Saturday, March 31, 2012

Value - the .22 Factor

Value.  The dictionary defines it as relative worth, merit, or importance.  Value is something that I try to assess every time I make a purchase, conduct a trade, or invest my time, talents, and effort.  When bartering, you tend to figure out what you have is worth and compare it to what it is you are either trying to acquire or unload.  Before making a purchase, I like to research what it is I'm looking for, what it's competition is, and figure out the equivalent return on my investment will be.  My time is extremely valuable.  I make decent money.  The question I must always answer, before I drop coin on anything, is will this item be worth the time it took me to make the money necessary to buy it, and will it pay for itself in this regard?  With some items, like knives, guns, or electronics, the question can usually be answered with the affirmative.  However, there are things in this world that are hard to justify spending money on, especially in this economy.

In recent years, the cost of ammunition has gone up considerably.  I remember back in the day when you could buy 9mm ammo in a box of 50 for less than 8 bucks.  Sometimes you still can, but the average prices I see around here are between $13 and $16 respectively; that's for plinking ammo.  Forget about self defense (SD) ammunition.  That stuff typically costs at least a buck a round.  We've all known for years that buying SD ammo for practice isn't cost effective at all.  True, while it is good to practice with it occasionally to rotate your stock, ensure functionality in your weapon, and verify accuracy, it isn't a wise idea to shoot it all the time.  The return on investment doesn't justify the expense.  For a lot less money, you can shoot practice ammo, IE: full metal jack (FMJ) ammo through paper instead of high cost hollow point SD ammo.  Okay, we get that.  However, it's getting to the point where shooting FMJ practice rounds through paper is getting ridiculously expensive.

Now, will you ever hear me say that shooting the caliber you carry is a bad idea?  Never.  It is always good to shoot with your caliber of choice because it is the most accurate way of practicing that you can do.  However, you do not always have to shoot your center-fire ammo of choice in order to work on the fundamentals of shooting: grip, stance, trigger control, sight alignment, etc.  For those things, you can shoot something a lot cheaper, and a lot smaller.  Yep, you know it!  22 long rifle!

I think every household should have a 22LR chambered rifle and pistol.  Why?  Well, for starters, the ammo is dirt cheap.  I can buy a 500 round box of 22LR for $19-$20, where I might pay $19 (or more) for 50 rounds of practice 45 ACP ammunition.  As an example of this value, I have put about 1000 rounds through my Ruger 22/45, in just two trips.  If I was paying the current rate (as of Mar 31, 2012) for decent brass cased 115gr 9mm FMJ, I would have paid $300 to shoot the same number of rounds.  I only paid about $40 to shoot that many 22LR rounds out of a $300 gun.  In another 1000 rounds, this gun will completely pay for itself and start paying me back in 9mm savings over the long haul.  As it stands right now, I've about broken even with it.  The same can be said about a rifle.  You can shoot a long time with a 22LR carbine for a lot less money than shooting center-fire ammo through a more expensive weapon.

Let's talk about another part of this value equation: training.  You may have read a recent blog entry of mine where I spoke to the importance of training your wife and kids.  I'm a firm believer in teaching kids to shoot at a young age.  The problem, however, is what to teach them with.  You don't just hand a small child a .308 rifle and tell him to have at it, no.  You buy a 22LR chambered carbine with a short length of pull (LOP) that fits them, and you train them with that instead.  LOP is the measurable distance from the trigger to the end of the buttstock.  Starting a child out on a single shot, bolt action 22 is the best way to go.  When they get older and more familiar with guns, and gun handling, then going up to a repeating gun, or a semi-automatic is reasonable.  However, I'm not going to get involved in that conversation.  It is a topic for another day, perhaps when my son is old enough to shoot his own gun.

What makes a 22 special for training is the fact that the recoil is almost non-existent.  Watch this video and you will see what I'm talking about.  Oh yeah, this is my brother and me shooting a bolt action Marlin at a steel plate.


 If you watched the video, you can see a couple of things.  First off, the weapon itself is full size.  It's actually quite heavy for a 22 with the scope.  This is ideal for training adults.  The feel of the gun is substantial, despite the diminutive size of the cartridge.  

The other thing is, did you see the recoil?  No?  Well, it's there; there just isn't much of it.  Without a heavy recoil, even a 5 year old could shoot this gun.  I know from experience.  Dad taught me on an old Marlin Model 60 that he bought when I was just a baby.  It is still in our safe at home.  When my wife was just starting out, she would only shoot small caliber rimfire guns because she was afraid of the bigger boys, and with good reason.  Bigger guns have a hell of a blast.  If you are standing next to a person shooting an AR15, it feels like it is launching a freight train out of the barrel.  Being behind the trigger isn't so bad, but by standing off to the side, the shock wave it puts off, as the bullet, exits the barrel is intense.  This led my wife to believe, for a year or so, that the AR15 had massive recoil, and it wasn't until one of our friends, a man of similar height to Lindsay, showed her that it wasn't as bad as she thought it was.  Of course, she doesn't believe me because I once told her a 410 shotgun doesn't have much recoil.  Well, to be completely honest, the 410 is a powder puff compared to a 12 gauge.  But to a 5 ft tall woman, it is considerable.  You big guys need to take that into consideration before you have your petite wife shoot your 500 S&W revolver.  Getting back to the point, the 22 has almost no recoil.  The recoil impulse you do receive is nothing more than a gentle nudge on your shoulder.  This makes even the most timid shooters comfortable enough to shoot the weapon.  One thing I demonstrate to show how little recoil the gun does have is to take my Ruger 10/22, and instead of putting the buttstock to my shoulder, I rest it on my sternum.  Then I fire a couple rounds down range.  This usually convinces them that the 22 has almost no recoil.  The 22 definitely allows you to face your firearm fears without worry of being blown on your ass or having your shoulder dislocated.

What other thing did you take from the video above?  How about muzzle flash?  Muzzle flash is the unburnt powder exiting the barrel after the bullet.  Every gun has muzzle flash.  It's the nature of the beast.  Some larger guns, and weapons with more powder charge, employ a flash suppressor to keep the visual signature down.  This is especially important at night because a big blast from the end of a gun barrel will temporarily blind you, making your target disappear completely.  In a time is life situation, that could be the end of you.  However, for the purposes of training, new shooters tend to be less comfortable around guns with bigger flash signatures than experienced shooters do.  Heck, I'll admit that I've shot some pistols where the flash surprised the heck out of me.  The beauty about a 22 is the fact that there is almost no perceivable flash by the shooter themselves.  Oh sure, if you shoot at night, you might see something, but I've never seen the flash from any of my 22 rifles in broad daylight, and I've been shooting for about 26 years.

These two things, recoil and muzzle flash, were important to talk about before this next part: flinching.  Flinching occurs when your body tenses up just before the shot and you anticipate the recoil and muzzle flash.  You see it a lot on youtube and with new shooters.  You also see it with experienced shooters.  Hey, I'll be the first to raise my hand and say "yes that happens to me on occasion."  When you anticipate the recoil, you tend to brace yourself for the shot.  This is actually detrimental to accurate shooting because as your body tenses up, you actually move the gun as you fire.  You don't want that.  A lot of times, a shooter will not realize they haven't loaded a round into the gun, and when they fire, it just goes click.  Anticipating the recoil, they flinch and you can see their whole body move forward as they expect the shot to occur.  We do not want that at all.  You need to be relaxed while shooting and not anticipate the shot.  Now, we all know that the shot is about to occur.  When you squeeze the trigger, you come to that point where you know the shot is about to break.  Controlling your natural impulse to brace for that shot is what needs to be trained out of your system.  Shooting a 22 is a great way to do that because there is hardly any recoil at all.  Therefore, the need to brace for it is non-existent.  If you shoot a few thousand rounds without tensing up for the shot, you will develop muscle memory that will translate into your bigger guns, which will decrease the occurrence of flinching when you fire.  If that gun just so happens to drop the hammer on an empty chamber, a dud round, or a training snap cap, and you don't move one bit when it happens, you're doing it right.

A lot of this comes down to trigger control.  Now, there are many schools of thought on trigger control, but generally, we are looking for a straight back press of the trigger.  We are not "pulling" the trigger.  We are pressing it.  We only press with enough force to overcome the spring tension in the hammer to release the sear, causing the shot to break.  As the shot breaks, we continue to hold the trigger in the rearward position.  This is called followup.  Once the shot breaks, we then release the trigger only enough to reset and then press it to the rear again.  Up until a few years ago, I used to let my finger jump off the trigger when shooting pistols.  It was, admittedly, a bad habit that I had to overcome, and ever since I did, my trigger control and shot placement have improved greatly.  With a 22 having such a low recoil impulse, it is easier to work on this trigger control, finger placement, followup, and reset because the platform itself doesn't move nearly as much as a larger caliber weapon, be it a handgun or a rifle.  I could go on and on about trigger control, but you really ought to learn it in a different medium rather than read about it.  I'm just saying.

Sight alignment is also critical to shooting, but not as critical as trigger control.  However, for the purposes of training, you need good sight alignment to shoot.  With a 22 caliber pistol or rifle, the ability to get back on target is faster than with big bore guns, so your ability to place accurate followup shots.  How you sight in your weapon is up to you and your system, so I'm not going to harp on it any longer.


Another benefit actually comes from a detractor for shooting 22LR; reliability.  True, there are some grades of 22LR ammunition that are better than others, but in general, 22LR shoots dirty and can be failure prone in some weapons. So, how is that a benefit?  The benefit is derived from the fact that you need to clear your weapon malfunctions.  Believe it or not, malfunctions occur with more expensive guns running more expensive ammo, and it could just be my luck that when I need the weapon to save my life, it will malfunction.  Once the malfunction occurs, what do you do?  The only way to overcome a real malfunction is to experience one.  I can simulate malfunctions on many of my guns, so I can also train in a controlled environment, but what better way to learn to overcome and adapt than when it you're doing it live and unexpectedly?  Talk about a glass half full approach to weapon failures.

The ability for a 22 caliber gun to help you establish good shooting habits, work out the bad habits, and continue your training on the cheap make the 22LR cartridge one of the most valuable cartridges on the planet.  More people shoot 22LR than any other cartridge, and for good reason.  Heck, without even trying, I own 5 guns chambered for that round, and I plan on buying more in the future.  The 22LR weapon is a staple.

-James

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cold Steel Leatherneck SK-5 - Get It Before It's Gone

I was super excited when Cold Steel announced the Leatherneck SF back in 2011.  I thought to myself that this is the USMC KA-BAR fighting knife that I could finally get myself into.  I like the KA-BAR, but I don't care so much for the blade on it.  I may get one someday, but it's not a priority right now.  When I laid eyes on this beauty, however, I had to have one.  With an MSRP of $89, I had to wait.  I needed to get a few other things squared away before spending money on another survival knife.

My attitude changed quickly when I discovered that Cold Steel was moving away from the SK-5 high carbon steel and going instead with 4116 Krupp stainless steel.  My first thought was, "What is Cold Steel thinking?"  My next thought was, "Oh S***! I need to get a high carbon one before it disappears for good!"  So I did.

Now, I'm not an expert in metallurgy, but my research has shown me that 4116 is generally used in cheaper knives and kitchen cutlery.  The steel itself sharpens okay, but the edge can roll over more than high carbon steel.  It's my conclusion, and again this is only my opinion (YMMV), that 4116 has no place as a survival knife that is going to get pounded on relentlessly in the field.  Of course, there are others that would say "Don't abuse your knife and you won't have a problem."  To them I'd say, "C'mon and show me how you use it."  I always find it hilarious when my buddy's roll into camp with a $100+ knife and won't baton a single log with it because they are afraid it will scratch the purty finish on their blade.  About the only thing I have seen these guys use it for is cutting 550 cord or slicing SPAM.  Heck, I can use my swiss army knife for that stuff.  When you're talking about a 6-7" long fixed blade knife, you're talking about more serious work than that.

SK-5 steel is a spring steel.  It is very commonly used in cutting tools like chisels and saw blades, and makes for good knife steel.  It's tough, has good abrasion resistance, and takes/holds an edge well.  This is one of the things that attracted me to the Leatherneck to begin with,  Plus, the flat grind on the blade itself makes for a very simple and sexy profile.  The blade isn't busy at all, and the unsharpened false edge on top of the clip makes for a good penetrator.  The very tip is precise and will allow for unusually detailed work with this medium sized blade.

With Cold Steel now selling the 4116 Tanto version of this knife, it won't be long before the older SK-5 version is gone.  The new Bowie 4116 is on the website right now and is saber ground - not flat ground, but as of March 30, 2012, it shows as unavailable.  So, if you want the SK-5 steel flat ground version, GET ON IT!

Now, the knife porn.

As it came.  Good thing Amazon.com used a big box.
The sheath is awesome.  It is their Secure-Ex sheath and in addition to looking good, it is secure and has plenty of mounting options.
Secured in its sheath. The belt loop has velcro on it with the addition of a metal snap to keep it secure on your belt.  This nice thing is that you do not have to remove your belt to put this on.  Nice!  The snap around the handle adds extra security, should you decided you want to run this knife upside down on your LBE.  The belt loop is also removable.  As you can see in the photo above, there are two screws that attach it to the sheath.  Nice touch.
The handle is checkered Kray-Ex, which feels stiff, but flexible, like hard rubber.  It fully encloses over the substantial tang, giving an immense amount of control over the weapon.
Check out the flat grind on that sum-bitch.  I like how it starts off on the spine of the blade and slowly works down to the edge.  You can see the false edge on the top of the clip.  It makes for solid penetration and gives a nod to the original KA-BAR.  Well done Cold Steel.
The only real downside to this great knife is the country of origin.  Made in Taiwan.   I've owned a few Cold Steel knives that are made in Taiwan.  I would trust my life with them any day.  At least they aren't made in China.
Check this out!  The pommel is machined (not cast) and the tang on the back of this knife is huge!  It's much bigger than the KA-BAR.  As a result, the knife seems to balance a little toward the rear, but that's okay.  When I hold this knife with the handle across my flat palm, it sits right there.  As a result, it feels naturally balanced when handling.  
Okay, now that the knife porn is over, here are the specs:  Hint, I pulled these right off Cold Steel's Website.

Weight: 10.4 oz
Blade Thickness: 4.75mm (that's roughly 3/16" if you speak American)
Blade length: 6 3/4"
Handle: 5" Long
Overall Length: 11 3/4"
Steel: SK-5 High Carbon (subject to change - get yours before it's gone)

Overall, as a fighting knife, outdoor knife, or an emergency 72-hour "kit" knife, the Cold Steel Leatherneck would make a great addition to any knife collection.

-James

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ruger Announced 10/22 Takedown


Ruger just announced their newest 10/22 to the lineup: The Ruger 10/22 Takedown, model: 11100.  This could be the answer I've been looking for regarding a good pack rifle. 

At 4.67 lbs, it's a bit heavy, but I'm betting on the aftermarket to help mitigate that.  It may also be possible to modify an existing folding stock, like a Butler Creek to make it lighter. 

Either way, I'll be watching this one develop because it's a bout damned time!

-James

Ruger SR-556

Before I get onto the subject at hand, I want to make a comment regarding my Rock River Arms carbine.  If you follow this blog, then you already know how much of a fan I am of this gun.  It has been a solid shooter from day one, and has given me zero problems, with the exception of a few faulty rounds of ammunition, which you can't blame the rifle on.  I spent some time and money building it up from the basic carbine, and have learned a lot on this platform.  Unfortunately, I've learned so much about the AR rifle in general that I've grown out of the RRA.  So, with mixed emotions, I sold it to a good friend of mine, who will be able to use it in a similar capacity that I've used it.  Hopefully, he will enjoy it as much as I have.  As for me, it is time to move on.

I have spent the last couple of years looking at many different AR types, building my knowledge base and working out the "mil-spec" definition and how it applies to me.  When I talk about the AR rifle, I have to liken it to something completely relevant to me, and the field I work in.  Now, my definition may or may not work for you, but then again, I'm not you, and the things that go on in my head are completely unique to me and my needs and/or tastes in firearms.

I have come to the "brilliant" conclusion that for the civilian shooter, there is no "mil-spec" weapon.  Oh sure, there are military quality guns that undergo similar QC standards that a government contracted manufacturer must adhere to, but in the end, a civilian buyer can only buy something that, in the best case scenario, very closely approximates a "mil-spec" weapon.  For one thing, a mil-spec gun is typically a select-fire weapon, which most civilians are ineligible to purchase.  I know, no fun switch for me.  To be honest, I don't need it.  But there are some mil-spec features that I do think I want and need, and there are some features that are limiting to my tastes and desires in a good quality firearm.  I'm not going to discuss the ins and outs here because everyone has a different opinion, and what works for you may not work for me and vice verse.  You'll just have to make up your own damned mind.

To me, there are three grades of AR15 out there: commercial grade, professional grade, and somewhere in between.  It's kind of like talking tools to your mechanic buddies.  You have Craftsman, which is great for the home user/ do it your-selfer who may bust out a wrench or a socket on the weekends.  Of course, there is the creme De la creme grade of professional tools like Mac or Snap-On.  Then there is the middle of the road like Craftsman Professional tools.  No mechanic would be embarrassed to have Craftsman Professional tools in their box because they are high quality, high value professional tools that cost a little less than Snap-On, but carry the same warranty and look just as nice.  In many ways, these tools outclass the big boys because companies that manufacture these "middle of the road" tools can take liberties that the established professional grade tool companies either cannot or will not take due to the limitations they have.

So, where does Rock River sit on this scale?  Well, that depends on who you ask.  If you asked the DEA a few years back, it would have been professional use.  Some police departments use them.  For the most part, however, sales of RRA guns are to civilian users who may or may not put a lot of rounds through them.  I certainly haven't put as many rounds as I would have liked to put through mine, but I put more than the average owner will.  For the weekend warrior, plinker, or concerned citizen, the Rock River Arms carbine is more than enough gun. 

For me, however, I want and need a little more.  I'm not just some guy who has a passing interest in firearms.  I'm more of an enthusiast that derives great pleasure from it, and I also have a responsibility to protect my family from outside threats; you determine what threats I'm talking about.  Anyway, I'm not a professional shooter either.  I don't make a living with my gun.  If I did, I'd probably have one of those uber nice guns that LWRC makes or perhaps even a SCAR.  But I'm not a professional, so I don't need a Snap-On grade weapon.  What I need is something that is durable, maintainable, familiar, and in the middle.  What I need is the Craftsman Professional equivalent of firearm that will work for me in a SHTF scenario, without rule of law, but also get pounded on for recreational shooting and still maintain a decent price point.

I know what you are thinking now.  "The title of this thread is SR556, but in your last entry you talked about building a Mega Arms AR15!"  I know, and please bear with my seemingly scatter-brained methodology for a moment.  Yes, I am in the middle of an AR15 project.  This is a long term project that I plan on slowly building up as my knowledge and experience increases.  As my experience increases, so too will my preferences for what I want to build.  Yes, I'm building a fighting gun, but as it sits right now, it's nothing more than a chunk of aluminum in a plastic baggy with a cool logo engraved on the side.  I have a lot more learning to do.

In the meantime, I still need a automatic rifle in the corral to learn on and to teach my family to shoot with, and defend the home if need be.  And now the question comes in, "But if you still need a fighting gun in the house, why not just keep the Rock River?"  To be honest, I've had this nagging feeling for a long time, and I've considered putting the RRA up on the auction block a few times.  Heck, a few months ago, I actually wrote up an ad in the local classifieds, but deleted it before I hit the "submit" button.  And the next question gets asked, "Why not take the money from your RRA and put it into the Mega?"  My wife asked this question a few times and try as I might, I could not convey to it her in a way easily understood, but the reality is that it all comes down to economics.  Sure, having a thousand bucks to dump into a high end AR build will go a long way to get me there, but it still would not be enough.  After spending it all away, I'd still be a few screws short of a complete rifle, and that's unacceptable.  Plus, I want to take the build slow.  I want to save up a little at a time, research the components until I'm blue in the face, and then when I'm sure it's what I want (in theory at least), then I want to drop coin.  But I don't want to go into a build hastily.  All parts must work, and that level of engineering requires a lot of thought and deliberate processing of the information available - and there's a lot.

My middle of the road gun of choice is the Ruger SR556, model 5902, catalog number: SR-556FB.  Now, this isn't exactly in the middle of the road.  On the spectrum, this is leaning more toward professional grade than commercial grade.  The barrel is as close to mil-spec as is reasonably possible, the bolt carrier is chrome plated and one piece.  This gun is a piston gun, which supposedly makes it more reliable.  I want to test that against all the data I've collected on my DI Rock River carbine.  The buffer and tube are mil standard.  There are other features that I like on this weapon as well.  The included Troy Industries BUIS are costly extras that are incorporated into this design.  In addition to those, the quad rail is longer than carbine length, which will help me get my orangutan arms up to drive this gun as forward as possible.  One of my gripes about the carbine length hand guards is I always want to put my hand up around the gas block, but we all know that isn't practical.  Plus, having the flashlight up on the 7" rail makes it a bit busy.  I also look forward to having the same gas adjustment that I had with my old FN FAL.  That's something I've missed with my AR15.  I also like being able to shut the gas completely off for single shot use.  You can do this with the SR-556.


Now, in another entry, I had expressed interest in the SR-556E, which is priced considerably lower, but my enthusiasm for that gun was tempered with the realization that after I added sights to it, it would cost about as much as the street value for a new SR-556FB model, which comes with the sights installed.  Another thing I found was the barrel was not chrome-lined.  This hasn't been a problem with my RRA, but it has a chromoly barrel, and I've really wanted a chrome-lined barrel ever since my first cleaning session. 

I've read about carrier tilt issues with piston guns before, and it bears enough relevance to be mentioned here.  Carrier tilt is where the operating rod (I think Ruger calls it a transfer rod) pushes the top of the bolt carrier key and forces the bottom rear of the bolt carrier downward.  This causes the bolt carrier to slowly grind away at the buffer tube and detent, which could lead to a problem down the road.  I recently looked at a picture of the bolt carrier and saw it has been radiused in the rear to compensate for this problem.  Either way, this gun has been out long enough now that most issues are under control and in the event it should fail, Ruger customer service is outstanding.  Anyway, I didn't mention it to bash the gun.  It's just a data point to consider.  Fortunately, I haven't read about very many cases of this happening.

Regarding weight, this gun comes in naked at just under 8 lbs.  It seems a little fat for a 5.56 rifle, but bear in mind that heavy 41V45 hammer-forged barrel, piston, and extended rail make up much of it.  These are good weights in my opinion though.  A heavy barrel is something I really liked about my RRA.  It's nice to be able to shoot a lot of rounds and not worry about the barrel warping or losing accuracy as a result.  One thing that nearly everybody seems to agree on is that Rock River guns are accurate.  Mine was no exception.  Then again, it didn't have a chrome-lined barrel.  Chrome-lining will make it less accurate on the bench.  But if I can put down a 2 MOA group at 100 yards with the SR-556, I'll be happy. 

So, now it's onto the phones I go.  It's time to start calling the local vendors in my area to see who can get me this gun for the least amount of money.  I hate calling gun shops.  I might just walk in instead.

-James

Saturday, March 24, 2012

OH-Mega Project

It has started.  I took delivery on a stripped Mega lower this morning.  I'm putting this entry in as the beginning of the project.  All other entries on this subject will be put into a sub-blog called... you guessed it: Oh Mega!

You can follow the tab above.  To get back to this blog, simply click "Back to MMWS" when you are on the other site.  Easy sleazy.

Here's some gun porn for ya!


-James

Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN

While I was out taking delivery on my Mega Arms AR lower receiver, I stopped by the local sporting goods store to take a look at a few things that I'm putting on the horizon.  I wanted to see the CRKT M-16 knife in person, and I knew it would be under the glass, and I knew I would be able to fondle it.  Nice knife.  I definitely want one.

While I was talking blades to the guy behind the counter, we got to talking about different blade steels, and I told him how much I like VG-10 stainless.  He said, "Well, then I have a knife you might really like" and he pulled out the Sypderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN, call number C10F.  Phew!  What a mouthful that is to say!

Since he handed me a blue one, as pictured above, I first thought it was sort of silly looking, but then I picked it up and flicked the blade open.  WOW!!!  What a smooth operating, fast, and lightweight knife!  At 3.4 ounces, this thing feels like next to nothing in my hand, yet the ergonomics were perfect.  The scales provided just enough traction for my hands without being too abrasive.  I slipped it in my pocket and if not for the fact that I was talking blades with the other guy, I would have forgotten it was there.  Well, let's be honest here.  I carry my Leatherman Wingman in that same spot and I pretty much forget it's there until I need it as well.  But to be able to carry something so lightweight and strong without even thinking about it... win win win!

I like the shape of this blade.  The flat grind makes for a very simple and sexy blade design that isn't as busy as other blade designs can get.  They had a similar one with a combination edge with serrations, and I didn't care much for it.  I never use serrations on my knives.  The way I see it, if I need to saw on something, I'm going to get a saw.  Or I'll break out the saw on my Leatherman Wave.  That's the one major gripe I have about the Wingman - the combination blade.

The VG-10 steel is nice and strong.  I've learned through experience with my Fallkniven A1 that it is very durable and easy to take care of, but you have to be careful because it can chip out on you if you are really working it.  Of course that was while batoning wood with my survival knife.  There will be no wood batoning with the Spyderco.  The blade was crazy sharp at the store, and I like how easy the steel takes an edge while sharpening.  The rust resistance, in my experience in the oh-so wet Pacific Northwest is better than any carbon steel I've seen and better than most stainless steels.  All in all, it's a good steel for this area.


Determined to find an OD green handle, I found this grey one online at Spyderco.com and said to myself that this is the one for me.  If you notice, the handle features three little holes on both sides.  Those holes allow you to mount the pocket clip on either side so you can carry tip up, tip down, and they are repeated on the other side to accommodate lefties.  You south paws, Spyderco thought of you.  As for clip orientation, I really don't care either way.  My regular utility knife is carried so that the blade points down while in my pocket.  I'm used to it.  But I like carrying with the blade pointed up better.  For presentation, it's one less movement to get the blade deployed when it needs to be.  Like I said though, it doesn't bother me either way.  It's just a bonus to have options.

Overall, I like it.  I really didn't have anything bad to say about it at the store while handling it.  Believe me, I can say a lot of bad things about stuff I like.  I have a laundry list of gripes about the AR15, but I still rock it because I like it.  I have a list of gripes about my Leatherman Wingman, my wave, my Needs Work knife, and even this nice watch I'm wearing, but that doesn't mean I won't work with them.  It simply means, to me, that if I could talk to the designers of any of these products and say, "This is what I want, this is what I don't want..." they would have probably made the Spyderco Endura4 that you see above because this is pretty much what I want without having to take the compromise.

Time to start saving my pennies again.

-James

Friday, March 23, 2012

A couple weeks before I ordered my .22 trainer, my wife dropped coin on a trainer sized just for her; a Walther P22 in pink!  The irony is that after a very long wait, and then a 7 day waiting period (she has yet to obtain her CPL), she finally took delivery on the gun today.  Now, this pistol is the older WAP22505 version, which has a lawyer lock, and a slightly different look to it.  The newer QAP version has some cosmetic differences in the slide, no lawyer lock, and the frame is different.

I like the older version better.  The lawyer lock doesn't bother me because I just don't use it.  The differences in the slide are inconsequential.  I like them both, but the frame on the newer version is a deal breaker.  I hate the stippling on the grip and I can't stand how they cut the rail on the front.  Do you really need three slots on a rail that small?  C'mon!

Well, we haven't shot this gun as of yet, but I did take it down into the bunker for an inspection and deep cleansing.  These guns are always so filthy from the factory.  The way the barrel stays on the frame is interesting to me.  The guide rod and spring are kind of a PITA to get back on the slide and frame.  It makes me wonder why Walther did that - just to be different?  Well, it's just something to get used to.

After cleaning it up, I function tested it to make sure all the guts are working properly.  The double-action trigger on this is a bit stiff and feels a little rough, but a few thousand rounds of .22 lr should cure that.  The single action pull was crisp with a clean let off and very little overtravel, if any.  Of course, the grip is a bit small for my hands, so my accuracy with it may suffer a bit.

Lindsay, on the other hand, feels this gun was built around her hand.  She has small hands, and they fit around the grip of this pistol like she was wearing tight fitting glove!  It's perfect.  She too prefers this older version over the newer one.  

One of our friends has a newer style.  It's lime green, and boy is it a bright pistol!  Lindsay and I have both had the opportunity to fire it, and it is a nice shooter.  I can't speak to the stippling itself because I was wearing gloves while shooting it, but I'm not a fan of it in general.  Many folks like it and it's the in vogue thing these days, so more power to you if you do.  This is just my opinion.

Overall, I like the way this pistol looks and feels.  For its size, it's a well thought out handgun.  The manual of arms is a little peculiar to me.  I'm not used to the magazine release being integral in the trigger guard.  The irony is that I have a hard time getting my thumb down that far to operate it, so it is easier for me to use my trigger finger on the other side.  I'm just glad the magazine release is ambidextrous.

Lindsay, on the other hand, likes it.  I think, for her, since she is going to be using this gun as a trainer, she ought to seriously consider another Walther for her primary defensive weapon, should she decide to go with something a bit bigger.  The only reason I say it, Walther's legendary quality aside, is because the controls are going to be fairly uniform across the selection of pistols in their lineup.  The Walther PPQ, for instance, has the same magazine release, and is about an inch larger height and length-wise.  But that's a discussion for another day.

I'm just happy there's another pistol in the corral, even if it is pink.

-James

PS: Here's a short video of Lindsay and me test firing the green P22.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Ruger 10/22 Problem Found... I Think

Years ago, I traded a stripped Olympic Arms AR15 lower straight across for a Ruger 10/22 carbine.  Back in those days, it was brand new and wore a synthetic stock.  I replaced that with a wooden take-off that my gunsmith gave me.  Thousands of rounds later, I started to experience some extraction issues: double feeds, stove pipes, etc.  At first, it only happened during rapid fire, but then it started with slow fire.  Can't get through a single magazine without a failure.  Back when the BX-25 magazine came out, I bought it hoping to solve my problem.  It didn't. Well, after my last trip out with it, I decided to tear it down and see if I could find the culprit; and I did.

On the picture to the left, you can see the bolt assembly for my Ruger 10/22. Now, I've been known to disassemble a few guns and do some mods here and there, but rarely ever have I had to actually diagnose and make repairs to them.  Upon close inspection, the problem jumped out at me, or so I believe it has.  The extractor is rolled over and won't even hold a round against the bolt face, much less extract the spent cartridge properly.  Being as this component is a $2 part at shopruger.com, and is made of stamped steel, it's not exactly a high tolerance component.  I did find out that the MK III pistol and 10/22 rifle share the same extractor.  So, if I really wanted to, I could swap them and see if the problem follows the extractor.  I could also swap entire bolt carrier assemblies between my 10/22 and my wife's 10/22 CRR, but since a Volquartsen Exact Edge extractor is only $12, I ordered it and will put it in and see how the gun shoots.  I can't get any worse than it is now.  That much I'll say.

Here's a video of the jam caught.  It's at the end.  If you look closely, you can see the double feed.


-James

Kit Gun?

Lately, I've been rediscovering the joy of shooting 22 carbines and pistols.  It hearkens back to my youth.  As a five year old boy, Dad taught me on the Glenfield (Marlin) Model 60.  I learned the basics and fell in love with shooting.  But enough of that digression.  For more on how it all began, read my other entry, titled Gun Culture.  With all the training I plan on doing this year with my Ruger pistol and also with the 10/22 I've owned for years, it makes sense to consider a "kit gun" of sorts.

What is a kit gun?  Well, in the strictest sense, a kit gun is a small framed revolver with a longer barrel than a snubbie.  It's designed to be thrown in a backpack or 72 hour kit.  The intended use is for emergencies, like food procurement or last ditch self-defense.  However, in my expanded sense, it could translate into the small and lightweight carbine community. Such a carbine would be very small and light, preferably a take-down design that could lend itself to better stability and accuracy for impromptu trail use against critters or even predators of the human nature.


When I think of such a carbine, I always think of the Henry US Survival Rifle, AR-7.  At just 3.5 lbs, it is lightweight for a carbine, and the entire rifle breaks down and is stowed in the buttstock.  The naturally buoyant buttstock floats and is completely waterproof when sealed up.  The semi-automatic action is magazine fed and each mag holds 8 rounds of 22lr, which is plenty of firepower for small game procurement, and even self defense.  If you don't believe a 22 can kill a human, then ask all the dead people who've been killed by it.  With a low price point (MSRP is $275 for H002B), it is an economical way to bring along some very portable firepower.

There are many other carbines out there, chambered in .22 lr, but most of them are 4 lbs or heavier.  That's just too much weight for a gun, and many of them do not take down to make them more portable in the field.  The other problem with many of these guns is that they lack firepower.  What I mean by that, in the strictest sense of the word, is capacity.  If you've ever laid eyes on a M6 Scout rifle before, you might have been amazed, but then balked at the fact that the price for what you got was a little insane.  Sure, a 410 option on a break action gun that folds in half is nice, but a single shot is still a single shot, and for an emergency, I would like to have more firepower than that.  In the pistol world, the revolver suffers greatly because many are limited to 8-10 rounds of .22 lr, but some do shoot .22 magnum.

Enter the Kel Tec PMR-30.  At just 14.2 ounces (with empty magazine), this semi-automatic is capable of delivering 30 rounds (Yes, I said THIRTY!) of .22 WMR (Magnum) without reloading!  That's firepower!

Now, at this point, the old timers are yelling into their computer screens, telling me that I shouldn't get an automatic and I should stick to a wheel gun for reliability.  And to them I say you have a valid point... to a point.

.22 Automatics have come a very long way in the last couple of decades.  Long gone are the jam-o-matics that plagued the markets of the 80's and 90's.  Guns these days utilize advances in technology and forward thinking to overcome the shortfalls of their older brethren.

The PMR-30 has a lot of things going for it that many revolvers and other so-called "kit guns" come up short on.  For instance, the sight radius on the PMR-30 is almost 7 inches.  That's almost like sighting down a rifle!  Well, okay, it's really not, but a long radius like that helps with sight picture a great deal.  The fiber optic sights pick up ambient light well and make low light shooting easier, a big consideration if trying to hunt small game, which is usually more active at dusk or dawn.  Of course, the other obvious advantage is the fact that it holds 30 rounds flush inside the grip.  If you had just two extra mags with you, you have 90 rounds total.  That's a lot of firepower in a small package.  Another handy extra is the picatinny rail on the bottom of the frame.  To maximize accuracy, it would be very easy to install a small laser like the Lasermax Micro.  At just .43 ounces, it adds almost nothing to the load-out weight, but adds a big advantage for accuracy.  No, I'm not converting to lasers for tactical or practical use, but for a wilderness gun or kit gun, the laser would help to maximize accuracy and help to ensure hits instead of misses, which is a consideration when ammo is limited.

  
I will say this about the Kel Tec PMR-30.  it is ugly!  My wife says the grip looks like a waffle maker, and I personally think the gun is hideous.  But then again, so is the M6 Scout and the AR-7 survival rifle.  Yes, life would be simpler with a fine looking revolver like the Ruger SP101 in .22 lr, but the price is way too steep for a .22 in my opinion.

 Still, if money wasn't an issue, it would be worth considering.  This "kit gun" in the traditional sense, fits the bill perfectly.  It is a compact revolver, chambered in .22 lr with a longer barrel than a snub nose, has adjustable sights with a fiber optic front, and holds 8 rounds.  So where does it fall short?  Well, the $689 MSRP is a start.  Street price is probably between $525 and $550 depending on where you shop.  The other killer is the weight.  30 ounces?  For a 4.2" barreled 22?  Are you kidding me?  For that weight, I might as well pack my Beretta M9!  Well, if weight is such a concern, I guess I could go for the Ruger LCR in 22 lr.  The only problem is that the sights on that pistol suck!  I know.  I've seen them.  Forget accuracy past 30 feet.  And at 14.9 ounces, it is heavier than the Kel Tec PMR-30 and it only holds 8 rounds.  To me, that does not qualify it as a good kit gun.

This is where the requirements start to weed out the potentials really fast.  To qualify as something I'd want to carry in my pack, on my back, slung over my shoulder, or in the canoe, the gun has to satisfy some stringent requirements.  The requirements are not many, but they are necessary to keep the weight down, and the survivability up.

Rifles need to meet the following:

Weight: less than 4 lbs.
Take-down capable: Yes.
Caliber: .22lr, .22 WMR, 17 HMR
Action: Lever, bolt, semi auto.
Capacity: 5+
Sights: Adjustable

Pistols have it even tougher:

Weight: Less than 1 1/2 lb (24 ounces) LOADED
Caliber: .22 WMR
Action: Revolver or semi-automatic magazine fed
Capacity: Revolver 8+; Semi-auto 10+
Sights: Adjustable
Barrel length: 4 inches+

Now, let's not cloud the waters here.  This gun isn't to be used for defense against large predators, like cougars or bears.  Whenever I go into the mountains, I carry a 357 magnum revolver as a minimum.  I also keep a Marlin 1895 GS, chambered in 45/70 in the truck.  I'm not stupid.  Something like a survival gun can be thrown in a 72 hour kit or tossed in the side pocket of my backpack for those treks out into the wilderness or in the event I'm caught off guard, out in the open, during an emergency.  You never know.

Some guys might say just to pack a .38 and call it a day.  That's fine if that's what you want for your system.  My problem with that for hunting small game, birds, or what-have-you, a .38 is overkill.  Why even bother shooting a squirrel if there will be nothing left to eat when you shoot it?


No, the .22 is ideal for hunting small game.  It also gives you the ability to carry a lot of ammunition.  Above is another example of a good take down rifle for survival use.  This one is the Marlin 70PSS (Papoose).  The action and barrel do not stow in the buttstock, but it does pack into an included carry case with closed cell foam, which give the case buoyancy.  Again, the ability to float is great because if it goes over the side of my canoe, it won't sink to the bottom of the river.  At 3.25 lbs, it could also accommodate a 4 power scope and still come in under 4 lbs!  The advantage of this design, over the Henry AR-7, is the fact that the receiver does not come off the stock for take-down.  Huh?  Yeah, to completely stow the AR-7, you have to take the receiver off the stock and stow it in the butt.  You'd have to remove your scope to take it down, find another place to put it, and then every time you go to put it back on, you'd have to waste precious ammo sighting in the scope.  The magazine for the Papoose holds 7 rounds of .22 lr ammunition.

Here is a video of the Papoose in action:


So, we see I have a lot to think about here.  What do I get?  Pistol or rifle?  Then which do I buy after that.

-James

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kobun Part II


This is Kobun, now 21 weeks (5 months) old.  He certainly has grown since we adopted him 3 1/2 months ago.  Kobun has had all his shots and neuter done, passed puppy training with flying colors, and we are in the middle of intermediate dog training.  He's still very much a puppy despite the fact that he now dwarfs the fully grown golden lab next door.  Weighing at about 50 lbs, he's not quite halfway to his full weight.  He's getting there though - fast!  Look at the size of his paws in relation to the rest of his body!  There's a lot more growin' left in this pup.

His ears are now fully upright, giving a very alert look about him.  He's also got a very deep bark, and it's very loud.  He sounds a lot bigger than he is!  Thankfully, he doesn't do it often.  Most of the time, when the mailman or UPS guy comes, he stands at the front door and bellows out these deep "WOOF" sounds, as if to say "back off!"

In the picture above, you can clearly see the Top Paw training harness that we bought for him.  This has helped out immensely.  This dog has very powerful legs and he has large bones, so he's a strong animal.  He could pull my shoulder out of my socket if I wasn't paying attention.  Now, he doesn't pull much at all, and he does a good job walking right at my side.  I'm looking forward to using this harness for our hikes together; Kobun still isn't ready for prime time yet.  Being as he's still a puppy, he doesn't yet have the stamina to take on longer trails.  When he's fully grown, he will be more than capable, and he will also carry his own food and water with him in a doggy backpack.

Kobun's breed is a working dog.  The American Akita was bred to assist hunters and their large feet make them good snow dogs.  Since the dog requires exercise to maintain his health, giving him a job to do helps him in this respect.  It also staves off boredom.  We've seen what happens when Kobun gets bored.  He just walks away and sits in the corner.  Plus, giving him some weight to carry will help offset the fact that the American Akita is, by nature, a sedentary dog.  If left alone, he will simply lay down and sleep all day until you return to see him.

Anyway, that's the long and short of Kobun's update.  He's fully integrated into our family and has become a wonderful companion.  He loves our kids and our kids love him back.  He is protective of Lindsay, and loves to play with me.  Here's to many more years of fun and love from this "little" puppy.


-James

Vehicle Tools - Handy In a Pinch

My last blog entry got me thinking about the tools I carry in my vehicle.  In my last entry, I alluded to the fact that I carry some tools on board my vehicle to get me out of a bind, should the situation require it.

Now, I've covered things like storing your 72 hour kit in your vehicle, and personal EDC items in previous entries, so I'm going to stay far away from what gun to carry, how I store my bug out bag, or whatever.  This entry won't even cover items like road flares or a first aid kit because that's what I consider emergency items that everybody should have, and it goes without saying.  What I'm discussing here, especially for you folks with older vehicles, are various tools that you keep on your truck, car, or van so that in the event you experience a breakdown, or your buddy does, you have the ability to be self-reliant and maybe avoid a towing bill.

If I had written this entry about 6 years ago, the list of tools would have been a lot longer because I used to be more into off-roading, but not so much these days.  As a result, the amount of tools I take with me has shrunk down to what I consider the absolute bare minimum.  Some of these tools are designed to fix the vehicle, others for doing various tasks at the campsite, and others are for light recovery, like if you need to be pulled off the highway or perhaps to be a Good Samaritan and help someone else.  To gear heads, 'wheelers, and mechanics alike, this list will seem like a no-brainer, but with all due respect, this blog entry is not for them.  This blog entry is for people who want to do something to be a little more prepared, but don't know where to begin.  This entry is for you.

Note: I'm keeping the pictures in the entry small, so click on each for a larger view if you want to see more detail.

First off, you need the two most important essentials: a durable flashlight and a fire extinguisher.  I cannot overstate the importance of these two items and the need for them to be within arm's reach of you, the driver.  You don't need any fancy equipment because in all honesty, they are going to get banged up as you use the vehicle.  For me, I keep a 3 D-cell Maglite LED attached to the front seat base using two metal clamps.  Back in 2004, when I bought this vehicle, I had a hard time finding metal clamps, so when I found some, I ordered two sets.  I'm glad I did.  Your fire extinguisher can be hidden in many places, but just keep it handy.  If you have no choice but to store it in the trunk of your car, then make sure that it doesn't get buried under your luggage and golf clubs when you pack it to the brim.  You should inspect the fire extinguisher annually and also replace the batteries in the flashlight every year regardless of use.  There's nothing worse than being caught in the middle of the night with a flat tire and dead batteries in your flashlight.

If you are fortunate enough to have a center console, you should use it to store small tools or items you would access regularly.  If you have a large opening console, like mine, you can get an ammo can to stuff in there.  This is a great item to have because the rubber seal helps keep moisture out.  It is also possible to modify an ammo can to make it lockable, which adds a layer of security to the smaller, more expensive items you may want to keep inside, like CD's, GPS, sunglasses, etc.  Note the small pelican case and metal bowl for my dog.  What you can't see is that I have eight 16.9 liter water bottles in front of the ammo can, stuffed in the void created by the cup holders.  Keeping water in your vehicle is important because you can use to stay hydrated, should you become stranded, and you can use it to top off your radiator in an emergency.  Since I have two kids, a wife, and a dog, I keep plenty of water available at all times.

For the bulk of your tools, it will be necessary to invest in a good quality toolbox, preferably with locking latches to deter thieves.  The box should be sturdy enough for you to stand on and sit on.  This is especially helpful if you, like me, have a lifted vehicle.  It also helps in the sense that you can sit on it to do tasks at a lower level, such as changing a tire or fixing a busted headlight.  Your knees will thank you.  I purchased this Bostitch brand toolbox at Lowes for about $20.  It not only features lockable latches, but it has a gasket around the lid to keep moisture at bay.  I don't know if it is 100% waterproof, but it is definitely weather proof and very resistant to moisture.  Moisture and metal tools don't mix, so whatever you can do to protect them is better than nothing.

Upon opening the box, we see an array of commonly used tools for my particular vehicle.  You don't need to stock the vehicle with an entire mechanic's set of tools; just take the ones you know you would use 95% of the time.  Remember, the idea isn't to do a complete transmission repair or full on brake job in the field, but to just get you by until you can either get to a shop, the Autozone parking lot, or your own garage.  For my particular needs, I picked socket sizes in metric and standard that I see the most, appropriate ratchets, extensions, and driver size adapters that go from 1/4-3/8 and 3/8-1/2.  When you are working in the field, you need to be able to improvise.  You can also see a pair of long screwdrivers as well as an Irwin 10-in-1 screwdriver.  I got mine at Lowes, and I suggest you put one in your toolbox.  It will save your butt 99% of the time.  Other tools include common wrench sizes as well as a couple wrenches that are open on both sides, but different sizes: like a 1/2 & 9/16 and a 3/8 and 7/16.  They come in very handy.

You might also notice the presence of a couple other things that many people, even mechanics like me, may not think of.  Things like Superglue or baby wipes are in the box. Why baby wipes?  Because if you've never had kids, you don't know what you're missing out on with baby wipes.  They are the miracle wipes.  I use them for everything.  From cleaning grease off tools, picking up doggy messes, wiping my hands, cleaning my dash board, they are so totally useful.  I also keep a small mirror and a magnetic pick-up tool in the box. It's much easier to diagnose a problem you can see with the mirror, and I think we've all dropped a fastener into an impossible to reach place in the engine bay before.  Lastly, a Sharpie marker sits on the tray.

One trick you might employ is to use electrical tape and tape all your wrenches and sockets together.  My sockets are on a rail that I cut down to fit the tray, but I ran tape around the bases to keep them in place and to keep them from rattling.  Rattling tools are okay in my service truck, but not in my personal truck.  Plus, if you tape all the wrenches together, they store more compact and afford you more room for other tools.

Once we remove the tray, we gain access to the larger tools.  One tip, before I go on, is to store the tools you use the most at the top.  In my case, it would be bungee cords followed by jumper cables. I'm always putting things on the vehicle's roof rack, so the bungee cords get used... a lot.  The jumper cables get used often as well; either to help get me out of a bind or help someone else in need.

Remember that if you can, always try to help fellow motorists in need.  There is good karma in helping others out, and one day, you may find yourself in a position of asking someone for help.  It's nothing to be ashamed of.  We've all been there.

Moving on in layers, I always store a medium hammer with a long handle.  You never know when it may come in handy.  I also store my hatchet, which also has a hammer on the back of the blade.  The hatchet is for camping uses.  I keep it stored here so it always goes with me, and I never forget it.  To keep rust at bay, I paint the edge of the blade with header paint after I sharpen it.

Okay, if we look at the right of the picture, you can see a tow strap just left of the small tool tray.  This is a 10,000 lb rated strap with sewn in loops on either end.  Don't get a strap with hooks.  They are a pain in the butt and can be dangerous.  I like this one because it rolls flat and stores compact.

Moving left, you see a can of WD-40.  Not only does this help stop squeaks, but it lubricates and protects against rust.  It is also useful to loosening stubborn fasteners and cleaning your tools or car parts.  WD-40 is a wonderful thing.  Next to that is a roll of high quality duct tape still in the package with a roll of electrical tape sitting on top of it.  I think those two items go without saying.  And if you haven't heard of all the uses for duct tape, I have to ask: what rock have you been hiding under for the last hundred years?

I also keep a small magnetic tray in the box.  This helps keep small metal fasteners in one place while you're working.  Ever lose a lug nut on the side of a highway before?  I just think of that scene from "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie accidentally tosses that hub cap full of lug nuts into the snow.  Oh FUUUUDGE!!!

Other tools I find useful are metal brushes that can be used to scrape grime and dirt off components prior to removal, or cleaning off data tags so you can pull part numbers off things like differential covers, alternators, transfer cases, etc.  I always keep a small funnel with some Kimberly Clarke paper towels folded in it.

No tool kit is complete without a pair of vice grips, channel locks or pliers.  I also keep a large adjustable wrench and a small pry bar in the bottom of mine.  None of the tools and equipment in your box need to be of the utmost in quality.  Crafstman quality for the metal tools will be fine.  For other tools you don't use as often, you could get away with tools purchased at Autozone or Lowes.  I like the Husky brand from Home Depot, and they seem durable enough for what you will use them for.  As a professional, I rely on professional grade tools to do the job when I'm working, but I am a firm believer in high quality commercial grade tools for home or auto use.  I've yet to break a Craftsman wrench or socket; I've thrashed on plenty of them.  Other things you may consider are a small roll of bailing wire, zip ties, extra hose clamps, spare batteries for the flashlight, and a few pairs of disposable nitrile gloves to keep those hands and fingers clean.  What you do not see is the case of 1/2" drive socket and associate ratchet I keep in the truck as well.  The case is thin and stores easily, so it's not in the way.  I use it for larger fasteners, and the breaker bar comes in handy for lug nut removal.

Last, but not least, is the one thing everybody should have in every vehicle, every garage, every range bag, and every house!  Heavy duty GLOVES!!!


These Mechanix brand gloves are their heavy duty line of work gloves.  They feature faux leather undersides and the palms are padded for comfort.  I've done so much work with these bad boys, and I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this brand!  I'm going to do a separate entry on this because I currently run 4 types of Mechanix gloves for all my different activities.  There is just too much to say about them to put into this entry.  Needless to say, go to Lowes because that is where I buy all mine.  For the money you spend, they are worth it.  From removing tires, to hammering, to general work, your hands will thank you.

Of course, this list is not all inclusive.  What I use for my personal system may not be what is best suited for you.  What you put into your kit, how much you spend, and how you use them will depend on your situation, your income, what kind of vehicle you drive, what your technical skill level is, and how you use your vehicle.  My suggestions are simply to help point you in a direction.  Personally, the tool kit for my wife's car is far far different.  Though there are some things that remain the same; can of WD-40, a funnel, gloves, a couple screw drivers, etc, the kit is much smaller and is less comprehensive as this kit, and for good reason.  The car is newer, isn't as field serviceable as my truck, and doesn't go into the woods like my truck does.  My truck is a platform for many activities I engage in, so the ability to get it into and out of any given situation is paramount, because when I break down, the tow truck is hours and hundreds of dollars away.

Since we are talking about it, I'll mention some other items you should keep, but are not pictured here; I'm just going blast through these.  If you want more information, comment below and ask.  I'll do my best to answer.  So, here's the quick and dirty list of other things you should have besides the types of tools above:

1. first aid kit.
2. road flares.
3. 72 hour kit
4. Food
5. cellphone charger
6. multi-tool (if you do not currently carry one)
7. Cash (no bills larger than $20)
8. Disposable camera (to document vehicle accidents)
9. Glove box organizer for vehicle paperwork
10. A disposable lighter or Zippo lighter.

-James

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

EDC For the Realist

I was searching around the youboob channels the other day, and I came across a lot of EDC (Everyday Carry) videos, where guys and gals were showing off all the crap they carry around with them every day.  Now, some videos were well done, and most of the people had some quality crap that they were lugging around with them, but some were completely ridiculous.  On one video, a guy actually said he carried two sets of keys with him!  No, this wasn't like a spare house key or a spare car key.  This was a complete set of keys that included everything from the keys to his house, garage, car, boat, gate, dog house, freezer, work, to his daughter's diary.  Great, so if he loses his first set, he might be able to get home in time to change the locks on EVERYTHING before some other guy finds it!

Other videos showed guys carrying a tactical knife, utility knife, backup utility knife, backup tactical knife, a fire starter, two flashlights, spare batteries, etc.  Among other things, the wallets these people had were just so fat, I could only imagine how sitting on that giant shim hurts their back.  I imagine most of the youboob preppers were pulling their gizmos out of their tactical fanny packs that they conveniently left off camera.

Of course, there were the folks who carry their primary concealed gun (which isn't a compact), a compact gun, a 380 backup to both guns, and spare magazines full of ammo for said weapons.  Hell, it seems some guys pack the laser range finder because you never know when you might need to pull the sniper rifle out of your cargo pants pocket!

Get real!  EDC isn't about being James Bond.  You don't need to carry every nifty gadget in the world to get you out of a tight spot.  I mean, who really carries a pocket saw with them everywhere they go?

For me, EDC isn't about being prepared for the zombie apocalypse at all times, or ready to survive a nuclear blast from the North Koreans.  Let's face it.  for 99% of your everyday activities, you may need a knife, a flashlight, a bottle opener, and perhaps a small screwdriver of some kind.  What you don't need are the same 10 essentials that I'd pack on a 10 mile hike to Mt Rainier.

So, let's talk about what realistic EDC looks like.  I say "realistic" because I'd be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 youboob preppers don't carry all the shit they put on the coffee table.  They put that crap there to look cool for all the other youboob preppers that may watch their channel.  It's nothing more than your run of the mill popularity contest.  'Nuff said about that.

So what is EDC for the realist - a guy like me?  Well, I'm prepared for most anything at the house.  All my gear, emergency supplies, food storage, guns, ammo, and fancy camping gear live here.

The next thing to address are the vehicles.  You see, most of the places I go are accessible by a vehicle of some kind.  Be it my wife's grocery getter, my 4x4 SUV, or my work van, I have a vehicle near me at all times, unless I'm backpacking.  I gotta say though, if I'm out hiking or backpacking, I'm carrying a lot more gear than those youboob preppers do.  That's because I'm generally carrying a backpack with all my emergency and backpacking supplies therein.  I don't think I'll need to beat that dead horse any longer.  Getting back to the point, I'm usually within close walking distance to my vehicle.  If I really need something, like a tool or whatever, that can't fit in my pockets, chances are it is in the glove box, trunk, or in the case of my 4x4, the truck toolbox.  I carry a small variety of tools, jumper cables. big maglite, rain gear, first aid kit. toilet paper, etc, in my truck that can help me in the event I need to do more than pop a cork on a champagne bottle.  That being said, if I know I'm within range of my vehicle, I need only those things on my person that could either save my life or that I can pack in a pocket to make an inconvenience less discomforting.

Now that we have some of those larger things squared away, what does the stuff look like on my person?  What do I carry every day that I either need, have needed before, or might need in the future... and let's be reasonable.

Well, for starters, I carry a concealed pistol.  Normally, in the winter months, my Ruger SR9c rides on my hip in a Crossbreed Supertuck holster.  Spare ammo can be found in the form of a Bladetech mag pouch on my reaction side, OWB.  I wear large shirts, so the stuff doesn't print.  In any case, I always seem to wear my lightweight Columbia jacket to take the edge of the wind and rain.  It also makes a great place to store my wallet for those times when I want to carry my Ruger LCP in the back pocket.  I don't always carry the backup these days because I've been spending efforts trying to lighten the load a bit.  In the summertime, I carry the Ruger LC9 on the hip inside a Crossbreed Supertuck.  Spare ammo is stored in a small leather pouch on my reaction side hip.  The slimmer profile and deeper riding LC9 allows me to wear lighter shirts and conceal even with shorts in the summertime.  Very rarely do I carry the LCP in the summertime anymore because as a backup, it's hard to find anywhere to put it when your clothing layers have diminished for summertime wear.  More often these days, I've found myself packing just the LCP and spare ammo for it because when I go the gym, it's more discreet than a hip gun.  Also, if I want to just be at the home all day, it's easy to slide the LCP in a pocket holster and put it in the back pocket.  If I need to make a run to the store really quick, the LCP offers it's convenience because it can be put in my jacket or pant pocket without missing a stride.  For those quick trips to the convenience store and back, the LCP really lends itself to convenient concealed carry while still offering me the ability to level the playing field in the event of a bad encounter with a criminal.

Next, we go to the knife.  Now, when I'm working, I normally carry a Kershaw Needs Work utility knife because I have, do, and will use it on a daily basis for my job.  It rides in the right side front pocket, secured with it's little clip.  It's a great knife for just about anything.  However, when I'm not at work, I've come to like my Leatherman Wingman multi-tool.  It also has a knife, but it has more: spring loaded pliers, needle nose pliers, cutters hard wire cutters, flat and phillips head screwdrivers, can opener, file with small screwdriver tip, parcel opener (aka: Finger opener), and a good pair of scissors.  Is the knife tactical?  No.  But neither are some of the other so-called "tactical" knives that the youboob preppers are carrying anyway.  Please don't tell me you plan to get into a fight with a 2 1/2" folding knife.  One well placed shot to your chest from my pistol, and your Benchmade tactical folder is mine.  Occasionally, I carry a small Pikes Peak knife just because I like the small size.  Additionally, on my truck key ring is a small Victorinox Rally, which has a small phillips screwdriver and flat screwdriver for my glasses, nail file, tweezers, tooth pick, and a bottle cap opener.

Next is lighting.  Please don't tell me you carry a Surefire G2 or a 6P or some other damn thing in your pocket.  How aggravating.  I carry my new LED Lenser P2 because it tends to disappear when not needed.  It's smaller than most pocket flashlights, yet it is high quality and is bright enough for most tasks that are demanded of it.  I don't need a backup light.  If my light fails, and it is that critical, I'll walk back to my car; there's a bigger and better flashlight there anyway.

Of course, I don't need to carry every key to everything I have for EDC.  I have a set of keys for my truck, my car, my work van, and then there are the keys to stuff around my house, like padlocks, gate locks, toolbox locks, etc.  I don't need to carry all those other keys with me when I leave the house.  What good do they do me when I am 30 miles from home?  If I need a key to a gate or padlock at my house, I go into the house, walk over to the key ring hook (mounted to the wall), and get what I need.  You guys that carry 10,000 keys with you, jingle janglin' from your belt loop worry me.  Each set of keys does have a house key on it, so I always have that.  As far as spares go, they are hidden.

Of course, I do have a cellphone.  It makes and receives calls.  No, I don't carry a spare battery for it.  I have this thing at home, and in my car, called a phone charger.  Besides, if I found the need for a spare battery on a regular basis, I'd retire the old one, ie: shit can it.

Most often, I carry my Samsung Galaxy tab in my vehicle.  It comes in handy for find places, getting directions, looking up phone numbers or addresses and stuff.  Most importantly though, it allows me to play Angry Birds when I'm waiting for my wife to get out of the Post Office.  Rarely do I ever carry the tab around with me though.  It normally stays in the car, hidden from view.

Then, lastly of course, is the wallet.  I just carry a leather Columbia wallet with my photo ID, my CPL, a couple other licenses and permits I have, debit card, health insurance card, and some cash.  If I need my passport, social security card, birth certificate, etc, I'll go into the filing drawer at home and fish it out.

So, give me a break!

-James

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Training Your Family - My Thoughts

While my wife and I were on our double date last night, we ended up sharing the range with a lot of different people with a lot of different guns.  The range was packed and the only two lanes we could get, with our friends, were lanes 3 and 5. I had hoped for two lanes next to each other, but apparently Saturday evening is a busy time, so you take what you can get.  My friend Amy had purchased a new Ruger LCP and was in need of sending some lead downrange.  My friend Darren also purchased a new pistol - a Ruger SR9c with a stainless slide.  Both are excellent choices for concealed carry.  I would know, I carry both on a daily basis.  I'd like to think that I may have influenced their decision somewhat, but it was probably a combination of practicality and good taste that lead them both to Ruger.  Of course, they have shot my Rugers before.  So who knows?

I got set up in my and my wife's designated lane.  As my wife stood back chuckling, I fumbled around with the large silhouette target and the funky staple gun.  Then I retrieved her New Heritage Rough Rider .22 revolver from the bag and grabbed a re-purposed peanut butter jar full of bulk Federal .22 LR ammunition.  

I had to go over to lane 5 and help my friend Amy, who'd never shot the LCP before, learn how to use the pistol.  Now, under ideal circumstances, I would have rather taught her in an environment that wasn't as loud and crazy, but we dealt with hearing 44 magnums going off in the lane next to us as I worked her through the basics of LCP grip, hold, trigger control, etc. After about 6-7 minutes, she was on line and owning the target like a good shooter should.  Again, I'd like to take some credit for showing her how to use the gun, but in the end, a good shooter, with potential, is still a good shooter.  Darren required no help with the SR9c.  I think he retained everything from the last time we shot together. Still, I had to mosey on over to see how his groups were, and he wasn't doing too bad.  I really liked how Amy and Darren were shooting together.  Each other were complimenting each other and helping each other out.  They were learning to shoot their guns effectively, and made very few mistakes.  It reminded me of the first time I took my wife shooting.

It's important to teach your wife to shoot.  It really is.  It's important to teach your entire family to shoot.  We still have small children, but they are quickly approaching the age where we can start teaching them to shoot.  There are two reasons you need to teach your wife (and family for that matter) to shoot and shoot well.  The first reason is the most obvious.  It empowers them in a way that only a firearm can.  It gives them the ability to level the playing field against people who would do them harm if they didn't have a weapon to fall back on.  I think that, for most gun owners (especially those of us to carry a concealed weapon), this is a no brainer, but so many men and women are afraid of guns.  It's because they lack experience.  It's okay to be naive for awhile, but at some point in your life, it's time to put on the long pants and learn about firearms.  It doesn't mean you need to make a lifestyle out of it.  Heck, you don't even have to like it, but the 2nd Amendment recognizes our right to self defense.  Not only does it recognize that right, but it invokes a certain responsibility to exercise that right in some form or another.

The second reason is because it is fun. All too often these days, husband, wife, and kids come home from their separate places of responsibility; school, work, grocery shopping, etc.  When they get home, they go to their separate corners and do their own thing.  If the family is still lucky enough to eat a meal together, they sit down for 20-30 minutes and engage in awkward small talk over a meal, then go their separate ways again.  I know because my wife and I, at times, are guilty as charged.  Getting out as a family and shooting guns is time well spent.  Now, you may say, but going to the pool is fun too, or getting out on a picnic, going to the zoo, or a son's baseball game are great ways to spend time together as well.  I won't argue it.  We do all those things too.  For the purpose of this blog, I'm focusing on getting in some trigger time together.

Last night, after I helped my friends get their weapons squared away, I came back to my wife to see she had owned the silhouette target.  As much as we love that old army action style revolver, it was time to put it down and get to work on a new gun.  We had two magazines between us, and copious amounts of .22 lr ammo to burn up, so we got to it.

 Now, Lindsay isn't a bad shot at all.  With the new pistol, she wasn't having a difficult time putting little holes right where she wanted to on the target.  For a woman that hasn't trained with pistol as much as I have, she sure does well.  As we continued shooting, she listened to small bits and pieces of information and employed them to great effect.  She won't let me know, but she does listen.  As her shooting improves, her confidence level keeps rising.  She is more apt to try other things.

When she first learned to shoot, she was deathly afraid of anything weapon with a bore diameter larger than a 22.  She absolutely refused to fire my FN FAL or my 9mm pistol.  In fact, the first gun she bought was chambered for 17 HMR.  I love the irony.  The 17 HMR has a slightly higher recoil impulse than my Ruger 10/22 does.  It did set the stage, however, and after she warmed up to my 10/22, she got a CRR model for herself.

Nowadays, she will try bigger stuff.  She's fired a TC Venture .308 rifle, fell in love with my AR 15, shoots my M9A1 like she stole it, has been caught on film shooting a .454 Casull from a Raging Bull, and has even tried my SP101 with full house magnum loads.  She's no longer the timid little thing that she was six years ago.

So what does all this have to my thoughts on training your family?  Well, that's just it.  This has been my experience with my wife as she went from a little girl, who'd never seen a real firearm before she met me, to knowing all sorts of things, like different makes, types of guns, calibers, employment of weapons and some tactics, and generally knowing how to defend herself if in the unfortunate circumstances require it.  Ever since she became a mother, the instinct to protect her own became very strong, and she's at the point where she wants to become very proficient with a pistol so she can employ it if the need arises.

Last night, my friend Amy and I were standing back, loading magazines, while Lindsay was shooting zombie splatter targets with impunity.  She commented on how well Lindsay was shooting, and as I looked around the range, I told her that Lindsay was shooting better than every guy in the range.  To that, Amy just chuckled because she knew I was right.

Lindsay was driving tacks.  A lot of other guys were there shooting big bore revolvers, 45's, 40 S&W's, and missing all the time.  The lane full of yahoos next to us had a large target with a zombiefied rendering of Osama Bin Laden on it, and it was only 7 feet away.  Lindsay commented on how many hits were not on target, but all over the paper.  How can a group of guys with such fancy hardware shoot like such crap?  As I stood back, loading a magazine full of .22 lr ammunition, one of these macho guys asked me what we were shooting.  I told him it is a 22/45, and that we were breaking it in.  He then told me "When you get better, you should get one of these" as he pointed to a Springfield XDM, chambered for 40 S&W.  I looked at him and said, that's great.  What kind of accuracy do you get with that?  He showed me the target.  I just looked and said, "yeah, that's great."  Then I went and put a 1" group at 7 yards with my 22.  Then Lindsay put a 3" group at the same distance.  Ironic.  The only two people there who could hit a damned thing were shooting a lowly .22 pistol!  If only that dude knew what kind of hardware lives in my house!

When we were wrapping up, another couple came in.  By this time, the redneck yahoos were long gone.  They came in, missed their target, and left.  We still had another hundred rounds to run through my pistol, and Darren wanted to try out the revolver too, so we stuck around awhile longer.  Lindsay was the first to notice that this other couple had brought a pink Sig Sauer Mosquito, chambered in the little 22 LR.  Ah, another man teaching his wife to shoot.  Or was it the other way around?  I couldn't tell.  What I did know is that she was also putting holes in the paper where they ought to be.  I noticed her target was the same distance as the fancy hardware packing redneck yahoos that had previously left.  Instead of random holes all over the paper, however, there were somewhat small groupings in various places around the target.  She had done what my wife does.  First, shoot center of mass.  Tear one big hole in the center of the target.  Then go for the head shots.  Tear a nice gaping hole in that part.  Then start shooting for the numbers around the target and see if you can make them disappear.  Now, here was a couple that actually knew how to shoot.  I could tell.  The guy never shot while we were still there.  He waited for his woman to turn her silhouette target into hamburger, and quietly loaded magazines.  I would have talked to him, but between all the other gunshots and the fact that the range is generally loud, I didn't want to start yelling at a guy I didn't know.

It is important to get your family into shooting for all of the reasons above.  It has strengthened our marriage, gives us something to talk about, something we both like to do together, and it makes me sleep better at night knowing that my wife can pick up any gun in the house and use it to defend her life, my life, and most importantly, the lives of our children.  Besides, there's no showboating when my wife knows how to shoot nearly as well as I do.  I've missed my target plenty of times, much to her innocent jabs when I do so.  She also knows when an amazing hit is truly amazing, like that time she dotted the "I" on a Miller Draft beer bottle with her Rossi 17HMR.

Neither of us can wait until our children are big enough to get behind a little rifle of their own.  We even have their first guns picked out.  We truly live the gun culture.  The family that shoots together, shoots well together.

-James