Friday, January 27, 2012

Mega Arms 2012 Project

Mega Forged Aluminum Lower Receiver
A year ago, I took interest in the idea of building another AR15 to add to my collection.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to have my Rock River Arms LAR-15 carbine custom made, and have had some fun customizing it further, but as the old saying goes, "two is one and one is none."  Besides, I want to tackle another project and use some of the knowledge I've gained to make this next gun an even better fit for me.

This is where Mega Arms comes in.  They make really good receivers and some other parts that would make a great foundation for my next AR.  I haven't really read anything bad about them, and many people tell me that their guns are second to none.  They have reasonable prices to boot.  Now, you can buy a forged lower receiver for an AR15 for next to nothing these days; my local gun shop sells their own brand for about $75.  This Mega forged 7075-T6 aluminum receiver costs about $125 and some change.  Mega isn't some fly by night operation.  They have tight quality control and use some of the best materials you can get.  Their prices are pretty reasonable.  For me, I want to build a rifle that can take a beating in the field, but not deliver a beating to my bank account in the process.

Mega Forged Aluminum Upper Receiver
While I'm not entirely sure on all particulars, I know some preliminary things that will help move this gun in the direction I plan on going.  First off, I'm going with the A4 profile on the upper receiver.  This is the same as my RRA gun, so no change there except the fact that it will also be a Mega upper receiver.  Both the forged upper and lower are 7075-T6 aluminum and anodized to a hardness of 60 Rockwell.  All of this information has been provided by Mega Arms' website.

So why not billet?  That's a good question, and aside from the obvious answer that billet is more expensive than forged components, I had to do some research to understand the benefits and detractors for both forged and billet components.  In my experience, forged components are stronger than billet components.  With my background in the auto industry and engines, I know that forged pistons are stronger than cast or billet pistons.  The holy grail of pistons are forged pistons with forged connecting rods, for they are strong.  Additionally, with proper forging, you can get strength and light weight because of how the material is compressed.  I also know that hammer forged barrels are some of the strongest in the world.  We don't see many billet barrels, and if we did, they wouldn't be on combat weapons.  Forged components are also lighter than billet, typically.  The general consensus, from what I've read is that billet is good for sport, but the gun you take to battle with you would be forged.

Mega Billet Lower Receiver
On the other hand, billet does offer some other benefits.  To start, the guns are nicer looking.  Indeed, the process of machining a gun out of a block of aluminum does lend itself to more artistic lines and adds some unique flavor to the gun.  With forged components, what you get is what you get.  You can also have the magazine wells hogged out or include things like ambidextrous safeties, enlarged trigger guards, etc.  The sky really is the limit.  Critical areas can be strengthened by adding more material.  It is said that billet guns are somewhat more accurate because they don't flex as much as forged guns.  However, when it comes to combat accuracy, MOA precision must be tempered a balance of speed, function, reliability and weight.  As forged components are inherently stronger, weigh less, and have been proven to function for years, it only makes sense to go that route.

What I want to stress is that I'm not building a race gun or a show gun.  I'm not building something that will see time only on a bench, under a cover, at the range.  This isn't going to be some safe queen that'll never get a scratch on her.  I'm building a gun that could save my life, or the lives of my family one day.  God forbid it ever has to be leveled at another human being, but should that day come, it must work.  What it looks like hardly matters at that point.

Mega Billet Upper Receiver
However, there is a sort of coolness that comes from a good looking AR15.  I will admit that the AR is a great looking black gun.  Among other things that made me switch from the FN FAL to the AR is its good looks.  Plus, lugging around 10 lbs of empty .308 rifle got annoying.

One thing I want to do is try and keep the weight down.  This is tough to do sometimes because reliability demands that the weapon be tough.  It's not always easy to accomplish being tough while being both lightweight and relatively inexpensive.  You can have two of the three things: strength, light weight, and value-pricing.  You can't have all three.  In all things, as with shooting, you have to strike the balance.

 The barrel is something I still need to figure out.  I know two things: I do not want an integrated gas block and front sight.  I have one on my RRA, and it is great, but it severely limits my ability to customize the gun, unless I take it off and get a low profile block.  This is exactly what I intend to do on the next gun; go with a low profile gas block and cover it with a rail.  Depending on how long a barrel I choose, I will either go mid length gas or go rifle length.  I have more research to do in that department.  Many say that the barrel is the heart of the gun, so I want to be careful in what barrel I choose to mount on this weapon.  It would be a shame to stick a low quality barrel on a high quality receiver set.

All in all, this is my 2012 project.  There will be periodic updates as I go.  Remember, these are only my opinions based on my experience and research.  As with anything on the internet, take what you read or see with a grain of salt.

-James

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Magpul SGA Stock and MOE Forend for Remington 870

Last year, when I bought my Remington 870 shotgun, I knew I was going to need a new stock for it.  The problem was that all the major players wanted a ton of money for it.  Recently, I rediscovered Hogue's over molded offering for the 870 at a good price point, but am still waiting to see what else becomes available.  If I may digress, I have the Hogue stock on my Winchester 1300 defender, and I love it.  Scheduled for release in the spring of 2012 is the Magpul SGA stock for the Remington 870.  This is their answer to the shotgun stock dilemma that faces Remington owners.  With this stock, you can opt for length of pull adjustments as well as cheek weld position.  Anyone running a high mounted optic will appreciate that.  I'm  pretty much dead set on irons for my 870, so the standard height may work well for me.  To adjust the height, you need to buy the optional cheek riser kit, as shown here: Cheek Riser



At first, I thought it was a pretty goofy looking stock, but after getting a good look online, I'm digging it.  There are some cool features that I think are big hits for Magpul.  For instance, the sling mount on either side of the stock is a nice touch, as is the extra bit of polymer at the base of the grip, which will help with holding and firing the weapon in a high stress environment.  Magpul claims to have a good recoil reducing butt pad.  With a MSRP of $110, it's not exactly inexpensive, but it's not out of this world either.  In my opinion, with the extra bonus features of the stock, it's good value.

Magpul has also answered a very expensive question with an economical solution.  To be released around the same time as the SGA Stock is the MOE forend.  With a MSRP of just $30, you now have the modularity you've always wanted without paying an arm and a leg for it.  What sort of modularity?  Well, it seems the only options we've had thus far are to hack something together, use clamps that never hold, or buy the Surefire grips with integrated weapon lights for $350+.  I don't know about you, but I don't have the resources to spend that much money just to get a light on my shotgun.  If that's what you like, then more power to you.  I know there are some folks that believe that if it's not a surefire, it's junk.  However, in my experience, that's just not the case.  I've enjoyed a lot of success with Streamlight's offerings, as well as some others out there.  Another digression, I'm considering an Elzetta light for my AR15.

Okay, so how do you get a light on the MOE grip?  There's no rail.  Magpul has integrated slots into the forend so you can add rail sections where needed.  For just a few bones, I can get a bit of rail mounted where it will be useful and add something like a Streamlight TLR-1s, which is the same proven light that I have mounted on my Beretta M9A1.  A TLR-1s can be purchased for under $100, and for home defense purposes, it's more than enough light.  So for under $150, you too can have an effective lighting system for your home defense shotgun.

Magpul always has good ideas, and these latest are fantastic and may just be the answer to my shotgun stock dilemma.  I'm glad I didn't spend the money sooner.

-James

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Leatherman OHT

Leatherman OHT
Just in time for my birthday this year, available this fall is the Leatherman OHT (One Hand Tool).  This 4 1/2", 9.9 oz dude features 17 different functions and boasts a wicked awesome look to boot!

Functions:


  1. Spring-action Needle nose Pliers
  2. Spring-action Regular Pliers
  3. Spring-action 154CM Replaceable Wire Cutters
  4. Spring-action 154CM Replaceable Hard-wire Cutters
  5. 420HC Knife
  6. 420HC Serrated Knife
  7. Phillips Screwdriver
  8. Small Screwdriver
  9. Medium Screwdriver
  10. Large Screwdriver
  11. Saw
  12. Strap Cutter
  13. Can Opener
  14. Bottle Opener
  15. Oxygen Tank Wrench
  16. #8-32 Cleaning Rod Attachment
  17. Integrated Lanyard Attachments


The knife, which actually sees the least amount of use on my Leatherman tools, is 420HC steel, which is decent, but I'd pay more for AUS-8, which would hold an edge better.  However, since I never hack or stab with the large knives on my tools, I can live with 420HC.

What really seals the deal for me is that black oxide type treatment over the stainless steel body.  It looks killer!  I also like the details on the main body itself.  You can see they engraved icons to show which main tool is where on each side.  I'm not sure if that adds much more function to the tool, but it looks sick!

I also like the replaceable blades on the wire cutters.  One of the reasons my old school Wave doesn't see a lot of cutting action is that the cutters are not replaceable.

As an urbanite, myself, I think the thoughtful additions of an oxygen tank wrench, strap cutter, and the spring loaded pliers are nice touches.  I'm really digging the spring loaded pliers on my new Wingman, so having them on something a bit larger, like the OHT is a definite bonus.

The cleaning rod attachment is a peculiar function.  The only other tools I recall this being on are the MUT and the Supertool 300.  Even on those, I can't quite fathom how you are supposed to clean a gun barrel with them.  If anyone knows, please comment below, as I'd be interested in learning.  All the same, I have a lot of guns, so a cleaning rod adapter is a welcomed addition.

But wait, there's more!  Not only does Leatherman intend to release an all black OHT, but they snuck a picture of a tan one on Facebook.

Tan Leatherman OHT
Oh, Leatherman, why must you torture me so?  I can't decide which one I like better.  With a MSRP of $85, I can't afford both, so I'm going to have to pick one.  The problem is that I really like them both.  One way or another, one of these dudes is going to find itself in my load out because they are just AWESOME!

-James

Stinger LED

Stinger LED
Nearly 5 years ago, when I started work in the generator business, I was in need of a good medium sized handheld flashlight to do my job.  I'm in the emergency power generation business, so oftentimes I am dispatched to job sites where there is no electricity available.  Since all power outages seem to happen at night, in the rain or snow, when it is windy outside, and essentially very miserable, the need for a good work light is paramount.  I can't do my job without a light.

I remember the brand name Streamlight from far back as I can remember.  Dad was a cop back in the 80's and he always carried a big Streamlight, held to his duty belt by a large ring.  Remember those days?  So when I first stepped foot on the Snap-On truck at my (then) new employer, I found myself face to face with a Streamlight Stinger.  This light featured a Xenon bulb that cranked out 90 lumens.  Seems dim by today's standards, but for almost 4 years, it got the job done, and it did it well.  I opted for a piggyback charger to accommodate a spare battery.

Piggyback Charger
Up until last year, I was completely satisfied with the Stinger.  It was rugged, impervious to weather, solvents, gasses, and it could take a beating.  The anodizing, after four years, had chipped off and wore down in places, giving this light a ton of character.  Though it tended to roll when placed on a flat surface, I gripped it with confidence in my hand.  I had opted for the red anodizing color because I wanted to be different.  It's not a tactical light... well not for me anyway.  With everyone carrying pseudo tactical lights around these days, I wanted something that would stand out a little more, turn a few heads, and proclaim proudly that this is a tool for the work I do.  Sadly, I lost that Stinger.  I retraced my footsteps for a week trying to find it, but I fear I left it sitting on the skid of a generator somewhere, lost forever.  I needed a replacement and fast.

Once again, I turned to my Snap-On dealer.  Though his prices are high, the payment plan is convenient and I could get a new light without having to put down any cash; I just had to make my weekly $50 payment that I normally did.  As a digression, I'm paid up, so I'm not saddled with a $200 a month payment... for now.  No longer carrying the Xenon Stinger, he offered me a newer version: the Stinger LED.  I had my options.  I could opt for the Stinger LED, which is essentially my old Stinger with a C4 LED head, or I could get the Stinger LED DS, which also included a tail-cap for thumb activation.  My dealer had to order the DS, if I wanted it, and I didn't really need the tail clicker switch.  He had a LED light on the truck, with the standard button near the head.  This is the setup I'm used to, so I opted for that.  Luckily for me, it was also anodized in a beautiful red color.

Instead of vomiting out specifications, I'll simply link you to Stinger's website here: Stinger LED

What I'd like to do is offer up my experience with carrying and using this flashlight for most of 2011.  First off, the stock photo I chose shows a hexagon anti-roll head.  That's not how mine came.  Mine came with a slightly larger head than my old Xenon Stinger and it is round.  What Streamlight did provide is a rubber slip-on hexagon piece that fits over the bezel.  This offers a bit of protection for the end of the light, which gets banged around in my back pocket as well as on equipment.  It also keeps the light from rolling around.  I put the piece on immediately after taking the light out of the box and have never looked back.

The light is somewhat heavy.  Weighing in a just over 12 ounces at almost 8 1/2" inches long, it isn't exactly compact.  However, when carried around in my left back pocket (where I normally keep it until needed), I hardly notice it.  Once, I actually walked back to my work van to get it off the charger, only to find it not there.  After wondering where it went, I remembered it was sitting right where I left it.  So, the weight really isn't an issue in the real world.  I wouldn't take this flashlight hiking with me though.  I'd take my Maglite XL200 or my 4Sevens Quark Mini123.

Speaking of chargers, I was happy to learn that the Stinger LED fits in the same piggyback charger, and uses the same battery sticks that my old Stinger used.  This is important because batteries are expensive and the piggyback certainly wasn't cheap.  While on the subject of the piggyback charger, it does just what it sounds like it does.  In the photo above, you can see the space for the light to click into.  You also see a spot for a spare battery.  It charges both the light and the spare battery simultaneously.  I also have the 12vdc cigarette lighter plug on mine, so I can charge it on the go.  It's a fast charger, so it only takes a couple hours to fully charge the batteries.  I also have a standard charger that the light came with, which uses a 120vac plug in adapter, and that is mounted to the wall in my garage, should I decide to charge the light overnight instead of draining my van's battery.  I'm glad I spent the extra coin on the piggyback.  There have been times when I've really needed that functionality, and it augmented my effectiveness as a technician when the situation was critical!

Streamlight Stinger LED in red
Streamlight claims their Stinger LED to throw 180 lumens of light.  I can't speak to the validity of this claim, but I can tell you that it is brighter than any flashlight anyone else brings to the table!  The first thing normally said when I shed light on any situation is "That's a bright light!"  As for how long the light lasts, I can't speak to actual run times because honestly, I don't put a stopwatch on my flashlight.  Additionally, much of the light work is momentary illumination or for just 30 seconds at a time during inspections or what have you.  There are times when I position the light to illuminate my work space.  That is where I notice the actual run time.  If  the battery is freshly charged, I can normally get about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of continuous run time at full brightness.  I don't mess around with lower brightness levels because 1 click on is easy and efficient.  During those weeks where I'm mostly illuminating for a few seconds or less than a minute, the light will usually last a week or so before I need to change it out.  The flashlight is regulated.  It goes on at full brightness and doesn't dim until the battery is completely discharged.  That is one of the two complaints I had about my old Xenon Stinger.  It didn't seem to be as well regulated and I didn't realize just how dim the light was until I popped in a fresh battery.  The Stinger LED definitely does a great job of keeping that critical light very bright all the way up until the very end.  When life safety power generation is at stake, this is a very important factor.  The throw on this flashlight is great.  It has a good hot spot in the middle with a gradual light dispersal around the edges.

The on/off rubber sealed clicker is positive.  With an average switch cycling of 20-30 times a day, 5 days a week (and the occasional weekend use) for nearly a year, I'd say it is a good design.  The rubber on mine still looks practically new.  What else can I say except that the click on is a solid "CLICK!"  For quick, momentary illumination, one needs only to press the button partially.  The only thing I don't like is that it is so easy to get into strobe light mode with the switch.  Two clicks and you are there.  There have been a few times I've startled myself because instead of just turning the light on, I managed to strobe.  Aside from that, however, it is a good design.  If you are a police officer, the ease of getting the flashlight to strobe may be advantageous to you.  But for my work, strobe is not necessary.  There are times when strobe is great.  The Streamlight TLR-1s, mounted to my Beretta M9A1, has a strobe function, and I train myself to use it for the simple reason that if I needed to, I could easily disorientate someone with it.

For my needs, the Streamlight Stinger LED is at the high end of value for your dollar.  By that I mean it is expensive.  In many markets, it goes for +$100.  It's not an inexpensive light by any stretch.  Normally, I have a hard time parting with triple digit amounts of dollars for a stick that throws light, but there are times when it is necessary to throw money at a lighting dilemma.  In my case, lives may depend on my ability to get a broken down generator back up and running at 3am when the weather is dismal at best.  This is an example of a situation where spending some money on a good light is a necessary evil.  This is a tool that has paid itself off over and over again by giving me an extra edge by helping me to better do my job.  You can't put a price on that kind of value.

-James

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Springfield XDS 45 ACP

Umm, DO WANT!!!



-James

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning about Photoshop


I'm learning to use Photoshop.  After learning a few small things, I've discovered that I have sort of a knack for manipulating photos.  Since we have a high quality camera in the house, I am going to start taking full advantage of its capabilities.  The above photo is an early sample.  I plan to revisit my old photograph and shoot a new set with the Beretta twins, using a better backdrop and the camera.

-James

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beretta; a tale of two pistols

Left to Right: Beretta M9A1 and 92FS
Well, I figured it's been awhile since I ranted and raved about my Beretta pistols.  If only I had more money; I'd buy a lot more of them.  You've seen the M9A1 (on the left) here before, but I don't think I've posted a picture of my stainless 92FS.

My love-affair with Beretta pistols (specifically, the 92FS platform) started back in late 2001.  After getting my new CPL in the mail (30 days after my birthday), I drove down to my favorite gun shop with my cash in hand.  In the months leading up to my 21st birthday, I had taken many opportunities to handles a lot of different pistols.  I spent some range time with various guns as well.  My favorite handling was the 92FS.  The controls are well thought out on this pistol and my long fingers had no problem with the fat grip.  I liked the mean lines of the gun and it's outstanding reputation in the military helped a lot.  Back in those days, when men were men and weren't whining about carrying around 33 ounces of blued steel, a lot of cops were rocking the 92FS.  Anyone that trained on this platform could easily manipulate, operate, and handle this weapon with ease.  The nominal recoil of the 9mm round was further attenuated due to the sheer weight of this pistol.  Fast, accurate followup shots are no problem with this beast.  I digress, however.  After looking at the Sigs, the 1911's, the Glocks, and many other offerings, I made my decision.  The stainless Beretta 92FS got the nod.  She came home with me that evening and has been my ever vigilant protector since.

I have dumped thousands of rounds out of this gun.  After the first year, I decided to embark on a yearlong torture test and fire 5,000 rounds through it with nothing more than a simple wipe down of the exterior.  The pistol got dirty, filthy, and loaded with carbon.  But in 5,000 rounds, I experienced ZERO failures with it.  Every single round that I put in the magazines fed through this monster with hell-and-back reliability.  Some days, my friends and I would perform mag dump after mag dump, pushing this pistol as hard as we could.  It got carried, soaking wet, dry as a bone, and even after all the abuse, it still worked flawlessly.  On a cold morning, January 1, 2003, I cleaned it for the first time in over 365 days.  Aside from the grip area showing some character from many hands gripping it, the gun looked brand new inside and out.  After just 30 minutes of giving it a good scrubbing with Hoppe's #9, you'd never be able to tell she had so many rounds shot through her without so much as a cleaning or lubrication.

As you've read in my many entries, I have started to carry plastic guns for my normal days.  With the purchase of the equally fine, and solid ready to rock M9A1, I've since retired ole reliable, and she enjoys a much needed pampered life, lubed up with Eezox and napping in the safe.  Occasionally, she comes out to play, but I've come to respect this gun too much to abuse it like I did that 2002-2003 year of hell.  Back then, I treated her like a whore; dumped a ton of different ammo out the barrel.  Now, she gets treated like a  queen.  I only shoot the best 9mm I can buy through her and clean her after every range trip.

It's another gun's turn to be the whipping boy.

-James

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Annual Christmas Tree Burning 2012

This is a pretty long video, but well worth the fun we had. I spent the night at a private campground with some church friends and participated in our annual Christmas tree burning. The young men go around collecting Christmas trees (mine included) from fellow churchgoers homes and take them out to a large meadow and pile them high. Then we light them off and have some fun.



-James

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ruger SR22 Pistol

For some strange reason, I check out Ruger.com every other day.  I have no idea why; it's probably an OCD thing.  However, this last week has been kind of hectic around the house, so I haven't been online as much.  Wouldn't ya know it?  I don't check Ruger's website for a few days, and they drop the Ruger SR22.

This pistol is interesting, and I am interested in getting my hands on one to see how it feels.  The gun is a double/single design with an integrated decocker built into the ambidextrous safety.

Sights on this gun are a fully adjustable rear with fixed front.  Interestingly, the rear sight blade is reversable so you can go from a 3-dot sight setup (my preferred choice) to a solid black blade in the rear.  No indication as to whether they are plastic or not, but I'll know when I get my hands on one.

The grip is removable, and Ruger will supply two grips; a regular one and one that is swelled in the back.  Shooters with large hands may appreciate the larger swell on the additional grip.  You just tug it off the frame and put the new one on.  There don't appear to be any pins to push out and replace.  That's pretty user friendly.  I just hope that the grip doesn't slide off with use.

A picatinny rail is built into the polymer frame for attachments of lights, lasers, or pistol bayonets (if that's your fancy).  The rail is a nice option.  I've noticed that flashlights help with recoil control, so a light on a gun with almost no recoil to begin with may make this gun recoil like a BB gun.  Most importantly, for people who can't handle higher recoiling pistols, they now have the option of optimizing this gun for home defense with a light or laser.

The slide is aluminum, which makes it lightweight.  Additionally, it should help the gun function properly because .22lr isn't exactly a hot round.  Rumor has it that this gun is incredibly reliable.  Ruger also says the barrel is "replaceable," which to me means I can buy one at shopruger.com if I needed to.  I won't hold my breath though.

This gun is pretty light.  At 17.5 ounces, it weighs .4 ounces more than a Ruger LC9.  Could the SR22 be an economical training gun for LC9 owners?  You decide.  Overall length is 6.4" long with a 3.5" barrel.  The max width is 1.29", as per Ruger.com.

Unfortunately, the SR22 pistol is equipped with a magazine disconnect.  No indication at this time as to whether it can be removed or not.  One advantage the MKIII pistol has over it is that you can get a MKII bushing and remove the MD completely.  Hopefully, the mag disconnect on this gun can be removed as easily as the LC9.

The good news is that this gun does not have a mailbox flag for a loaded chamber indicator.  There is a view port on the side of the barrel lug so you can see the shell and determine if the gun is loaded.  Or you can do a press check.  Either way, there is no need to modify the LCI or get a delete for it, because there is none.

Ruger ships this gun with two magazines and two types of floorplates: one flat, one with a pinky extension.  I imagine they are as easily replaced as the plates on the LCP, LC9, and SR9c.

With an MSRP of $399, this gun is in direct competion with the Walther P22 pistol, which costs about that much on the street.  It also appears as though Ruger is trying to compete with itself because the MSRP of the 22/45 is about $389; interesting.  Ruger claims that this gun is available now.  With all the hype over these guns, and the debacle that ensued in the aftermath of the LC9 roll-out, I'm skeptical as to if I could get this gun right now.  I might have to wait awhile just to look at one.

We'll see.

-James

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kobun


After a couple of days, we finally decided on a name for our new puppy.  We have named him Kobun.  It means "soldier" in Japanese.  I have to admit, I was inspired because I own a couple of Cold Steel Kobun knives.  They are neat.  This dog is part family, part guard dog, and part bundles and bundles of energy.


You may notice the leash.  We are potty training him right now, and until his crate arrives, we are tether training him.  He went from having 3 accidents on the first day to having only one since we employed this method.  After his crate arrives, he will be crate trained until he learns that he goes "potty" outside.  Once he is potty trained, he will be able to roam the house freely.  Until then, training continues.  Just so there is no doubt, we don't just leave him alone.  He has plenty of chewy toys to play with, his food (which we portion in normal intervals), his water, and we take turns keeping him company.  He is loved.

We are heading out today to get him his shots.  We hope to talk to the vet a little about some questions and concerns that my wife has, and talk about neutering.  Then Wednesday starts obedience training.  We aren't wasting any time with this dog.  All our research has led my wife and me to the conclusion that Kobun will require a lot of training and discipline if we want him to be a well-behaved dog when he grows up.  The good thing is that Akitas are smart dogs.  The breeder that we adopted him from said just 20 minutes a day is all that is really needed to reinforce the training.

We've also concluded that there is no way in hell this dog will be allowed "off leash" when we go out because of their aloof and sometimes aggressive behavior toward strangers and other dogs.  Besides, I don't need a 125 lb horse of a dog roaming freely without me being there to control him anyway.

My wife has already established her dominance over this dog.  He obeys her every command very well, and he has already learned to sit still and shake hands through positive reinforcement.  Currently, we are using a bell to teach him to let us know when he needs to go out and "potty."

We expect this first year with our dog to be a fun and demanding time, but it's just the sort of thing we need. We've developed a lot of patience from dealing with our son, who can be very crazy at times.  Plus, our daughter is turning 2 years old this month, and she's a wild one in her own right.  The nice thing about the dog is that he has taken to our kids and adores them.  He doesn't show aggression to them in any fashion; he probably thinks they are puppies too.  The dog seems to calm our kids down considerably.  Gotta love that.

We also plan on extending the existing kennel on our property and fence in the rest of the yard.  A dog run will help him to stay in the yard and protect him from passing cars and protect people who don't know about this breed of canine.

That said, I'm excited to start the new year.

-James