Thursday, May 24, 2012

This story is a year old, but it is still relevant in today's dangerous world.


Keep your gun close.  Keep it at home, at the read, loaded, and ready to put down the bad guy!

-James

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Streamlight TLR-1s

Weapon mounted lights.  How on earth did we ever get by without them?  I remember back in 80's, when my father was a police officer, he had this ginormous Streamlight that ran on three or four D size batteries.  It probably only produced 60 lumens of light and weighed a ton in my 6 year-old hands.  Back in those days, you could use your light as a weapon of sorts because it was so big and bulky, it doubled as a club.

These days, we are lucky to have technology on our side.  With super bright LED technology, superior batteries, high tech polymers and CNC processes for turning metal into useful tools, the things we buy are smaller, more powerful, longer lasting, and just as durable, if not more so than they were just 25 years ago.

This is the Streamlight TLR-1s.  It is part of Streamlight's Tactical Gun Mount Series of flashlights currently produced.  Streamlight describes it as a rail-mounted tactical light, or strobing tactical light, which is where the "S" comes from.  It is designed to be quickly attached and detached from a weapon that incorporates a weapon light rail, like a 1913 picatinny rail or those commonly found under the frames of handguns.  The Streamlight TLR-1s comes with adapters that allow you to mount it to various pistols like Berettas, Glocks, S&W, etc; I've personally found that the GL (Glock) adapter works on the Beretta M9A1, Ruger SR9, and 1913 picatinny rail.

The body of the TLR-1s is made of 6000 series aircraft grade aluminum and is then anodized in a subdued black finish.  The name of the light, the model number, and serial number are then proudly etched onto the side in contrasting white.  The switch is a polymer ambidextrous paddle with momentary/steady on with strobe function.  The strobe is activated by quickly flipping the paddle twice (within .4 seconds), and can be used momentarily or in constant on modes.  Dimensions are as follows: Length, 3.26in; width, 1.47in; height, 1.44in (published).  The TLR-1s is not the lightest light in the game.  Weighing in at 4.18 ounces, with batteries installed (published), it is 1.86 ounces heavier than the TLR-3, and .38 ounces heavier than the Surefire X300.  By way of comparison to the X300, the TLR-1s is shorter, a little fatter, costs half as much, is still waterproof to 1 meter, and produces only 10 less lumens than the Surefire.  I think the Surefire is cool, but not so cool as to demand twice the cash for minimally extra features that don't add any real value to me.  If I was a Navy Seal, or intended to take my guns swimming on a regular basis, the 22 meter submersibility of the Surefire might be attractive to me.  Since there are no swimming pools in my bedroom night stand, the waterproof qualities of the Streamlight TLR-1s are suitable for me.  The size of the TLR-1s makes it impractical for smaller guns, but it fits the Beretta M9A1 like a glove.

The TLR-1s mounts to the rail of the handgun via Streamlight's proprietary rail grip clamp system, which allows you to click the light onto the weapon without placing it or your hands in front of the weapon's muzzle.  You simply loosen the tension screw, align the spring-loaded side of the clamp to the rail, and rotate it in for a positive lock. Then, using nothing more than your fingertips, or a dime, or a wide screwdriver on a Leatherman tool, you tighten down the tension screw, which is spring-loaded so it won't back out when firing.  Mine has been on my Beretta M9A1 through over a thousand rounds, and it has yet to shoot loose.

The LED is what Streamlight calls C4 technology, which they claim makes it 3x brighter than the competition.  This marketing gimmick seems accurate, and the intensity of the LED is impressive.  With just 2 CR123 batteries providing power for this light, the 160 lumen output of the light is both offensively bright and will illuminate an entire room just by bouncing the light off the floor.  The beam pattern is clean with an intense spot in the middle, with a clean cutoff around the edges - no inclusions or halos to speak of.  You can thank Streamlight's parabolic deep dish reflector for that.  Because of how bright the light is, you do not need to point the weapon at anything to identify it.  You simply aim the gun and light at the ground, in the low ready, and flip the paddle switch.  Your target is easily identifiable without running the risk of negligently shooting a loved one or someone who is not a threat.

We can't discuss the TLR-1s without addressing the "S" in the name.  The strobe on the TLR-1s is debilitating, to say the least.  I wasn't able to find how many strobes per minute it is because either google really isn't my friend or my search-fu sucks.  Either way, it's fast, and it's highly disorientating.  The advantage of a strobe light is that it makes it nearly impossible for the bad guy to locate you.  With the constant pulsation of light to the eyes, the brain has little time to interpret the signals before the light shuts off and then comes back on.  This makes it almost impossible to track your movements behind the light.  I tested this in the dark and it is true.  It's simple body mechanics.  While you are bathed in the intense glow of the strobe light, your brain is overloaded with information that it cannot effectively process.  It causes confusion, disorientation, frustration, and interferes with your motor processes.  On the other hand, the blinding light of the strobe doesn't interfere with you, the shooter.  If you are behind the light, you are not receiving the full intensity of its output, and can maintain control over your body and your reflexes.  Strobes are good for you - not the bad guy.

Run time for the Streamlight TLR-1s is 2.5 hours, with solid state current regulation for consistent levels of illumination.  This information comes from the fact sheet that Streamlight provides.  What all this does for you is give you optimum brightness over the life of the batteries.  2.5 hours may not seem like much to you now, but let's understand that you won't be constantly illuminating with the weapon mounted light.  You will be momentarily taking snapshots of your surroundings; more on that later.  Getting back to the burn time, you will notice a significant drop in light output all at once when the batteries go beyond their usefulness as a power source.  I have two other Streamlight flashlights in my coffers: the Scorpion X and the Stinger LED, both previously reviewed here.  Each of those lights also utilize current regulation to maintain maximum brightness until the power cells are discharged.  The TLR-1s is no different.  For the home defense user, the effective light output will last you a long time.  I'm on my second set of batteries and I've had this light for a year and a half.  That's not too bad when you consider that the first year or so has seen me shoot with the light on steady for the sake of testing it.  I wanted to ensure I could trust my life with it, after all.  Either way, for tactical use, the run time is sufficient.  If you carry the light with your weapon for either duty, or in your combat load-out, it may be a good idea to keep an extra set of batteries on hand simply because you don't want to be caught without them.  My personal load-out platform consists of three separate flashlights (handgun, rifle, & utility) that all use the same batteries.  When it comes to the life saving potential of a good light, you can never have too many.

Tactics

I knew this day would come.  It's time for me to talk tactics with the weapon-mounted light.  There is a big misnomer about the use of lights mounted to the bottom of a handgun, shotgun, or rifle. All too often I hear the same worn out argument that the bad guy will shoot at the light.  I guess that's true if you leave the light on, giving your position away, and standing still.  Tac lights are not to be used to light your way.  They are used to illuminate targets and identify threats, nothing more.  One never turns on the light, and stays put.  If you activate the light, you'd better be moving or are prepared to move.  Otherwise, you give your position away and once someone has the drop on you, you're cooked.  Another thing to understand that is you are using a light to help navigate at night, in the house, or wherever, you need to illuminate at random, pointing the gun in different directions, moving opposite to the direction you illuminate.  I know it seems counter-intuitive, but practice moving around at night in your backyard.  Pick a line and practice momentary illumination with moving in directions that would not seem logical to a bad guy.  And for god's sake, don't count seconds between illumination cycles.  Once a guy figures out you're being consistent, they will simply wait with their muzzle pointed in right spot, and click-bang once you illuminate again.  For movement around the home, you will only illuminate a room at a time, for less than a second before you move one.  How you clear your house is up to you and your layout, but I suggest practicing in total darkness to find out the most efficient way to illuminate the sight lines with as few illuminations as possible.  I also recommend leaving some low power lights in the house on at all times, like oven lights, dimmable hallway sconces, night lights, etc.  They will help you navigate your already familiar setting without ruining your night vision.  If you have small children, like I do, it will help you to avoid trip hazards like your daughter's barbie doll, your son's firetruck, or the dreaded Lego block under your foot - ouch!

Another misnomer is to hold a hand held light away from your body while illuminating.  Okay, fine, but remember that one hand on a weapon is not the most efficient way to shoot.  For maximum recoil control, aiming, follow through, both hands should be on the weapon at all times, except when doing admin stuff like checking doors, ensuring your family's safety, or perhaps picking up your kids and taking them to a safe room in the house.  If you are injured, or your reaction side hand is unavailable, the weapon-mounted light is still usable.  Being able to operate unencumbered by a handheld standalone light is worth the effort to get a light onto a gun.  The notion that a bad guy is less apt to hit you with your light 1 foot away from your head is absurd.  When faced with a powerful light, the bad guy will be disorientated at least, blinded at the most.  If they have a gun, they are likely to spray and pray, hoping one of their errant shots finds its way into your belly.  If they are hopped up on drugs or alcohol, they may not react to light like you and I would.  They may be either extremely light sensitive or desensitized to it.  Either way, when things go wrong, it won't matter if the light is 1 foot from your face, or 1 inch.  Your number 1 priority after identifying the threat is to get rid of it.  You won't have time to do fancy flashlight work when the shit hits the fan.  For me, my priority is on weapon control and followup.  Holding a flashlight out, away from my body, takes away from weapon control and increases the potential for me to miss, giving the bad guy the critical moments he or she needs to make a move on me.  Chances are, if I hit that light, and I see a weapon in their hands, the trigger is going to be pressed before they have time to react.  Why?  The advantage of being in control of the light gives me the opportunity to be in control of the situation.  Own the light, own the fight!

-James

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leatherman Style PS - EDC Made Easy

Lately, I've been trying to find a way to integrate a small pair of pliers into my EDC system without overly increasing the bulk.  There are times when my Leatherman Wingman just isn't feasible, but I still want a pair of needle nose pliers and scissors on me.  Of all the functions on my multi-tool, the knife gets used the most, the scissors second, and the pliers the third.  Now, I suppose I could have gone with the Squirt PS4, but I also wanted the ability to quickly remove the multi-tool from my key ring and use it unencumbered.  As a result of this thinking, and the understanding that I always have my Swiss Army knife on my key ring, as well as an EDC knife in my pocket, the need for a small knife on a tool this size wasn't of utmost importance.  That's an important point because the Leatherman Style PS doesn't have a knife on it, whereas the CS does.  The CS has scissors as the primary tool whereas the PS has pliers as the primary.  Okay, great.  So all that being said, I chose the Style PS because what I give up with the blade, I gain three additional tools in return: needle nose pliers, regular pliers, and wire cutters.

Let's talk about ease of carry.  I said before that my Wingman isn't always suitable for carry, but there's no reason the Style PS can't come along all the time.  It's small size and super light weight make it almost invisible until it is needed.  Weighing in at 1.58 ounces at 2.9 inches long, it blends into my key set perfectly.  It's no bigger than a key fab.  The skeletonized body helps keep the weight down as well as give it a cool modernized look that anyone can appreciate, whether you are a gear nut or just an average Joe.  Giving it further style is the blackened stainless steel on the one side to provide a two tone effect.  Leatherman Style PS is printed just beneath the blackened portion so you know just what it is you are carrying... in case you forgot.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "James, you need to consolidate your keys, bro!"  Yeah, I know, but it's hard to do when you access each of these keys regularly.  Plus, I keep my AR15 front sight adjustment tool because I've forgotten it so many times when I go on shooting trips.  Besides, I've seen guys with a lot more keys and crap on them anyway, and mine fit in my pocket unobtrusively without jangling from a hook on the belt loop of my Carhartt jeans.  Note, the Victorinox Rally as well.  Some of the functions between these two tools, like the file, flat screwdriver bottle opener, and tweezers are going to be repeats, but who cares?  Two is one and one is none, remember?  Besides, each tool gives me something the other doesn't, like a knife on the Rally and scissors & pliers on the Style PS.  More importantly, as I've stated before, I can remove the Style PS quickly via the carbiner, which doubles as a bottle opener.

While we're on the subject of the tools, let's run down all the functions that this thing has: You have the needle nose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters (spring loaded I might add), scissors, file, small flat screwdriver (for your glasses), tweezers, carabiner clip, and bottle cap opener.  In a given month, I will, at some point, need any one of these tools provided by the Style PS.  I think the only thing that could be done to improve upon this particular design is to ditch the file and integrate a small knife instead, but that's a relatively moot point when you're carrying a Sypderco Endura4 in your pants pocket, or on a Victorinox swiss army knife attached to your key chain.  Either way, The Style PS fills a really big void when you are in a situation where your larger multi-tool may be unsuitable for carry.  Besides, this is an elegant way to be prepared.

-James

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stress Relief

What an insane week this has been!  Actually, the last three weeks have been very difficult for me.  I have a lot of things on my plate right now, and the stress level makes it feel like finals week in my college calculus class!

Needless to say, I was overdo for some relaxation in the mountains, away from kids, and away from everything career-related, economy related, or every other worry that has come up in the last month or so.  Saturday morning began with me packing the Jeep full of guns and ammo.  Then my wife and I headed over to Shari's to meet up with a few friends for an adults only breakfast.  No kids allowed!  We almost didn't know how to act.  Without children to occupy our time, cleaning up spilled beverages, or watching helplessly as they toss macaroni and cheese on the floor, we just sat for a few minutes in awe at the silence at our table.  Then the discussions began.

It turns out that my buddy and wife (my good friend for the last decade or so) are taking my lead and want to get a Jeep Cherokee.  Since I'm a fountain of facts, research, and some small connections, I was able to provide some much needed information for him to digest while he hunts down the perfect vehicle for him and his family.

Since my other buddy is a motor head, like me, the conversation naturally goes toward what sort of modifications I intend to make, how bad ass I want to make my Jeep look, and how I intend to use it.  All my friends sat in stunned silence for a moment when I announced that I am going to take a less-is-more approach to the Jeep.  Aside from a budget boost lift, to clear 30" tires and some new bumpers, not a whole lot is going to happen.  I want to keep it stock, for the most part.  I went on to explain that if my Ramcharger taught me anything, it's that I'm sick of chasing drive train problems associated with lifting a vehicle sky high and expecting it to have good road manners.

Four-wheeling just isn't what it used to be to me.  As each year goes by, I feel myself wanting to go off road less and less.  I stick to the well-maintained fire roads these days; I have for the last 5 years.  Driving around a highly modified off road vehicle on gravel fire roads doesn't seem to make sense to me anymore.  I'll admit that it looks cool, but more and more, I look at the things I do, the vehicles I buy, and the money I invest into what gives me the most value.  In fact, even lifting this Jeep 1.5" is a stretch.  The only reason I'm going to do so is because I don't like tires smaller than 30" on an SUV.  I still have my dignity after all.  The small lift and tires will serve to simply make the Jeep sit with the proper stance, as I see it.  And nobody, except maybe XJ fanatics will be the wiser.

This doesn't mean that I will be giving up wrenching.  No, I still enjoy that a great deal.  This time, however, the focus will be more on judicious modifications and enhancements with a more conservative approach.  While this Jeep is considered "mine" in this family, my wife will still need complete access to it, and since it has car seats installed, more emphasis will be on safety and reliability over supreme off-road capability, which I believe I covered already.  Look, if it can get me to the campsite and back, or to the grocery store in the snow, then it is doing the job I need it to do.  If it can make it to the remote shooting pit that only I know, then it is doing it's job.  If it can tow a small trailer and make a dump run, then it is doing its job.  We chose a Jeep because we like it.  We also chose it because I know that much of the work that can be done to it can be done without fabrication and is reversible.

That being said, I'm going to create a new tab on top of this blog page dedicated just to the Jeep.  In the past, I have posted "build threads" on the forums I visit, but I want to be able to do a sort of "build/Jeep journal" independent of forums, group think, and other people hijacking threads, and starting wars over which spark plugs to use.

I think I have digressed a bit.  Getting back on track, we took my buddy K to the woods and took turns blowing away paper targets, my steel target, clay pigeons and beer cans.  Lindsay had her first opportunity to shoot the SR-556 and she liked it.  She asked me if I wanted to hang anymore crap from the end of the barrel, to which I told her I'd like a bottle opener.

Most of the late morning and early afternoon were taken up with pistol shooting, working on marksmanship, breaking in Lindsay's Walther P22, giving the M9A1 a run, and getting in some much needed SR9c practice.  It was such a relaxed mood all morning.  As we all took turns shooting, reloading, shooting, reloading, shooting, resetting targets, and the fun banter, we took a few opportunities to break out the camera and get some amazing photographs.

After we were done, we packed it all up and headed home.  Since K and I live in opposite directions from Hwy 410, we shook hands and thanked each other for the great time, and headed home.  The ride home, of course, was completely uneventful.  Hearing the sound of wind noise, the hum of the engine, and nothing but quiet coming from the back seats was strange indeed.  We are used to kids back there making noises and talking to the cars as they pass us by.  I don't drive like I used to.  I've pretty much given up on trying to speed.  Tickets are expensive and the stress of tailgating a slow poke isn't worth it.  The irony is now that I drive the speed limit everywhere I go, others have an opportunity to stress out behind me.  It's comical to watch the drivers behind me pull their hair out of their heads while they swerve left and right looking for that opportunity to pass me.  I can't help but laugh as these idiots throw up gestures as they pass me by.  It's tantamount to watching my 2 year old daughter scream and cry on the floor because I won't let her pull all the toilet paper off the roll.  I understand why those slow pokes used to laugh and point at me when I would zoom by waving my middle finger in their direction.  The funny thing is that when those maniac drivers pass me by really fast, they end up right in front of me and get stopped at the same red light I do.  It's even better when I change lanes at the intersection and end up in front of them again.  All that road rage for what?

Today is glorious.  I know I should be outside instead of on my computer typing a blog, but I started it earlier and my mind won't stop until I finish it. Plus, I spent some time this morning making these pictures look fabulous in Photoshop, so I wanted to get them online.  After pictures, it was eggs, sausage and waffles for the family; I'm not a bad cook either.  Then it was outside to clean up the Jeep and get her shiny.  Buffed out some surface scratches that she came with, and that I made yesterday while driving around in the woods.  Then it was off for a 25 mile drive north to Ikea to get some much needed stuff.  The Jeep got 18.35 mpg yesterday with a combination of city, highway, and trail riding.  Not bad for an eleven year old SUV with 131,000 miles on the clock.

And just like that, my wife comes in and asks me when I'm going to fire up the grill.  Oh yeah, it's a grilling kind of day.  See ya later.

-James

Friday, May 4, 2012

RIP MCA

MCA, from Beastie boys dead too soon at 47 years old.  Gone but not forgotten.


-James

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

He's Just a Little Boy


I saw this bullshit on facebook today, and came uncorked.  Here was my response:

Pff!  Next thing is not keeping score.  Man up!  This isn't a game.  This is training for the real world.  The problem isn't the boos and hisses from the audience; that's to be expected in any sport.  The problem is the protectionist do gooders who suck the life out of healthy competition by posting nonsense like this on a fence.  These people run around thinking their children will be scarred for life because it wasn't handed to little Tommy on a silver platter.  Life isn't fair; it never has been.  Sooner or later, little Tommy is going to grow up and he won't have the benefit of these do gooders trying to protect him from the reality of the world.  At some point Tommy is going to be Tom, and he's going to have to be a man.  If Tommy can't take a little ribbing and a little healthy competition, then perhaps it's time to throw in the towel and do something else... or he could grin and bear it for awhile while Dad gives him an approving nod to let him know it's okay to make mistakes; it's called learning.  "Deal with it son."  Tommy learns to take his licks at a young age and grows up with a thick skin.  Now that's real life experience right there, and that is effective parenting and support in competitive sports, which translates into other facets of life.  The protectionist do gooders would rob little boys of this fantastic learning and growth opportunity, and for what?  So Tommy doesn't get his feelings hurt?  So they'd rather steal good life lessons from him because it makes them feel better about their own insecurities?  How's that going to work when Tommy decides to join the Army, or attend business college, or run a multi-million dollar conglomerate?  Oh too soon to learn valuable life lessons in little league?  I say there is never too soon an opportunity to learn.

-James