bought a kydex pouch from Uncle Mikes.  I like this one better, but the magazine retention is iffy and the clip doesn't seem very durable.  I carried this pouch for the last month or so to give it a chance.  While the magazine never fell out, the pouch has come off a few times, especially when getting into and out of a vehicle.  I can't have this.

I went into my favorite local gun shop, and purchased a Blade-tech single mag pouch with a tek-lok.  After initially setting the tek-lok up to my belt size, I inserted the magazine and adjusted the tensioning screws to my preferred retention.  After putting the pouch on my belt and inserting the magazine, I immediately noticed a night and day difference from the Uncle Mike's design.  This magazine pouch stays put!  The magazine retention is much better!  The tek-lok features a dual locking mechanism to keep it closed.  There is no way this puppy would come off my belt.  Polymer is tough stuff and I used the older style tek-lok for years without problems.

In the end, the Blade-Tech is the better choice.  Even if you are on a budget, you can easily justify spending a little more on the BT over the UM design.  I paid $12 plus tax for the UM design and was completely unhappy with it.  I paid $19 plus tax for the BT with the large tek-lok; money well spent in my opinion.  Superior retention and attachment to the belt make it worth every penny.

Pics and descriptions below:

Blade-Tech and Uncle Mikes side by side.  UM on the left, BT on the right.  Note the BT tension screws on it side.

Blade-Tech Tek-lok on the right with the Uncle Mike's clip on the left.

Notice the "fingers" that put tension on the magazine when inserted into the Uncle Mike's pouch.  I noted that they don't provide good retention, and seem to spring the magazine out a bit.  I was always re-seating the magazine when carrying.

Blade-Tech tension adjustment.  As you turn the screws, it presses the entire body of the pouch against the magazine.  The rubber bushings help maintain tension without the need for Loctite.

The Blade-Tech has a larger side profile, but it isn't much more.  Notice the Beretta magazine in the Uncle Mike's on the left.  If you turn the magazine pouch upside down, the Beretta magazine falls out.  Not good.

The tek-lok is much thicker than the Uncle Mike's clip.  Fortunately, the Blade-Tech only sticks out about 3/16" more because most of that tek-lok is behind your belt.  All in all, I'll take the extra 3/16" for the better retention.
-James

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Videos

These videos were made for our family to remember and enjoy.





-James

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Leatherman Wingman

Leatherman 14 Function Multi-tool
Every year, I am tasked with the difficult project of putting together a Christmas Wishlist.  It is an arduous task that normally takes me a couple of weeks to complete.  Indeed, I have a big list of wants, but how to convey that to someone else can be quite a chore.  This year, I came across a neat multi-tool from Leatherman called The Wingman.  At 7 ounces, it seems it would be a good tool to have around for most EDC work.  Two things that made me zero in on this particular design (amongst all the great offerings from Leatherman) were the closed shape and the pocket clip.  Clearly, Leatherman intended for this tool to be carried in the front pocket on a daily basis.

The shape of the tool is contoured at the ends, which makes the body index into the front right pocket of my jeans well.  The pocket clip (which isn't shown in the pic to the left, damn it) is positioned to make the tool ride perfectly.  It slips into my jeans easily and can be drawn quickly.  After drawing, it is quick to slide my fore finger down and get a two-handed grip and open the spring loaded needle nose pliers with ease.  The large blade can be easily opened one-handed with your thumb if you are careful.  The blade is partially serrated, and it is pretty sharp out of the box.  I was able to slice through some thick card stock with ease.  The knife sliced through normal printer paper like a hot knife through butter.  Made of 420HC stainless steel, it is strong enough and precise enough for the kind of normal chores you will put it to.

Tools aboard the Wingman include:

  1. Spring-loaded needle nose pliers
  2. Spring-loaded regular pliers
  3. Spring-loaded wire cutters
  4. 420HC combination knife (serrated and plain)
  5. Package opener
  6. Wood/metal file
  7. Scissors
  8. Small screwdriver
  9. Medium Screwdriver
  10. Phillips Screwdriver
  11. 1.5" ruler
  12. Bottle opener
  13. Can opener
  14. Wire stripper

The pocket clip is also removable, should you decide you don't want to use it.  But just know that if you remove it, the tool will either float around in your pocket or you will have to use a belt pouch.  I prefer the pocket clip because it's familiar to me.  From all my years carrying a knife in that location, the multi-tool is a shoe-in fit for me.

My wife went the extra mile and had my name engraved on the side of the tool body, above where it says Leatherman Wingman.  I like personalized stuff.  It makes it mine.  Besides, when you're working around a bunch of other people, having your name on the tool not only makes it easily identifiable as yours, but it helps to keep the honest people around you honest.

How I got this tool made me chuckle a bit.  On Christmas Eve, we normally open gifts at my parents house.  It's a tradition that we've had as far back as I can remember.  Christmas Eve was the night that the whole family was together to exchange gifts.  Then we got something really special that "Santa" left for Christmas morning.  It's a good tradition.  Anyway, I completely forgot about what I put on my Christmas Wishlist.  I mean, 5 weeks ago is so far in the past.  As I tore into some really thoughtful  and useful gifts, I looked over to see my father open a small box that said Leatherman on it.  As I'm a big leatherman fan, and owner (I have the original Leatherman Wave), I immediately stopped to see what he got.  He pulled out the Wingman.  In awe, I was able to get into my hot little hands and take a close look at it.  "Man, this would be so cool to have," was what I said as I fondled it.  I had completely forgotten that I put it on my wishlist.  On Christmas morning, I was at home with my wife and kids opening more gifts.  I picked up a small package that was not the right size to be a box of ammo, nor was it heavy enough to be a brick.  To my surprise, I opened the package to find the Wingman sitting inside it.  Apparently, my mother bought one for me, but my wife beat her to the punch because she ordered it with my name engraved on it.  So, my good mother, knowing my dad likes stuff like this too, decided to give the one she bought to him instead!  Now we both have one!

I already like this tool a lot.  Last night and today, I've found a lot of reasons to use many of the tools on this little bad boy.  Last night, I used my dad's to help set up his new Galco classic lite shoulder holster.  Today, I've used mine to assemble tools that I got for Christmas, remove the peksy battery covers on the kid's toys, cut open packages and tighten stuff with the pliers.  This tool really is handy for the do-it-yourselfer.

At first, I thought that the 7 ounces would be too heavy for EDC, but after carrying mine effortlessly in my pocket, I stand corrected.  7 ounces is definitely heavier than my lighter CRKT Pikes Peak knife, but I pretty much forget about the Wingman until I need it.  It is amazing how much easier it is to just whip this dude out to do a small repair or adjustment on something without having to search the house for the tool, only to find out that you've spend 30 minutes trying to find a tool you've lost somewhere.  If I had a dollar for every time I've had to stop everything and search for a tool I've lost, I'd be a rich man by now.  The irony is that I usually find it in some place that I put it so it wouldn't get lost!  With that said, the Wingman will be a great tool, and will report up on it some time from now, as I get a chance to know it better and use it.

-James

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Scope Your Mosin Nagant

Back in 2006, I was browsing the local Big 5 sporting goods store and a funny looking rifle caught my eye.  I recognized it from the movie, "Enemy At The Gates," and immediately took interest.  There were two rifles, actually.  One of them was a Mosin Nagant 91/30.  The other was the one that I bought, which is the M-38.  This is the carbine version, and it is much shorter and handier than the longer 91/30.  For $89, it was a steal.  Fast forward a few years and I eventually purchased the longer 91/30 just because some guy was selling it for $100.  The Mosin Nagant is a stout rifle.  It's crude, but it is really inexpensive.  You can buy a full size centerfire rifle in the Mosin Nagant for about $100 less than some Ruger 10/22 carbines!  The ammo for the Mosin Nagant, the venerable 7.62x54R is very inexpensive to buy in bulk, so it doesn't sting the pocketbook to plink with as much as other guns with chamber offerings in .308 WIN or 30.06 calibers.

The only drawback to most Mosin Nagants that I've seen is that you can't mount a scope atop the receiver.  It would interfere with the bolt operation.  Additionally, considering you really have to slap the bolt around to cycle it after shooting, having a scope there would not be a good idea.  The only other option is to mount the scope forward of the receiver.  But how do you do it without permanently modifying the gun?  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not some Mosin snob that balks at even the notion of restoring something or bringing the gun up to at least the late 20th century, but I do enjoy the fine lines of this odd Russian work of art, and would hate to damage it by hacking it to pieces.

Enter the Brass Stacker scope mount!


As you can see from the picture above, the Brass Stacker mount is positioned above the rear iron sights of the rifle.  All you do is remove the two retaining pins and replace them with the provided screws to attach the mount to.  Simple.  And for you guys, like me, who do not wish to permanently modify the weapon, you can go back by removing the screws and driving the old pins back in... that is if you remembered to save them and not toss them.

The Brass Stacker scope mount is an all steel design.  There are no plastic or aluminum components anywhere, making this mount as strong as the proven weapon you know you want to mount it to.  The see-through design allows you to use your iron sights even with the mount and a scope attached.  That is great because should you find yourself too close for your scope, you can easily transition back to the irons.  Plus, if your scope is damaged or loses zero, you won't be totally screwed.  Field of view with the irons will be lost, but irons are better than no irons.

Total weight for this mount with hardware and the picatinny rail is 5 ounces.  That's not too shabby for something that will need to hold up to the hellacious recoil of the Mosin Nagant.  The picatinny rail is 8 inches long, which should accommodate any scope you'd want to put on top of this weapon.  Mind you, the gun itself is only $100 or $115... or in my case, $89 (for the M-38).  The scope mount is sold by Brass Stacker for $50.  The scope you put on top probably won't be too expensive since the whole idea behind having a Mosin Nagant is to have high power accuracy on the cheap.  I've heard the Mosin Nagant referred to as the "poor man's 30.06."  If that really is your reason for having the Mosin Nagant, then this scope mount is probably for you.  But if you collect Mosin Nagant rifles just because they are cool, like I do, then this mount is for you as well.


A closer shot of the mount is shown above.  You can see the screws and nuts that replace the pins used to hold the sights in place.  The screws stick out too much for my liking, so it is something I'd definitely take a cutoff wheel to and make them fit more flush.  Plus, blue Loctite is a must in this application.  Look at the gun it is mounted to!

Sometime early in 2012, I'll be getting one of these to put on my 91/30.  When I do, I'll definitely have some stuff to say about it.  Until then, buy it and enjoy it!

Scope your Mosin!

-James

Merry Christmas


Always an adventure when it comes to my children.  I think Michael has figured out why Santa is so special, but my daughter... not so much.  Either way, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New!.

-James

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Planning The Next Phase

My wife and I were having a conversation about shooting, and as much as we both agree that shooting is fun, we hate the cost associated with shooting center-fire ammunition.  Let's face it, the cost of shooting is going up considerably.  We also agree that we both want to spend more time together at the range so we can improve our shooting skills and have fun.

Well, with family memberships at the local indoor range making attendance cheaper than paying as you go, we would be wise to invest in one.  We also want to be able to just go and pop off some rounds as often as every week instead of every couple of months.  However, we know that doing that with 9mm or even 38 special would bankrupt us really fast.  So, the solution is simple.

Get a .22 pistol.  Even better, get two of them.

I know that I may be going over ground I've already covered with this topic, but it bears repeating.  The ability to train with your handgun (or one similar to it) on the cheap will encourage more trigger time because the cost of shooting a 500rd brick of .22lr is about the same as a 50rd box of 38's or even a 20rd box of self-defense 9mm ammunition.

I took the family over to one of my local sporting goods stores and we looked at a few .22 pistols side by side.  I was interested in two particular guns: the Ruger LCR (now in .22lr) and the Ruger 22/45 target.

 First off, let's talk about the newest addition to the .22lr line up at Ruger.com.  This is the Ruger LCR.  It features a lot of go-fast technology, like a monolithic polymer frame, stainless steel barrel sleeve, stainless steel cylinder, friction reducing cam, fire controls that are completely contained, and Hogue Tamer grips.  I like all these features separately, but unfortunately, I just can't like the gun.  It's cool.  Don't get me wrong.  I really like how it looks, how lightweight it is, and I love the technological advances that went into it, but it just isn't for me.  The reason is because I can't naturally point it.  For some reason, when I punch it out, the front sight aims skyward in comparison to the other pistols I normally shoot.  I have to deliberately rotate my hands downward to get the front sight to line up in the notched rear sights.  I don't have this issue with my Ruger SP-101 with Hogue Monogrips, but I sort of did with the factory low profile setup.  I also don't think that the LCR would be appropriate as a training pistol for me because it does not emulate the feel of any other gun I own, including the SP-101.  Plus, for as much as they want for the .22lr LCR ($450), I could buy the 38spl version.  It doesn't make economical sense to me.

Enter the Ruger 22/45.  The model shown is the 22/45 Target Rimfire Pistol (TRP for short) with removable checkered cocobolo grip panels.  Since it is a target model, it features a bull barrel that is 5 1/2 inches long, adjustable sights, a smooth single action trigger, and it is an automatic - not a revolver.

So, what is so special about this gun that it steals the show when compared to the LCR?  Well, for one, it's got some heft to it.  I want something with weight.  It will not only absorb almost all the recoil from the diminutive .22lr, but it weighs almost as much as my Beretta M9A1.  Additionally, the sights are real.  There isn't a dumb notched channel and you can adjust the rear sight for windage and elevation.  As I said in my previous entry on the subject, the grip emulates the feel of more traditional semi auto pistols.  The grip angle is familiar, and when I punch this pistol out, that front sight naturally rests right between the blades on the rear sight.  I also like this version better than the models with integrated plastic grips.  This is thicker.  Oh yeah, that's better.  The fact that it is an automatic will also help training, as I can practice live magazine changes while shooting.  I can practice draws with it at the range, and just about anything I can do with my self defense or go to war (GTW) pistols.  The thing is that since it is a .22lr, I can do all my training for far less.  I do hate the magazine disconnect in this variation, but I can deal with it.  It's not a self defense gun so I'm not worried about the gun not firing without a magazine in a self defense situation.  This gun is a trainer.  It's good for me, my wife, and for my children when they get older.  Plus, at only $307, it makes economical sense.  500rds of .22lr is about $18, where 50rds of 9mm is about $15.  To shoot 500rds of 9mm, I'd have to spend $150 on ammo, which is half the cost of this gun.  Take this weapon out and dump 250rds a week and it will pay for itself in a couple months, including ammo.  That's value.

Of course, my wife doesn't want to shoot my gun.  And quite frankly, I don't want to take turns with her.  Heck, I want to shoot!  So, she is going to get something ideally suited for her little hands.

Since my wife's criteria for guns includes the cute factor, she's dead set on buying a pink pistol.  She knows it will cost more, but it's her money, and she can spend it how she feels.  While we were at the local store, she handled the Walther P22 and loved the feel in her hands.  It points naturally for her, and in her words, "It is like it was designed for my hands."

She is excited about this.  She's been wanting to really get into pistols, but her current lineup isn't conducive to shooting very often.  She does has a New Heritage Rough Rider in .22lr, and a Beretta 21a Inox, also chambered in .22lr.  Both are nice guns, but the NH revolver is an army style single action.  It's more of a novelty gun than a self defense gun or even a trainer for self defense.  The Beretta, as cool as it is, is sort of finicky and the sights really aren't ideal for a trainer.  She originally bought that gun because she wanted something that resembled my Beretta 92FS Inox, but in a smaller package.

Eventually, she may begin concealed carry, and even though the .22lr doesn't have a reputation for being able to kill or disable an attacker, there are a lot of dead people that have been killed by the .22lr that could debate that.  Plus, I'd rather she have 10rds that she could put down on target quickly and accurately rather than shooting something she can't handle.  And as her comfort with pistols grows, so will her confidence and skill.  Maybe, some time down the road, she will upgrade to something like a 9mm or even a 380 out of a medium gun, but for now, I'm satisfied to have her shoot .22lr and work on her proficiency rather than get into a contest of who can shoot the largest gun.  Clearly she can handle a large gun.  You ever see a 5ft tall, 100 lb woman shoot a 454?  Watch the video below and then you'll be able to say you have.



So, I know this entry is running long, but I had a lot of things to get out there so they don't bottle up in my brain anymore.  Stay tuned because I think this joint venture is going to happen very soon in 2012.

-James

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Apocalypse Gear Knife Sheath

Back in February of 2011, I purchased a new survival knife for back country carry.  I wanted to treat myself, so I bought the very tough [and expensive] Fallkniven A1.  The knife itself is quite awesome.  It can baton wood as if it was going through a stick of butter, yet still shave the hairs off my forearm without irritation.  It's a workhorse of a knife.

The problem was the sheath that came with it.  It was a simple plastic thing with a piece of nylon webbing for a belt loop.  I've always been highly disappointed with the sheath that is normally shipped with the knife it is supposed to protect.  You would think that a company that retails their knife for $200 would invest some effort to putting together a sheath that would appropriately compliment the blade.

Well, after thinking about it, I decided I wanted to get a new sheath that would do the knife some justice.  I wanted something that would protect the knife, be easy to access and carry, and also look good.  After all, what's the point of having a really nice looking knife with a junky looking sheath?

After a little research, I found Apocalypse Gear, a local maker of high quality kydex sheaths.  Buying locally was important to me on this because there are so many makers out there that there really wasn't any reason not to.  

After a few email exchanges, I decided on what I was looking for, how I wanted it optioned, and had a price.  I paid $60 for my setup, but prices may vary due to the economy, so don't take my cost as gospel.  However, you can take the quality of this sheath to the bank!  What a fantastic piece!  

Along one side, rivets provide not only retention and strength, but give a place to either wrap para-cord, or secure it to your pack or leg.  The material used is a thick kydex that provides strength and protection from the elements, and won't expand or contract, or dry out from getting wet.  At the top of the sheath, a thumb push off has been thoughtfully placed, allowing a good draw of the blade.  The sheath is formed so that there is positive retention of the knife, so it will not fall out, even if carried upside down.

I opted to get a leather belt loop on my sheath as well as a large tek-lok.  This gives me a few options for carry.  When out using the knife, I prefer the carry the knife higher on my torso with the tek-lok attached to my belt.  But for packpacking, using the leather belt loop at the top is ideal because the knife will ride lower on my thigh, thus not interfering with my pack's waist belt.  Both the tek-lok and the belt loop can easily be removed, but the sheath is well contoured and doesn't require this for carry.  You can also remove a component if it becomes damaged and replace just that piece at a nominal cost instead of replacing the entire sheath.  Smart!  

The bottom of the sheath has a small drain hole so it will not hold water; this is an important consideration in the Pacific Northwest.  The rest of the sheath, along the knife's edge is firmly held tight and the quality of the finish work is fantastic.  The sheath, with the belt loop and tek-lok, weigh only a few ounces, so it's not a ton of additional weight to carry around.

Apocalypse Gear can create any custom sheath for you in a vast array of colors, for seemingly any blade.  If they do not have the knife you need, you can send your knife to them and they will custom make the sheath for your blade.  I was lucky, and the owner was able to make mine without the need for me to send him mine.  

You can also get a holder to hold a fire starter, and a pouch to carry your whet stone.  I opted not for these options at the time of purchase, but will probably get the firesteel holder later on.

I've carried this knife in the sheath and it is very comfortable.  I'm used to carrying pistols that weigh a lot more than my knife/sheath combination, so the weight of my knife and sheath don't bother me at all.  I have no problems drawing when carrying and no problems putting the knife back into the sheath when I'm done using it.  It's all one-handed, leaving me a free hand for whatever I'm doing.  

If you have a good knife, but have been disappointed in the sheath, as I was, I'd suggest giving Apocalypse Gear a shot.  You won't be disappointed.


-James

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

300 AAC Blackout

Finally, this is the answer to my 30 caliber prayers for the AR15. The 300 AAC blackout. It seems that all you have to change is the barrel. Everything else, including the bolt carrier, handguards, buffer, upper, lower, and even the magazines (including the followers) stays the same as the 5.56 version! I will be watching this one to see if the price goes down and to see the longevity of the rifles with this.



-James