Sunday, June 12, 2016

Availability of Weapons In The US Saving Lives?

I've been thinking about this for a while now and have finally come to a consensus on my feelings and the facts. The US gun culture is creating a climate that makes it easier to purchase civilian weapons than it is for terrorists to import true weapons of war like were used in Paris, France. It's nearly impossible to buy a gun in France, so the terrorists purchased and smuggled in full auto AK47's. If you're already smuggling weapons, you might as well include some mines, grenades and incendiary devices, right?

Let's face it, a Glock is far less dangerous than an RPG or many other weapons out there. If they are going to have to import their weapons, I'm sure those will be far more potent than what is currently available to radicalized US citizens.

The gun culture of the US continues to save lives, even without arming the good guys. With that being said, carry your darn gun! All the time, and be ready to use it when you must. Where I live those pesky No Guns signs carry no legal weight, so I ignore them, just like the criminals do.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Critical Thinking in Practice, Not Predisposition.

Every once in a while I'll have a rough time overcoming preconceived notions and generally accepted knowledge used as fact. Take for instance my day's endeavor. I've been working on load development for a very odd rifle. Proof research barreled Remmy long action in 300 Win Mag. I've been told be several people that those barrels like heavy bullets, and I favored the heavy bullets, loading a full set of them for my daily grind at the range. I did this in deference to the findings of my last outing with the same rifle where I used 168 grain Sierra Match Kings to break in the barrel and do the zero work while breaking it in. As soon as I felt the barrel was ready to start grouping, I switched to 190 SMK's and the groups opened up a bit. I did find a narrow node where it would shoot 1/2" groups with 190's, but for the most part, the 168's shot better.

Given my predisposition, I loaded a bunch of 208 Amax's for the outing, in total opposition to the findings of my first trip. The results were less than stellar. 1.25" groups all day. I jut happened to also take another 300 win mag I built years ago for F class competition. The ammo it uses is a 175g zooming at 3185 FPS. I decided to swap ammo and shoot the faster 175's. They are 60-70 FPS faster than the 168's I used to break it in. Guess what- 3/8" 5 shot groups.

We often times take the intelligence out of the equation and interject our own untested facts into our decisions when we have solid, verifiable evidence that they are false. Allowing your feelings to get in the way of sound decision making can be a catastrophic tragedy. Luckily today it only cost me about 60 bucks in fuel, ammo and some shoulder abuse. Making a decision without any solid evidence to support it is also a fool's chore. It's like picking a wife or husband based on what their favorite color is. Start studying your choices, be critical of your past choices. "Because that's the way we've always done it" isn't an acceptable reason to continue that behavior. Critical thinkers not only solve issues, they also find inefficiencies and assist in process streamlining.

Questioning your choices can be a humbling experience, but also enlightening. Having a peer or family member review your logic can also help establish a baseline for you to follow when questioning your decisions. For instance, if you tend to over spend on amazon while sipping on a frosty beverage, start limiting your exposure to either the brew or the shopping website and see what the outcome is. Ask yourself why you made the choice you did and learn from it's success or failure.  It's tough adulting some times, so don't take criticism personal. Learn from it, embrace your shortcomings for the lessons they teach you. Take command of the decision making process and become wise from your mistakes as much as you do from your successes.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Gear Review: Cold Steel Spartan Folding Knife. UPDATE 5/28/16

There comes a time in every man's life when he must retire a knife. It's like losing an old friend that's been around forever. Earlier this year my Beretta AirLight Tanto gave up the ghost and lost the screws for the pocket clip. I've had this knife for 10+ years and loved everything about it. It's lightweight, ultra thin and holds a nice edge. The screws are the weak point. The ones that hold the clip in place stripped out from the frame. So, that brings me to my next adventure. Finding the right knife for me.

I'd been trolling several web sights looking for something similar to the Beretta but never really found the right one. I finally just gave up and decided to get something different in the less than $100 market. The choices were endless. While looking at many blades, I noticed that the Tanto style I was used to wasn't going to be good for skinning or hunting use. My next blade should be useable for such since my boys are getting to the age where I will be taking them in the field soon enough. A nice curved folder would suit me just fine. What size should I get? Well, bigger is better, right?

Sales video from the Cold Steel website.

Cold Steel Spartan Folder. Glock 17 and mags for size reference and cool factor.

My first impression is that this thing is HUGE. The blade itself is is 4.5 inches long with a total length of 10.5 inches. The weight is 9.2 ounces so it's a hefty knife. Definitely one you will be hard pressed to forget it's in your pocket. The grip has a good texture with internal steel liners and a positive locking mechanism that is about as robust as they come. There are videos on the web site showing the locking mechanism holding a 300 pound load. A very well built knife for the price!

I started carrying the knife around six months ago and noticed it's bulk right away. The length is so long that it tends to rub the keys at the bottom of my pocket. This gets annoying at times when seated for long periods. The blade itself came very sharp and held it's edge well for quite a while. The locking mechanism needs to be operated a few times and lubricated a little before it's perfect. The clip is very sturdy as well but it's losing it's black coating on the leading edges. The finish on the knife is a bead blasted stainless look with the lettering near the handle. The Aus 8 steel isn't a very robust stainless. Mine is getting bits of rust or corrosion on it in several places.  It seems to be only on the side that rests against my leg so it must be a moisture/salt issue. Makes me wonder how well it will stand up to opening bags of ice melt this winter.

Corrosion on the blade. The lines are from sharpening a pencil Friday afternoon.

Overall, it's a very nice knife. The blade itself is easily sharpened and fairly tough, but not nearly as hard or resilient as many others I've had. I nicked the blade when I was cutting zip ties off a fence. I was disheartened when it happened but I wasn't being very careful. The blade was easy enough to bring back into shape that it wasn't a big loss. My only other annoyance is the fact that you really need to put your fingers inside the hilt where the blade goes to operate the safety lock. I cut myself once trying to snap it closed due to the design. I'm not a fan of leaking, so that one was pretty big.

I like the knife for what it is and it's really nice to take bushwhacking because it doubles as a machete in the dense brush. A swift whack with the blade is all it takes to cut back brambles and vines. The handle is shaped to hold your hand in place and not lose the knife or allow the edges of your fingers to be exposed while chopping. Great feature for a knife of this heft and type. Another great feature is the pocket grabbing plate at the top of the blade. It catches the edge of your pants pocket and opens the blade for you if you draw it properly. My only issue with that feature is that the thumb piece seems to be a little loose fitting. You can move it slightly but the screw seems to be tight.

My thoughts are that I'm going to keep the knife and use it for weekends in the woods or certain special times when a small machete is needed. I'm going to continue my search for another knife of the size and caliber of the Beretta I previously owned. 

Update: This winter I broke the flat tang that is used as a pocket catch for fast opening the knife. I was batoning wood during a camping trip and noticed it was missing after I finished. It had been loose for a bit. I kept meaning to return it for repair, but life gets in the way. Fast forward to last week and I brought it with me to the NRA convention to check with the Cold Steel reps there. I asked if they had a good warranty and told them of the issue. He grabbed it from me and took it in back, then handed me a box. He also informed me that the new updated model is a better steel. So far that seems to be the case. I'll let you know how it holds up. AWESOME WARRANTY! 

Normalcy Bias & Distractions, General Rambling

I'm as guilty as you are of allowing distractions to steer my goals and to delay my investments. The current weather and summer planning has pretty much dominated my existence for several weeks. The times it's rained we spent working on the house and the times when the weather was good was spent cleaning up outside the house. I know these are important things when you consider organizational strategy and remaining as grey as possible in your neighborhood.

One thing that was very surprising was that several of my neighbors have come to me asking for gun advice. I've done some repairs on their guns in the past, and have helped them with decisions on new purchases. Not very grey of me. I guess it's more important to me to have those people be prepared than it is to keep them in the dark. Then, just a few weeks ago, a news truck pulls in my driveway. A local reporter was given my name as the neighborhood watch captain. I'm not, but even people that don't even know my name, and live a block away know of me. They gave the gal a description of my truck and where I live to locate me. I ended up doing an interview and inviting her to a training class.

I've evidently been very remiss in my dealings with neighbors. I've allowed them a glimpse into my security abilities, and I've trained a few of them through the security consulting company I work for part time. I'm now seen as a leader (target) for armed incursions should there be any in a WROL situation; This was not my intention.

It's normal to want to keep your neighbors safe. It's in your best interest. They have no idea of my food stores or plans, but they do know I have the ability to defend myself. If that a good or bad thing is a 50/50 split. Good as a deterrent, bad because it makes me a target for thieves. We've had a recent dirtbag influx when a couple of the elderly people in my neighborhood passed away and the family took over the property. 4am fireworks, trash blowing around, their guests tossing food wrappers and drinks out of their cars, code violations, poor lawncare, etc. Nothing serious, yet, but still annoying. The new occupants have been hauled off to jail a couple times for minor court violations, but not for felonies. I've contacted my people on the local PD to have them investigate them, but I haven't taken a stand, yet.

This brings me to the point. I'm guilty of letting myself be lulled into normalcy bias by my domesticated home life and my comfy surroundings. My wife travels a bunch for work so I'm always dealing with my boys and keeping things together on the home front. It's a necessary distraction from the big picture and it's eating my days away.

I've upped my physical training regimen and got back into shooting more than just the carbine and glock, but the long range guns do eat up the pocketbook pretty fast when you consider you're buying 200+ grain bullets and using 4x the powder charge of a 223 round. Adds up quickly.

I do get to practice my fieldcraft quite a bit more with the shopping trips and errands I must run. That's the up side. My 14yo son is also starting to get some of the training I've wanted him to get involved in. He's grown 6 inches this year and is now taller than me, so it's time for him to get involved in his own self defense. He seems to be catching on. I rarely see him holding his phone while walking or in a public area.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

2016 Nominations and The Political Landscape.

I've been inundated with calls and messages about my thoughts on the current political landscape. It's difficult to fully explain the deceit and moral deficiency within our hallowed halls of leadership, but to quantify government in it's simplest term, it's a Dumpster Fire. The only thing worse than smelling a dumpster is to set in on fire and turn the putrid refuse into smoke.

Our government is a morally bankrupt institution of greed and moral decay that is based on graft and theft. Even if the best among us were to be put in charge of enforcing the laws and treaties of the US, it would still be a smoldering dumpster fire. It's just too far gone.

Choosing which leader rolls the dumpster over the cliff is just a question of how fast it will get to the edge, not if it will go over the edge. That's already been determined, there is zero chance that our country will survive as the debt overcomes our means to pay it.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Gear Review: Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw

Due to my affinity for a nice fire and the ability to build some simple camp furniture, I had been looking for a lightweight camp saw that folds down or disassembles into a small package for backpacking and woodcraft. A saw is far more practical for processing smaller firewood and back cutting a tree when felling.

I found that the market was pretty small for such items. Many are of poor quality or too heavy for practical use. After quite a bit of youtube watching and some blade research, I found that the Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw carried at Duluth Pack ( seemed to be the best bet for my purposes. It's not cheap, but it's compact and well reviewed. It's only drawback that was apparent was the fact that it required some serious tools to repair if damaged.

I have used the saw many times now and its construction is very simple. 3 Channels of aluminum bracing are cut with the 2 outside "legs" being slightly larger channel to allow them to slide over the top of the center channel. 4 Zinc rivets are used to connect the 3 pieces together and allow them to fold. Each leg has a 1" slit cut in it to hold the blade. The blade is installed by sliding the blade into the channel slit and seating the installed stopper bolt inside the channel while camming the waxed wooden handle into place, tensioning the blade. It's pretty easy to figure out, and the directions are written on the wooden handle. It's also bi-directional so it's impossible to install it backwards. The handle can be installed on either side.

It's pretty easy to use for wood processing and such, but it's a but difficult to make precision cuts. For some reason it likes to drift, no matter who is using it or the grip they use. I believe this has to do with the channel slit not being perfectly tight and causing the blade to twist slightly.

The other drawback is that it's rather loud for a buck saw. Not painfully so, but much louder than any pruning saw or buck saw I've used. These are both minor concerns when you consider it's intended use, but for some, it's a deal breaker. The only other issue I have is the fact that it doesn't have a sheath for it. They are available, but not in any way can you consider them cheap.

The positives far outweigh the issues in this case. This 24" saw weighs 15.9 ounces, which is paltry compared to it's usefulness. It's cutting ability is very good with some practice. The lighter weight takes some getting used to, but with a few minutes of cutting, you forget about it. It uses a standard Bahco blade for wet wood, which is a pruning blade with cutters and rakers. You can buy standard 24" blades from various manufacturers and only need a screwdriver and pair of pliers to change the blade.

The good: Light weight, durable, easy to use.
The bad: loud, cuts drift, no sheath, cannot be fixed in the field
The ugly: none

Overall, this has been a decent purchase for the 70 dollar entry fee. It's perfect for use on extended campouts and for rough cutting when out in the woods. It's not meant for use in heavy or commercial style cutting. It's meant to be used as a backpacking saw for serious adventurers. With it, you can cut down trees with a 15" width without an issue. They also come in a 30" model, but it won't fit on my pack properly. In conjunction with a proper camp axe, you can pretty much build a log cabin or serious shelter without an issue.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Gear Review: Husqvarna General Purpose Axe

I've been using an old family axes for years now. They are all well worn and pretty beat up due to the use of 3 generations of users. I can remember chopping up kindling as a kid with my Grandfather's roofing hatchet. He was a thrifty man, so when it broke he paid a neighbor to weld it back up for a 6 pack of beer. Cheap beer.

The axes were all in pretty poor shape, and the smaller Shapleigh axe was tucked in my dad's tool box when I inherited it. I cracked the larger axe handle years ago and just taped it up years ago as well. With my new skills research, I've learned how to re-haft or re-handle an axe of any type, including mauls. These are a few axes from the scout troop I volunteer with. I bought quality handles and spent several hours per unit learning how to do it right. Cleaning them up takes time as well.

 These are 2 high quality, low cost scout axes that have been in use by the scouts for a few decades. You can see the years of abuse they endured. It took a lot of work to get them back in shape.
After installing new Seymour Hickory handles. The top Axe is my turn of the century Shapleigh axe. It's in great shape now. It's a good size for smaller tasks and light chopping, but too heavy to strap to your backpack and slog to the field. Thus begins my quest to acquire a more suitable axe for backpacking and bushcraft. After much research and some budget constraints, I knew I wanted a Swedish steel axe similar to a small forest axe. Many European military units use similar axes so I knew they are very reliable. It had to have a Hickory handle as well.

There were many contenders out there but the best value seemed to the the Husqvarna. You needed to do a little rework to the edge, and the cover isn't the best, but it's made by one of the oldest axe makers in Sweden, Hults Bruks.

Upon arrival, I spent some time putting a shaving sharp edge on the axe. I re linseed oiled it up a few times and set it aside for an upcoming scout camp out. I was able to use it to split some smaller logs and make some feather sticks for practice. It was just what I wanted. Lightweight, perfect length for my arms and well built.

Fast forward a month and my son and I are in the woods during the winter and we are relying on our kit to keep us warm and fed. I'm really glad I had the right tools to split the gnarly muscle wood and cedar for the cold, rainy weather. You do have to be careful though, the small head allows the wood to split unevenly and you can hang the handle in the split regularly. It's caused some damage on my handle. Not enough to worry about, but enough that it's showing some splinters at the neck.

The profile is very sharp, which keeps the weight down, but makes the head stick pretty often in stringy or soft wood. It's aces at splitting dry hard woods.

Pictured after felling and splitting a couple dead white pine trees.

It's now my favorite axe. I use it on every non scouting camp out and for clearing brush or working wood when I need to take off more than a knife will allow. It keeps a shaving sharp edge onger than my knife does. Even after chopping down 2 15" x 40' white pines and limbing them. All it required for bringing the edge back to shaving was 10-15 strokes on the leather strop with yellow compound. 

With 6 months of good use behind me, I can say that this has been one of my better investments. The head is still 100% solid on the haft, the edge is still perfect, and the finish is still rough. Can't ask for anything more in a medium cost backpacking/general purpose axe.