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"walls of the city" logo conceptualized by Oleg Volk and executed by Linoge. Logo is © "walls of the city".

i really wanted to title this post something else

… But I figured I probably should not.  We will get to that. 

Anywise, regular readers should be familiar with the multi-year, still-ongoing saga of my gimpy pinkie finger, but here is the quick recap for people who do not hang on my every word. 

Back in December of 2011, I managed to slice open the first interphalangeal joint of my right pinkie finger on the pull-top lid of a can of soup.  This resulted in about a dime-sized flap of skin attached on one side, and I cleaned it out as thoroughly as I could at the time, went to see a doctor as soon as I could and he pretty much said, “Yup, that’s what we would have done,” and I went back about my life. 

About six months later, the joint started swelling, and its range of motion/strength really started diminishing rapidly.  It got to the point where we had it MRI’d in November of 2012, and the tentative diagnosis at the time was a ruptured pulley.  Unfortunately, months of physical therapy did not seem to provide any improvement on the situation, so we decided to see a few more doctors and get a few more opinions… which, of course, wildly varied and often contradicted

After discussing the options with one of the doctors, we decided to go ahead and do an exploratory surgery where the doctor could lay eyes on the pulleys and other mechanisms directly, take biopsies for full cultures, and drain off some of the fluid that was obviously clogging up the joint.  However, despite basically flaying my finger open and growing God-knows what in a lab somewhere, the doctor could not find anything mechanically or pathologically wrong with my finger, aside from “swollen”.  His final verdict was, and I am more-or-less directly quoting, “You are just going to have to live with it.” 

Shiny. 

Fast forward to the NRAAM this past April, where I managed to jam my left ring toe (is there a better name for it?) in a door.  Within a few days, it was exhibiting the same symptoms as my pinkie, and, predictably, it refused to let go of its swelling; in fact, it gets to the point where simply wearing shoes hurts, and walking for more than a mile is pretty much right out thanks to the pain.  On good days, it does not look too bad… on bad days, you have to wonder if it is not having a massive allergic reaction the way it swells up.  Alright, this is no longer a one-off thing; this is starting to look rather systemic. 

So we go see a general practitioner, who refers us to a rheumatologist, who says, “Well, it could be this, and it could be this, and it could be this… do you have any other symptoms?”  It turns out that some small rashes I have had on my head for a while might be relevant, and the rheumatologist sends me over to a dermatologist, who slices off part of one of the rashes and, a few days later, proclaims “psoriasis”. 

It turns out that “psoriatic arthritis” is a thing, and the most likely explanation for all of my various symptoms. 

Yay!  We know what the answer (probably) is!  That means we can fix it, right?  ….Right?  Well… not so much.  Just like psoriasis, there is no “cure”, strictly speaking; you can convince both to go into remission, but they will never really be fixed.  In reality, the medical community does not know a great deal about psoriasis, up to and including its root causes, so “treatments” are strictly palliative in nature. 

The first order of treatments is Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, and we tried that for about a month – the swelling was diminished and the pain was controlled, but it was not worth the stomach upset and the symptoms returned rapidly after I came off the horse pills. 

methotrexate2So, it is time to move on to the second level of treatments – I get to start chemotherapy*.  Now, before people start viscerally reacting to that word, let us clarify a few points.  First, “chemotherapy” strictly means, “the treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances, especially the treatment of cancer by cytotoxic and other drugs,” it is just that the latter half of the definition is implemented a lot more often than not these days.  Second, my doctor is recommending methotrexate, which, amusingly, meets both aspects of the definition depending on doses.  At high levels, it is quite handy at beating back a number of various cancers, but at lower levels (like 1/10th the dose, if not even less, taken much less frequently), it is a treatment for a variety of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and, of course, psoriatic arthritis.

At the smaller doses, methotrexate functions as a Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug, and is strictly an immunosuppressive – basically it controls the body’s desire to produce more skin cells (the symptomatic rashes of psoriasis are due to out-of-control skin growth, basically) while simultaneously diminishing the inflammatory response at the joints.  Honestly, I do not really understand the “how” of this – it involves T-cells and purine metabolism and methyltransferase activity and other things I barely comprehend – but somewhere around 50 years of use indicates it does work, at least for most people treated with it.  Plus, it reduces the inflammation in such a way to prevent future damage to the joints by way of continual erosion, which, considering I developed this at the ripe old age of 29, seems like a good thing to me. 

It is important to note that this is not a radiological drug, so no “glow in the dark” jokes, please.  Still, my parents were mildly amused at their son starting chemotherapy so soon after my father wrapped up his.  Situational humor… what are you going to do? 

Compared to what some people are going through, I guess I should not complain too much, but this was not exactly the answer we were expecting.  Still, we have an answer, and a path forward, so I guess there is that. 

And on a related note, if you ever need any rheumatology work done in the Greater Raleigh-Durham area, we strongly recommend looking up Dr. Tony Ning at Triangle Orthopaedic Associates

(* – This is what I really wanted to title this post, but I figured the explanation was really necessary, for honesty’s sake.) 

(Note:  I am not a doctor and I am not your doctor.  A lot of what I am saying may be wrong; take this all with a grain of salt.) 

aaaaand… meme-ified

airriflebisonmeme3

(See here for the explanation.) 

delivered straight to your doors, no questions asked

I realize I may be telling you something you already know, but I want to highlight this quote from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.

In other words, and barring any kind of state legislation that might say otherwise, an air rifle can be mailed straight to your door, no background checks required, no questions asked, no paperwork (aside from the actual invoice, of course) necessary. 

Of course, when I say “air rifle”, the vast majority of people probably think something along the lines of this: 

daisyairrifle

Well, allow me to reproduce a portion of an article that came with a recent catalog from Pyramid Air

IMG_20141117_100947234In fact, a modern big bore air rifle that shoots a 500-grain .45-caliber bullet at half the muzzle velocity of a centerfire buffalo rifle will still shoot all the way through a 2000-lb. bison, sideways, exiting on the far side.  Unless vital organs are hit, that animal will not drop anytime soon.  But, hit the heart of a full-grown bison with a .45-caliber air rifle bullet, and it’s just as effective as the same bullet driven twice as fast from a .45/70.  Both bullets pass entirely through the animal and do major damage if they hit vital organs or large bones. 

Stephan Boles (right) dropped this bison with a Quackenbush .458 Long Action.  His bullets passed entirely through this large animal.  This hunt was guided by Eric Henderson.  Photo provided by Eric Henderson. 

The full story of the hunt is available here

The Quackenbush .458 Long Action Outlaw Air Rifle can launch a 430 grain bullet at 732 feet-per-second at the barrel, translating to 509 foot-pounds of energy.  For comparison, the once-ubiquitous Springfield Model 1873 could launch a 405gr bullet at 1394ft/s with an energy of 1748ft-lbf; for a more-direct analog, the energy output of the Outlaw is equivalent to some hotter loadings for .45 ACP. 

And lest you think this is a new development, the Girandoni air rifle was employed by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 for hunting deer with its 20-round magazine and 30-round air tank.  Regardless, the Outlaw air rifle shoots exactly the same bullet as a .45-70 Trapdoor, and can achieve exactly the same end results. 

And the Outlaw can be delivered straight to your door, no questions asked, no background checks executed. 

So remind me how “universal” background checks are so necessary to ensure everyone’s safety?  When anyone can go out and purchase an air rifle that can, quite literally, longitudinally perforate a buffalo, do we really care who can buy a .22 bolt-action rifle?  To unironically quote our former Secretary of State, “What difference does it make?”  When you can literally build a functioning firearm out of a shovel and spare parts, or when you can go out and mail-order a device that can put a buffalo in the dirt, or when barely-skilled laborers can craft frankly-terrifying firearms out of spare bits of scrap metal in their huts with scant more than hand tools, are you so stupid as to really think having to undergo a pointless and blatantly unconstitutional background check is going to serve as a functional impediment to someone looking to procure a means of killing someone at a distance? 

The simple fact is “universal” background checks simply will not work, even looking past alternative methods for procuring ranged weapons.  Firstly, criminals will continue to steal firearms, and a black market will continue to exist where those stolen / illegally procured firearms are sold and passed around.  Secondly, without a universal registry of firearms, there is absolutely no way to prove whether or not a firearm was transferred before the “universal” background check law was passed, and, as such, people will keep selling firearms privately regardless of the law.  Thirdly, both “universal” background checks and firearm registries will be met with massive civil disobedience, as they already are.

For heaven’s sake, states are not even bothering to prosecute background check failures as it is right now; how will adding more failures to the system make a difference? 

If you do not know who owns what firearms (and you do not), if you cannot know who sold whom what firearm (and you cannot), and if you cannot stop people from selling each other firearms (and you still cannot), exactly what good are “universal” background checks? 

Well that is an easy question to answer: 

594flowchart

(Found at The View From North Idaho, originally crafted by OpenCarry.org.) 

I admit that I have no bothered to wade through all 18 pages of I-594, but everything I have read from people better-versed in legalese than me who did leads me to believe that the above flow chart is more-or-less accurate. 

As you can see, “universal” background checks like I-594 are plainly crafted to accomplish one thing, and one thing only – create more felons.  Criminals will simply look at that nightmarish graphic and go, “F*ck it, I’ll get my gun from Tommy down the street,” and that is it.  But if my wife were to go to the range with my parents and one were to hand the other a firearm… congratulations!  They both just committed a misdemeanor.  A couple of range trips like that, and, congratulations, they are both now felons. 

All the while, criminals will steal their guns, or buy them on the black market, or, bizarrely enough, buy air rifles that are more than capable of killing a person if someone were to choose to do that.  And while criminals are continuing to prey on increasingly defenseless victims, as more and more otherwise law-abiding citizens fall victim to byzantine idiocy like the image above, anti-rights cultists will pat themselves on the back and proclaim a job well done.  After all, the “gun control” movement cannot remain relevant if firearm-related crime were to drop, and what better way to prevent that than make it functionally impossible to remain law-abiding? 

I continue to oppose background checks, of any type, because they are morally and Constitutionally wrong, but the simple fact is the accomplish nothing at all (aside from making a few statists feel better about themselves for “doing something”), and anyone who tries to convince you they do is either lying or clueless themselves. 

In any case, I-594 was the straw on my parents’ back – they are abandoning Washington state in the near-ish future, but given all the other idiotic laws that have been passed while they lived there (for example, the state laying claim to all rain water and banning rain barrels), I cannot blame them in the slightest.  And, hell, I do not hunt and have absolutely no plans of ever starting, but I kind of want one of those Quackenbush Outlaws myself… it would be a nice complement to the Trapdoor Carbine I already have. 

i think i need a data intervention

Alternative post title: “oh, right, that is why I do not reload yet”. 

Now that I am seriously considering a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle to replace the .243 Winchester Remington 700 (which is still for sale, by the by), the desire to save a little money on what could be moderately expensive ammunition drove me to considering whether or not I should get into reloading.  By now, anyone who is familiar with me will know what the outcome was: 

ReloadingPayOff

Ideally that should be a fairly straightforward table.  All of the prices are from Brownells or MidwayUSA, and the cost of the Commercial-Off-The-Shelf ammunition is for the loading that most closely mirrors what is in the reloading columns.  I already have digital calipers, so they did not get factored in, and I mostly stuck with calibers that are easily reloaded by having the easiest-to-recover brass; the notable exception, of course, is 9mm, but I was just curious on that point.  The cost-per-round for powder is a little off – I rounded anything less than $0.01 up to that – but otherwise the costs would just look strange.  Individual calibers are calculating by adding the total of the “Fixed Costs” column with the relevant “Variable Costs” items (e.g. Large Primer equipment, 6.5 dies, and 6.5 shellplate for 6.5 Creedmoor), and then dividing that by the cost difference between COTS ammunition and reloads.  Random details like tumbling media and replacement parts and so forth are not included, just for simplicity’s sake.  I am sure I omitted a few pieces of equipment people would consider essential – the most notable are case prep being a rabbit hole I did not really want to go down, and cartridge boxes because I am not sure those count as consumables or not. 

Once you reach the “Approximate Total Cost”, your equipment has been paid for, and you should basically only be paying for the materials necessary to reload – in other words, that is when you really see the “difference” go back into your pocket. 

The other things that are not included are my time (which is, in fact, worth money), the value of being able to build up custom loads that I could not otherwise purchase off the shelf, and the lifespans of cases (mostly because then the question becomes whether you buy empties or all-up rounds and I was just not going to get into that). 

So, apparently, the answer to “should I get into reloading?” is “I need to shoot a crapton more.” 

boomershoot 2014 execution, the weather

So long-range shooting is not too hard… under controlled conditions, and there is absolutely nothing “controlled” about Boomershoot.  Joe likes to quote the average conditions as 3000 feet in altitude (well, that much never changes), 55°F, 29.53 inches of mercury, and a 10 mile-per-hour 90° crosswind. 

But “average” does not really sum it up very well. 

Some days, you almost wish you had brought shorts as temperatures hit the 70s and you are in direct sunlight for hours. 

DSCN1727

Some days, the sky tells you that it should be in the 70s, but you are lucky to hit 50… and freezing your tail off in 20mph gusts. 

DSCN1780

Some days serve as a warning… 

DSCN1717

And some days remind you why that warning was valid. 

DSCN1796

That is FuzzyKBP out there, getting drenched while trying to block the wind with his Pelican case.  My happy ass was in Barron’s trailer, being pleasantly less-wet. 

Hell, it does not even need to be actively precipitating for the visibility to get wonky. 

DSCN1688

And some of those days were the same day

My three big recommendations when it comes to weather and Boomershoot are as follows: 

Bring nothing to the firing line that cannot get wet, including yourself, your firearms, your equipment, and so forth.  Even those folks who had fully three-sided tents were getting soaked underneath thanks to random-assed gusts and further craziness. 

Bring lots of layers.  Being able to shed them or add them as the conditions change on an hourly basis – and they will – is handy. 

Bring at least one of everything you brought to the firing line.  It is easily a 30 minute drive, on a good day, back down into Orofino from Boomershoot’s location, and you do not want to realize you left your raincoat down there. 

remington pulls through. finally.

So my 700 coincidentally went in the mail the day I publicly posted a letter to Remington I was working on, and it made it to my doorstep today.  The end verdict? 

The “Reported” column includes “V010 – Barrel – Rusty, fouled, pitted; V032 – Bolt – Poor finish; V055 – Receiver – Finish (polish)”, and the technician comments are “refinish barrel & bolt assembly / check headspace / test fire for function”. 

The conclusion seems to be “A003 – Return to factory specifications”. 

I think, from looking at the “Repair Information” part of the ticket, the rifle might have gotten an all-new bolt, material number F94098, since that is identified as a “part” (specifically a “REGULAR 700 BOLT ASSB S/A POLICE MATTE”), rather than a “service” (like “SERVICE GR-LABOR”, for example).  If so, that is the best outcome I was honestly hoping for; sure, it would have been nice for them to compensate me somehow for the rifle arriving in the condition it did, and then them taking forever to get it back to me, but we all knew that was never really an option.  Regardless, a new bolt basically solves all of this rifle’s problems, so I guess the case is closed on Remington’s customer service. 

At this point, I will no longer recommend against buying Remington products, but I am certainly not going to recommend to buy them either. 

The plan remains the same – sell the 700 (and a gun show is coming up, conveniently enough), and figure out what will serve in its stead. 

[Update] And the listing is live!  Feel free to pass it on to anyone you think might be interested. [/Update]

boomershoot 2014 execution, fuzzykbp’s fireball

It occurred to me after I put up yesterday’s post that I have done a miserable job of actually documenting last year’s Boomershoot experience.  Granted, I did not end up taking very many pictures – my DSLR was down at the time, and I was too busy shooting/spotting to take pictures – but I should put up what I have. 

So, in an effort to do just that, this was FuzzyKBP’s personal fireball: 

We have seen how those look in slow-motion previously, but they are just as impressive at “normal” speed.  And, yes, “feeling the heat” is pretty much unavoidable at that range. 

back to the pretty graphs

Regardless of whether Remington has fixed my rifle or not, I will be selling it in the near future.  As far as I know, it is a perfectly functional rifle, I am simply tired of dealing with it.  While I doubt anyone who reads this blog would be particularly interested in it, given the trials and tribulations I have been through with it, it is a Remington 700 SPS Varmint in .243 Winchester with the recall work already done to it, has had fewer than 500 rounds down the tube, and can come with a Boyd’s Varmint Thumbhole stock in Sky along with a Brownells 20 MOA picatinny rail mount, if you so desire.  Email me (linoge (at) wallsofthecity (dot) net) if you are interested, but, otherwise, it is going up on Armslist and the local gun forum, as well as being toted to the next gun show. 

Plus I have a few boxes of never-fired .243 and a bucket full of once-fired .243 brass, if you are interested in that, too. 

So, if I am getting rid of the rifle, what should I get to replace it, and do I need to stick with .243 Winchester?  I am still working on the first question, but the second question’s answer seems to be, “Not really.”  The 700 was the only .243 rifle I owned, and that caliber’s performance at Boomershoot was… ok.  It certainly bagged me a few boomers, but when the wind picked up (and it always does), the Cone of Accuracy got… well, big.  The two rounds I predominantly used were a 100gr Hornady Whitetail BTSP and a 100gr Winchester Super-X, with their relevant ballistic data documented below: 

Drop over distance: 

OrigBoomRoundsDrop

Velocity over distance: 

OrigBoomRoundsVel

Wind drift in inches over distance, assuming 10 miles per hour at 90 degrees: 

OrigBoomRoundsWind

Obviously the Hornady Whitetail comes out ahead on paper, and had almost as small an average grouping with a much smaller standard deviation than the Winchester Super-X. 

Why the difference, when the weights are identical?  The simple, easy, and potentially wrong (but we will still run with it) answer is the difference between the two rounds’ ballistic coefficients – the Hornady round has a coefficient of .405 while the Winchester has a coefficient of .356. 

So what is “ballistic coefficient”?  Well, that is complicatedReally complicatedComplicated enough that I am not going to bother explaining it, except to say this: you can kind of think of “ballistic coefficient” as being sort of equivalent to an inertial coefficient – the higher a bullet’s BC, the more velocity it will retain, and the less it will be affected by wind. 

One of the problems, though, with using BCs as a measurement between calibers and bullets is that most coefficients are based off the G1 model, while most modern rifle cartridges are more like the G2 or G7 model.  What does this mean?  Take BCs with a grain of salt. 

So what calibers are known for having high BCs?  Well, .50BMG can hit BCs above 1.000, but the idea of slinging $5 downrange with every trigger pull does not exactly get me excited.  Well, thankfully, Fr. Frog has put together a comprehensive (if a little outdated) list of commercially published BCs, and once you wade through his very pertinent disclaimer regarding them, it is an interesting read… if you like tables and tables of data. 

Anywise, while I was slumming at gun stores this weekend, I noticed that .270 Winchester can be had for around half the price of equivalent .243 Winchester these days – there must be something about the production costs of .277/7mm bullets versus .243/6.2mm bullets or factories for .243 are making more money making the .243’s parent cartridge (.308 Winchester).  So, how do their bullets fare?  Looks like they top out at around .500, but the cartridge requires a long action (neither good nor bad, just is), and the muzzle energies look like they top out at the bottom/middle range of what I consider “painful”… at least on the day after

Well, holdon.  FuzzyKBP swears by his 6mm BR, but COTS ammunition for that is almost impossible to find.  He did, however, mention that 6.5mm bullets are respectable in their own right, and Bill mentioned 6.5 Creedmoor last year when I was shopping for calibers, so what about it? BCs that stretch up above .550, muzzle energies (and thus kick, all other things being equal) about 20% higher than .243’s (compared to 30% higher for .308), and affordable-ish ($1.20 a round) COTS ammunition. 

To the Theory Ballistic Simulator

Drop: 

65120AMaxv243WhitetailDrop

Velocity: 

65120AMaxv243WhitetailVel

Wind drift: 

65120AMaxv243WhitetailWind

For those graphs, I was comparing the best of what I brought to Boomershoot against the “worst” of Hornady’s line of 6.5 Creedmoor – their 120gr A-Max.  Basically identical drop, better velocity retention over distance, and noticeably higher resistance to wind.  So what about the “best” case from Hornady’s selection (the 6.5 Creedmoor originated from Hornady, hence my reliance on their product line) – the 140gr A-Max

Drop: 

65140AMaxv243WhitetailDrop

Velocity: 

65140AMaxv243WhitetailVel

Wind drift: 

65140AMaxv243WhitetailWind

Again, almost identical drop, significantly better velocity retention, and… wow, ~30% better wind resistance, and all this at the cost of about 20% more muzzle energy – and thus perceived recoil, all other things being equal.  Ideally that increased wind resistance will also translate to a smaller cone of accuracy, and a better tolerance of the gusts and wind that seem to love the Boomershoot field.  On the other hand, 6.5 Creedmoor was basically built for reloading, and I have acquired absolutely… none… of the necessary tools for that somewhat daunting task. 

At any rate, I certainly have not made up my mind yet, but I have started thinking about the various details, and graphical representations have always helped me.  I might as well share my findings, so here we are.  I was rather hoping to not have to go through this again, though, but since the opportunity has presented itself, I might as well consider the possibility of an upgrade. 

coincidental customer service

Yesterday, at about 1000, I posted to Facebook a draft of a letter I was considering sending to Remington concerning the rusty-arsed 700 SPS they still have not gotten back to me from its second trip back to the mothership.  The draft got a lot of constructive feedback, along with the predictable less-than-useless comments that a post of that nature is invariably going to attract on Facebook, and I had worked out a final version that I was going to sit down with Better Half, go over one last time, and send off to Remington this morning.  That draft is posted “below the fold” here, since it is already basically public knowledge by way of Facebook. 

Then, at about 1800 yesterday, I received an email saying that the rifle was back in the mail to me, the repairs to it having been completed. 

That timing could be entirely coincidental.  Or, as someone pointed out on Facebook, Remington could have a halfway-decent social media department (unlike, say, their Quality Control department) who set up automated Google Alerts for their company name, or, more likely, the names of the people I was planning on copying the email to. 

Either way, the rifle is on its way back to me, for the second time, so… yay? 

On the other end of the customer service spectrum, I sat down and sifted through the last three months’ worth of shipments from Montana Rarities last night, and discovered that a 1965 half dollar had snuck into my shipment of normally 1916-1964 half dollars (the former is only 40% silver, while the latter is 90%).  I emailed Mark Haythornthwaite, the proprietor, at 1813 last night, he emailed back at 1905, and I am getting an additional half-dollar in my next shipment to make up for it. 

In the over-three years I have been doing business with him, Mark has only slipped up on three half dollars, and every time he handles it the same way – I offer to send the wrong one back, he declines, and promptly includes a replacement in the next shipment.  And, realistically, I can totally understand how a ‘65 can get mixed in with ‘64s, given their faces are identical except for the dates; rather, it is the unerring willingness to immediately make the glitch right that is worth noting.  Given how little I am spending with him, I cannot imagine Mark’s profit margin with me is particularly large, but his customer service is and has been unparalleled. 

If you are looking at buying precious metals on the intertubes, whether it be the “junk silver” I am buying (though I do hate that term) or even things like palladium or rhodium (?), take a look at Montana Rarities


continue reading coincidental customer service →

today i cheerfully “wasted” my vote

Or, at least, that is what I would think I did if I were a benighted simpleton who genuinely believed that false dichotomies and circular reasoning are good reasons to vote for a party rather than a person. 

IMG_20141104_100845246_HDRIn any case, I happily pulled the lever (or, in this case, filled in the bubble) for Sean Haugh to fill North Carolina’s senate seat that was up for grabs during this election.  Why?  Well, a variety of reasons, but the most important ones are that I agree with more of his platform than any other candidate running for the office and I want to see a rise of third parties in American politics. 

Unfortunately, he was the only third party candidate on my particular ballot, so after him, I did what I always do – vote for the candidate I feel would best represent me while simultaneously doing the best job.  In a lot of cases, specifically in the County Commissioner category, that involved voting for Democrat candidates, simply because their Republican counterparts did not see fit to publish their positions anywhere I could find.  If they cannot take the time to let me know where they stand on issues, I cannot take the time to vote for them. 

The real eye-opener, however, was how easy voter fraud would be to commit here in North Carolina.  I showed up at my polling place, and the only thing I had to do in order to get a ballot was verbally tell the volunteers my name and street address; I did not have to prove I was actually that person or actually lived at that address.  If I got to the polling place early enough, and was good enough at disguises, I could have pretty much voted for everyone in my neighborhood – all I needed to have done beforehand is raid their mailboxes for their respective names and addresses. 

Yeah.  That is a secure system.  Which is why this does not really surprise me: 

Hell, someone actually told me on Twitter that a friend of theirs in Fuquay-Varina showed up at her polling place only to discover that “she” had already voted.  Suffice to say, she had not. 

The good news is that NC will be requiring photo ID to vote in the 2016 elections, and all of the people I interacted with at the polling place made sure to ask if we voters were (a) aware of that impending requirement, and (2) in possession of an appropriate form of ID.  Thankfully, NC makes it fairly easy to get an appropriate ID card, up to and including free ones for eligible folks. 

I guess I should be happy that my vote was my vote.  Aside from that, something tells me this election will simply be more of the same, with the possibility of a party of a different name, but same end goal, in charge. 

fifth fj mod

Apparently Toyota engineers get upgraded eyes when they sign on to work at the factories, because about the only thing that can be said for the dome lights in FJ Cruisers is that they exist.  The light is the typical incandescent-yellow, and with the black/grey interior, it is better than having absolutely nothing, yes, but not by a significant degree. 

On the other hand, the map lights over the front seats are usefully bright, but given that the roof of the car extends so far over the passengers, it is invariably in the driver’s face. 

Enter SuperBrightLEDs.com – the same company I used to upgrade the lights on my old Mazda 3.  The dome lights are DE3175-type, but the take-away from that is that they are about a ~31mm festoon bulb, which means one of these universal LED arrays (part number UCOB-CW36-R-FES30) will work just fine as a replacement.  For the dome over the passenger area, I was able to get away without having to use the adhesive backing, but I did use it for the trunk dome, on account of the angled setting.  The end result?  See for yourself – both pictures are taken at ISO200, f/1.4, 1 second exposure: 

IMG_6848smallIMG_6849small

Yeah, that is an improvement. 

The map lights are the standard 175 bulbs that pretty much every car out there uses, so finding an upgrade (part number WLED-RHP5) is easy, but I decided to go for decreasing the blindingness simultaneous with increasing the output a little: 

IMG_6844smallIMG_6845small

Obviously not something everyone would like, but it will let us do things like sort out fast food without completely ruining night vision. 

Is it worth the cost?  Well, that is your call.  In my experience, though, upgrading internal auto lights to LEDs has always been a net win.  Oh, and since the question came up previously, the only incandescent-to-LED conversion that requires additional resistors is your blinkers; everything else is plug-and-play unless you have a stupidly-expensive car that can actually tell you if non-blinker bulbs are dead.

Anywise, this weekend I had the opportunity to hang out with the North Carolina FJ Cruisers club, and lay eyes on all kinds of other interesting things one can do to one’s FJ.  For the time being, I am in a holding pattern for any further modifications until I sell the Defender, but I am narrowing down some other options.  After the show and tell, we headed back into the Uwharrie National Forest, wherein I learned that following the truck with the 3” lift exactly is not such a good idea.  No actual damage, but I am rapidly discovering where all the low points on the truck are. 

IMG_6854small

on background checks

One of the favorite “arguments” circulating amongst anti-rights cultists these days is that the only reason one would oppose “universal background checks” for firearm purchases is because one is concerned about not passing them.  Obviously this is complete and utter nonsense, but let us take a moment an examine how nonsensical that position is. 

I oppose “universal background checks”.  In fact, I oppose any background checks for firearm purchases – having to prove innocence to exercise a right is wrong.  Having to pay to prove innocence (what, you did not think NICS was self-supporting, did you?) is an absolute outrage. 

alisonamartingoebbelsSo, according to “gun sense” “logic”, I should not be able to pass a background check… except…

- I have maintained three separate security clearances with two separate branches of the United States Government. 

- I applied for, received, and renewed by Type 3 Federal Firearms License, and am an FFL in good standing with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 

- I applied for, received, and updated a tax stamp allowing me to own a National Firearms Act-regulated device, and still lawfully own that device. 

- I applied for and received firearm-carry permits from three separate states, most recently in March of this year. 

- I have purchased numerous firearms from FFLs, including filling out the federally-mandated Form 4473, most recently in April of this year. 

In fact, now that I look at the list, I am quite certain I have passed more background checks than the overwhelming majority of the useful idiots claiming I could not pass background checks. 

Despite being endorsed by the Moms Demand Action New York Chapter Leader, Alison A. Martin (do not bother looking for her Twitter account – she deleted that one, and the one she created after that one, shortly after the screencap to the right), the notion that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” is patently false and a demonstrably dangerous road to go down

The irony, of course, is that those self-same “gun control” supporters who want every firearm transaction background-checked and vetted throw an absolute hissy fit if you in any way suggest that people should have to verify their identity before casting someone else’s vote.  And, in fairness, a large number of them at least superficially speak out against the NSA’s surveillance, but given that “gun control” supporters are statists by dint of that support, I have to wonder how deep that objection actually runs. 

No, I do not oppose “universal background checks” because I cannot pass one – I can, and I have literally more times than I can count.  I oppose them because they are wrong, because they are an unjust limitation on a Constitutionally-protected right, and because they fly in the face of every tradition of jurisprudence in the United States.  Hell, can you imagine the hue and cry if the same restriction were applied to any other right mentioned in the Constitution? 

fourth fj mod

The trunk of the FJ is about what you would expect (with the added bonus of both having no carpet back there and having tie-down points in the floor), but the wheel wells create these odd quasi-shelves on both sides that serve no particular purpose and cannot really be used for anything.  On the right side, the subwoofer (where equipped, and mine is) is bolted in on the “shelf”, but on the left side you just have these two “shopping bag hooks” that will likely tear through the plastic bags common today. 

So, the ingenious mind behind Springtail Solutions created the FJ Cruiser Basket

IMG_6747small

The basket bolts into the holes left after removing the shopping bag hooks, and then rests directly on the plastic trim of the wheel well; I added some kitchen drawer liner material to the bottom of the basket to keep it from scratching up the plastic.  The end result is a basket that can hold a lot of odds and ends, which is good, considering the FJ has a strange shortage of enclosed storage, along with a MOLLE-compatible frame on which you can mount just about anything. 

IMG_6750small

Inside the basket I have a fairly standard ABC fire extinguisher (held in place by its mount, attached to the basket), my standard car first-aid kit, the blow-out kit that everyone ignored in my get-home-bag post, a really old-and-worn-out 12V compressor that I need to replace at some point, a multitool with the ability to accept standard screwdriver bits, and a 2”x30’ 20,000LB tow strap.  Inside a MOLLE-compatible admin pouch I had laying around (you can just barely see it in the first picture behind my backpack), I have a 1000LB ratchet strap and a fairly standard D-ring.  Finally, as recommended by Keith and Haus of Guns, and attached to the outside of the basket by way of two Quick Fists, a Cold Steel “Special Forces” shovel fills the role of both shovel and machete – the edge comes sharpened from the factory, and its sheath is strongly recommended. 

It is also worth noting that the hatch underneath the basket in the first picture contains the truck’s jack, the tools necessary to remove and replace tires as well as operate the jack, my jumper cables (which have been used to help folks more times than I can count), a pair of leather gloves, and some hand wipes. 

And, of course, my get-home bag can be seen in the pictures, happily hanging from a Springtail Solutions Back Pack Hook – the alternative is simply putting the headrest post through the hand loop of the backpack. 

Some of that stuff is in there because we plan on taking the FJ up to Carova at some point, and getting stuck in the sand seems like a bad way to spend the day.  Some of the stuff is in there because it just does not hurt to have.  We have already used the compressor to help some kids at Uhwarrie (they had a dead-flat tire, but it was the backup to the backup), and the tow strap helped remove some trees from our yard.  Like I told Better Half, I sincerely hope to never actually need any of that equipment, but if I do turn out to need it, I would rather have it than not. 

Oh, and the best part?  I managed to figure out how to attach my Dogfish Head bottle opener to the basket (not in the pictures… I only figured it out recently).  Winning. 

(Friendly note about the fire extinguishers:  a lot of household fire extinguishers, like the one in the pictures, employ suppression agents that can be very bad for the wiring and other metal surfaces of your car.  Simply using the extinguisher does not guarantee you will corrode anything, but the possibility exists… though, conversely, not using a fire extinguisher if your car is on fire can guarantee that it will burn to the ground.  If lives are on the line, it is rather a moot distinction, but if you care about such things, and can afford “better” equipment, there are halon-based automotive fire extinguishers which have none of the potential negative side-effects.) 

security theater at the north carolina state fair

So Better Half and I went to the State Fair last night, not because we necessarily wanted to, but because we are playing quasi-host to a couple of Europeans visiting the States for a while, and we wanted to be sure to give them as many American experiences as we could think of.  Honestly, the Fair was somewhat underwhelming compared to some of the county fairs we have attended in the past, but that is not why I am writing this post. 

We entered the Fair by way of Gate 6, where there were the usual ticket sellers and ticket collectors (all of ten feet from one another – a process I will never understand), and then two police officers checking people for weapons.  Predictably, that is pretty much where the theater started. 

The two officers were standing one behind the other, with the front one holding a metal detector wand and the rear one literally standing right behind her.  I admit that all of my training comes from military Force Protection exercises and courses, and maybe the NC state/county/city/local police do things differently, but that is just a horrible idea to begin with; in fact, the Afloat Training Group would have down-checked our FP team if our sailors did that, and rightfully so.  The non-wanding cop is obviously there to back up the wanding cop, but by standing right behind her (in relation to the person being wanded), he serves absolutely no backup purposes whatsoever.  With the wanding cop’s body between the attendee and the backup, he might as well not be there at all.  A much better idea is for him to stand off to the side of the person being checked, such that the person being checked is at the point of a 90 degree angle between the three people. 

Moving on from there, the wanding officer did a decent job of wanding the sides of my body from about my waist to about my knees… and that was it.  An ankle holster, small-of-the-back holster, or anything on my torso would have completely escaped her notice. 

Worse, I had my wallet, keys, flashlight, and folding knife in my hand, and neither of the cops cared about any of it.  I am certainly not going to argue that someone of ill intent could kill as many people with my pocket knife as they could with a firearm, but it is obvious that the Fair organizers do not actually care about “weapons” being permitted on the grounds. 

And to cap off the total and complete fail of the gate security, I took a small sling backpack to the fair with a couple of water bottles, a camera, and a coat in it.  The coat took up most of the pack, and was the last thing in, so it pretty much hid everything else.  The wander wanted to inspect the bag, and she did, but upon discovering that there was a coat stuffed into it to the point of almost not being closeable, she did not dig any farther, and let us pass in. 

Do I even need to mention how trivially easy it would be to put a handgun into the bag first, bury it in other stuff to the point where the bag could be barely closed, and the traipse through the gate with it? 

The gate “security” was obviously operating under the assumption that there very presence would deter anyone from trying to smuggle something in… which is all good and well, until someone actually goes through the gate and scouts out their “security” measures.

Once you got into the Fair, things became… interesting.  While I never once saw an altercation, problem, or arrest, police presence at the Fair was bordering on “painfully obvious”, but most interesting was how that presence was coordinated.  Rather than saturating the Fair with solo cops, just to remind folks that there was a police presence present, all of the LEOs were in groups of no less than two, and averaging three.  Again, my experience comes by way of the military, but that is the kind of force deployment I would employ if I were expecting actual trouble, of the more-serious-than-a-simple-drunk-stumbling-into-people variety. 

So, in the end, the police presence at the Fair was far from comforting, at least if you understood what was going on. 

Remember, boys and girls, you – as a private, law-abiding citizen – are prohibited from carrying at the State Fair, but criminals will have absolutely no problem easily smuggling firearms into the Fair, and apparently the police are well aware of that fact and have taken steps to protect themselves.  You are still on your own, though.  Have fun! 

graphics matter, year the fifth, part two

The immediately previous post addressed the fallacy that “more guns = more deaths” this one will address the hypothesis that “more guns = more ‘gun violence’”. 

All previous explanations and disclaimers apply, and like the immediately previous post, I will list my references here, just to stave off the inevitable genetic fallacies (well, not really, but definitely to make it easier to laugh at those who cling to them): 

- The starting point for the number of firearms in America is the lower bound of the Small Arms Survey of 2003.

- All further numbers are derived from adding or subtracting the appropriate numbers from the Firearms Commerce in the United States Annual Statistical Update published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, back to 1986.  For the 1981-1985 numbers, I used Shooting Industry News’ records.

- “Crimes committed with firearms” data came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s Crime in the United States 2012 publication, provided by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.  Murders, robberies, and assaults committed by a criminal employing a firearm are counted as “crimes committed with firearms” for the purposes of my data. 

- The population data came from the Centers for Disease Control’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports.

- “Shall issue” states are tracked by Radical Gun Nuttery.

All that said: 

PopulationFirearmsCrimes2012

As with before, all my work is shown here (just look at the bottom for all the various sheets I am using). 

The raw numbers of firearms in America correlated to the raw number of “crimes committed with firearms” with a coefficient of –0.45221, which indicates a negative correlation between the two. 

The rate of firearm ownership in America correlated to the rate of “crimes committed with firearms” with a coefficient of –0.58015, which indicates a strong, negative correlation between the two. 

In other words, as the number of firearms and the rate of firearm ownership have both increased in America, on average, the number of firearm-related crimes, and the rate at which they happen, have both decreased.  Or, to put it another way, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence’” cannot be true in the frame of reference of America over the past 18 years. 

Of course, you and I both know that the anti-rights cultists will still be treating these hypotheses as facts, regardless of whether they hold true or not… 

graphics matter, year the fifth

It has been a while since I did one of these, but the CDC drags its feet in publishing data, so we did not end up missing that much. 

As with the last time, all previous disclaimers, details, and other important stuff still applies

Since the immediate, knee-jerk response from anti-rights cultists being pointed to this site is “ZOMG, that’s a RWNJ site!  Everything on it is WRONG!” (otherwise known as a genetic fallacy, for those curious) I am going to go ahead and link to my references right here, at the top of the post. 

- The starting point for the number of firearms in America is the lower bound of the Small Arms Survey of 2003

- All further numbers are derived from adding or subtracting the appropriate numbers from the Firearms Commerce in the United States Annual Statistical Update published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, back to 1986.  For the 1981-1985 numbers, I used Shooting Industry News’ records. 

- The deaths data, as well as population data, came from the Centers for Disease Control’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports

- “Shall issue” states are tracked by Radical Gun Nuttery

Without further ado, the updated chart: 

PopulationFirearmsDeaths2011

(Note: the “number of firearms per 10,000 people” line has been removed, just because it was rather redundant, and because doing so makes the graphic a little cleaner.) 

As always, I am more than happy to show my work here; please let me know if you see any errors or omissions. 

The raw number of firearms in America correlated to the raw number of firearm-related fatalities with a coefficient of –0.40017, which indicates a negative correlation between the two (as the former increases, the latter is likely to decrease, and vice versa). 

The rate of firearm ownership in America correlated to the rate of firearm-related fatalities with a coefficient of –0.81232, which is a strong, negative correlation, and even stronger than the last post. 

In other words – and I know I am beating a dead horse into glue at this point – the hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” cannot be true* in the frame of reference of American society over the past 31 years. 

(* – It occurs to me that I need to explain, briefly, why the hypothesis cannot be true.  While the common saying that, “correlation is not equivalent to causation,” is accurate, there is a second half to it: “… but correlation is required for causation.”  In other words, if X is causing Y, X and Y are positively correlated.  However, if X and Y are negatively correlated, neither can X be causing Y, nor can Y be causing X.  In a similar vein, please bear in mind that I am proving a hypothesis wrong, and that doing so does not automatically prove the inverse hypothesis to be true.) 

my get-home bag

Unless you have the pleasure of working from home (which, generally I do, so “win” on that), a get-home bag is probably a good addition to your back seat / trunk. 

But what, exactly, is a “get-home bag”?  Simply put, it is a collection of supplies that will help you get from where you are (probably your office or equivalent) back to your house, should that prove difficult for some reason. 

What constitutes “difficult”?  The usual things: earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, ice storms, hurricanes, EMPs, zombies, alien invasion, ragnarok, etc.  Just last winter, Better Half had to abandon her front-wheel-drive sedan halfway home from her work on account of nine inches of ice that decided to drop between 0900 and 1500; thankfully, she was able to hitch a ride with some friendly folks, but it would have been a long, uncomfortable slog for her otherwise, and I was in no condition to go get her with a rear-wheel-drive Mustang. 

Well, as folks know, the Mustang has been replaced with an FJ Cruiser, but as the saying goes, four-wheel-drive (and all-wheel-drive) will get you stuck where two-wheel-drive would never have let you go.  So, it helps to plan for contingencies. 

First off, you have to establish your base assumptions; obviously yours will be different from mine, but hopefully this will give you some material to work with. 

- I will have a go-anywhere piece of Japanese engineering, but the wife does not, so I may have to go pick her up. 

- My car has a blowout kit already in the trunk that would be added to this bag should a situation arise (though I do need to upgrade it at some point). 

- My workplace is posted as “no firearms allowed”. 

- Thanks to my plantar fasciitis, I will always be wearing shoes that I can probably walk for quite a while in. 

- It will take me about six hours to walk home directly, and about 10 if I pick up Better Half, assuming ideal circumstances. 

- If I am out of the house, I generally have a small multi-tool, a load-bearing carabiner, a load-bearing belt, a pocket knife, a flashlight, a watch, and dog tags. 

- Obviously not every form of natural disaster affects North Carolina, but the area is known for flooding, hurricanes, and icing over. 

- I have no known allergies and no ailment that requires constant medication/attention (diabetes, etc.), but I do wear glasses. 

So, where do we go from there?  Well, what are you going to carry your stuff in? 


THE BAG:

IMG_20140812_220908

Nope, that is not some high-speed, low-drag tactical bag; in fact, I do not think you can really buy one any more.  But that is intentional. 

The point is to get home, and to do that, you generally need to maintain as low a profile as possible.  This looks like any other daypack/backpack out there, and would not be terribly out of place on a school campus or on a hiking trail – in fact, it has been to the top of Mount LeConte (as well as over to the Middle East and Australia).  MOLLE straps and webbing gear may advertise something you may not necessarily want advertised, but that is your call. 

For all its mundaneness, though, it does have a chest strap and waist strap, as well as side and bottom compression straps, and I know it can carry a full load just fine. 


CLOTHING:

IMG_20140812_214621

I can pretty much guarantee that I will have decent footwear, but I cannot guarantee that my attire will be any better than “business casual”.  Plus, as anyone who has spent time in the military or doing serious hikes can tell you, a change of underwear and socks is pretty much mandatory.  The shirt is a quick-dry variety that will fit underneath anything else I have on, and the pants are an old pair of 5.11 cargos that are getting retired; those might stand out if anyone knows the brand, but given how prevalent cargo pants are these days, I am willing to chance that small risk.  And while I have waterproofed the backpack, making sure things you want to stay dry do stay dry is a good idea. 

As for the spare belt, I said I was wearing one in my assumptions above, right?  Well, it makes a great gun belt but it would be a lousy tourniquet.  Likewise, spare belts can be used as impromptu slings if the need arises. 

The hat is for avoiding sunburns on my increasingly bald head, and for inclement weather if I do not have a hood; again, it is perfectly ordinary, not advertising any “tactical” whatnot. 


ILLUMINATION: 

IMG_20140812_215134

And not just so I can see, but also so I can be seen.  First off, we have my grandfather’s old signaling mirror, with its handy instructions on the back – it may be old school, but it is supposedly basically shatter-proof and there are no batteries or moving parts to break.  The Nite-Ize Clip-On Marker both has a reflective pattern on it and can flash or steadily illuminate itself, and when combined with the highly-reflective (I literally could not take this picture with a flash) safety vest came from Ikea, it would be pretty hard to not see me.  And the Novatac Storm flashlight can tail-stand, adjust its output, and run for a good long time, especially with the spare batteries brought along for the ride. 

Sure, in some situations and the excrement is hitting the vectored rotary air impeller, you want to keep a low profile.  But when you are having to walk home, on the side of the road, in a snow storm, you want to make bloody sure everyone and their brother can see you. 


HEAT:

IMG_20140812_215310

Honestly, my biggest concern when it comes to “natural disasters” here is something along the lines of the ~9” of ice Raleigh received last winter, and exposure is a real danger in that kind of environment.  So we have the basics – thinsulate-lined leather gloves, a mylar emergency blanket, a wool scarf, a lighter, a capsule filled with petroleum-jelly soaked cotton balls, and air-activated hand warmers.  If you cannot start a fire with a Zippo and fire starters, you are pretty much hosed regardless, though I will be on my own for foraging for actual fuel (which is not a huge problem in the Raleigh area, given the forests).  And anything a shemagh can do, a scarf can do as well, and it will not attract… undue attention.  Plus, if your mother knits it in nice, subdued colors (as mine did), it will even double as quasi-camouflage. 

Ideally the hand warmers will be the only thing in this kit I will need to use, both because I hope to be home before sun-down and because I am not stupid enough to go out without season-appropriate attire, but it does not hurt to be prepared. 


TOOLS: 

IMG_20140812_215832

A rain poncho, 50 feet of 750lb paracord, an N95 respirator (in its own plastic baggy), printed out directions home from everywhere I am likely to be along with a notepad (also in their own plastic baggy), a CRKT Eat’n Tool, an apparently (and understandably) discontinued CRKT Neckolas, and a decent Eddie Bauer lensatic compass round out the tools I am already carrying on my person. 

After going through the San Diego fires of 2007 and trying to find filter masks when everyone else was too, we keep a healthy supply of those on-hand at all times, but they do you no good at home when you are at work.  Plus they may not be made for medical purposes, but they beat the hell out of a rag across your face.  Everything else up there should be fairly self-explanatory. 


HYGIENE:

IMG_20140812_220119

Everything in there should be pretty self-explanatory, with the exception of that little roll of green stuff.  Allow me to introduce you to Coban, though that is technically Dynarex simply because it is a lot cheaper.  I may be slightly exaggerating, but if there is one thing that should be in your first aid kit, it is this stuff.  Think of it as kind of a self-adhesive tape, complete with water resistance, easy removal, and natural tension by means of its own corrugation.  I used it extensively to keep the swelling down in my gimped-up pinky finger for a number of months, but it will work dandily for keeping bandages on wounds, splints in place, and so forth. 


FOOD AND WATER: 

IMG_20140812_220823

So this is actually an interesting point of departure for a lot of get-home bags.  Some people do not carry food or water at all, some people confine themselves to an empty water bottle of some type, and some people – like me, as you can see – go whole hog.  I figure, if nothing else, I can easily remove this stuff if it comes down to it, and the car does not care about the few extra pounds. 

The “emergency food rations” and foil packets of water are leftover from an old Life+Gear kit, and are not something I would eat or drink if I had any choice in the matter, but the point is you may not always.  The rations pack supposedly contains 3600 calories of something, and each of the water packs are 125ml / 4.225 fluid ounces of water.  The bottle at the top is a Seychelles Water Filtration bottle, which can supposedly make 100 gallons of water drinkable all on its own, and is presently packed with a crank flashlight, whistle, energy bar, pocket knife, poncho, and hand warmers. 

Personally, I am not sure I could make a six-hour hike, much less a ten-hour one, without water.  Your situation, as with everything else, may be different. 


SELF DEFENSE: 

IMG_20140812_220928

This is, of course, an area where your own personal preferences, local legalities, and so forth play a not-insignificant factor.  Personally, I am of the opinion that if you are having to make your way home in an emergency situation without your vehicle, you are going to need tools to aid in keeping your person safe and secure.  Amongst those tools are the knife I invariably have on my person, and the one I mentioned back in the “tools” section, but there is no sense in allowing an aggressor to close to arms’ length. 

I like the Ruger Pepper Spray because it has a multiple-locking system on its little holster, it incorporates a siren and strobe light, and it easily clips on belts or straps.  There are, of course, other options, so shop around. 

As for firearms… well, I am not one to advertise that I am keeping firearms in my car, but if I were to do so, it would probably be something along the lines of a Kel-Tec PF9 with a few spare magazines, secured in an appropriate locked box, with that appropriately attached to something solid in the vehicle.  Obviously, if you are able to carry in your workplace, that is an infinitely superior option, but it is sadly one not available to everyone; if, however, you go with leaving the firearm in the car, please ensure it is sufficiently secured. 


So, what would you have done differently?  What obvious items am I missing?  I need to eventually get a set of FRS/GMRS two-way radios – one for my car and one for the wife’s – to simplify communication during emergencies (cell tower capacities get jammed very, very quickly), but feel free to point out anything else. 

Everything I have shown you weighs in at about 12 pounds, even including the water and rations, and I can hump that pretty much any distance necessary.  Obviously the ideal is to never need anything I have mentioned above, but if wishes were horses we would all be eating steak. 

(Why did I mention dog tags way back at the beginning?  Obviously I plan on surviving whatever disaster is plaguing my area that required me to implement my get-home bag, but should that not happen, I would like to make my identification a little easier.  Plus they have my blood type on them, which could be useful even if I am not dead.  People with medical conditions or rare blood types would do well to consider something similar – MedicAlert is the more “subdued” version of dog tags, if you want to go that route.) 

they lack the capacity

On our way home from the Uwharrie National Forest this past weekend, Better Half expressed her… displeasure… at the mind-numbing stupidity inherent in this particular political cartoon

NewsObserverCartoon

For those unfamiliar with the backstory, Sean provides a concise summation of the current details

Regarding the cartoon, however, as Better Half said in the car, can Dwane Powell point to a single example of a lawful carrier intentionally shooting a carnival game in the past… ever?  Speaking more generally, concealed and open carriers have been around screaming, playing kids, arcade games, and whatnot else for decades now, and in increasing numbers every year, and yet the firearm-related fatality rates keep dropping, firearm-related injury rates are holding basically steady, and the “blood in the streets” prognostications of “gun control” supporters just refuse to come true. 

It is almost like law-aiding Americans peacefully exercising their rights by lawfully bearing arms where they can is not that big of a deal. 

Who would have thought? 

But coming to that conclusion largely requires being in possession of a mind that is at least marginally capable of logical, rational thought, and as I attempted to explain to Better Half in the car, we are talking about people who simply are incapable of such a thing.  For whatever reason, the overwhelming majority of “gun control” supporters are incapable of processing information, and for those of us who are capable of processing and understanding the facts, it can be difficult to see the world from their perspective.  But, the unfortunate truth is that out rights are unendingly under attack from fetishists, useful idiots, ignorant fools, cultists, and murderous thugs, and they simply will not, or perhaps cannot, perceive reality for what it is. 

Take, for example, this end to a conversation regarding how “universal” background checks would somehow magically stop crime, feed the children, and create world peace: 

jla_nycBlame @wallsofthecity:  You wouldn’t have poor #gunsense useful idiots try to believe that criminals disobey laws? @CaptianCarry @JLa_NYC @BrindaStar @xxarea83xx

@captiancarry@wallsofthecity @JLa_NYC @BrindaStar @xxarea83xx Its quite simple really. Criminals do not obey laws. That’s why they are criminals.

@JLa_NYC@CaptianCarry @wallsofthecity @BrindaStar @xxarea83xx always blaming criminals. Sellers need to know buyer. UBC allows that.

Yes, you read that right – J-La, a dyed-in-the-wool “gun sense” supporter, was actually complaining that we were daring to blame criminals for breaking the laws (notably, felons are specifically prohibited from so much as touching a firearm, much less purchasing or owning one).  Even worse, though predictably enough, J-La is of the camp that would blame the seller in a transaction if the buyer were to later take the firearm and use it for some criminal purpose, though, of course, she throws a hissy fit if you ask her if she would hold automobile salespersons responsible for selling a vehicle to someone who later got a DUI. 

Shockingly, we rational people have a tendency to blame the people who actually committed the crime for the crime transpiring, yet “gun control” supporters object. 

Though, come to think of it, the “gun control” movement has all but abandoned the notion that criminals would be impacted by their authoritarian desires.  Consider this screencap from “Moms Demand Action”’s “spam Kroger” webpage: 

momsspamkroger

I would like to draw your attention to the last item, and remind you that “Moms Demand Action” consider “gun extremists” to be anyone who openly carries a firearm.  Further, I would like to remind you that the movement has counted as victories nothing more than a corporation asking its customers to conceal their firearms, rather than carry them openly, without even so much as posting their premises “no firearms allowed”.  By doing so, MDA and their “gun sense” cultists have functionally admitted that the presence of the firearm itself is not the problem, but rather the fact that they can see the firearm. 

Is “out of sight, out of mind”, or, worse, “out of sight, does not exist” the position of a rational mind?  Or is that more the mentality you would expect from a narrow-minded bigot too consumed with their own personal fetishism? 

Perhaps more interestingly, note that in none of those auto-tweets does MDA mention criminals; it is almost as if the entire “gun control” movement has finally acknowledged that those silly little signs on the doorways of businesses serve no deterrence whatsoever to criminals intent on harming others.  Of course, they will never admit as much, but their obvious agenda belies the admission. 

The simple truth is that those who support “gun control” / “gun sense” / “Moms Demand Action” / “Everytown” etc. are not doing so from a rational, logical basis, and expecting them to do so will only lead to confusion, if not outright frustration, for all parties involved.  Dr. Sarah Thompson has provided a careful, considerate explanation as to why this is the case, but – and this may be a poor reflection on my character – I have little to no patience for people who are actively attacking Americans’ rights, regardless of their motivations or causes for doing so. 

The good news is “gun control” is a failing cause, and that is partially because they keep handing groups like Grass Roots North Carolina such easy cases to win as the one regarding the NC State Fair.  Here is to hoping the fair commissioner digs his head out of his nether regions before we taxpayers have to pay for his idiocy. 

(It is worth noting that the Raleigh News and Observer has basically admitted to being a mouthpiece of “Moms Demand Action”, so that political cartoon is hardly a shock.) 

roll the tape

Bear in mind that this footage was taken by a now rather old Nikon AW100 which was then attached to the FJ’s stock roof rack by means of an even older Gorillapod, so it might be a little… bouncy, even after being run through Windows Movie Maker’s image stabilization system.  Plus bonus lean-to-the-right towards the end of the first video. 

But, without further ado, here is our run south (not sure if that is downhill or uphill, honestly, after looking at the topology of our track) on the Wolf’s Den Trail at Uwharrie National Forest

Unless you have 17 minutes of your life you do not want back, we will not be offended if you go ahead and boot that up in YouTube and play it at 2x.  Given this was our first attempt at any kind of off-roading, it is probably a lot slower than it needed to be. 

And here is Better Half tackling the south-eastern end (which is definitely the lower end) of the Falls Dam Trail, complete with having to back over a “thank-you-ma’am” on account of someone coming up the trail: 

I dare say she did extremely well, especially with the backing.  As I have told her previously, I am not sure we would have taken the FJ home if it were not for its backup camera; without that, its blind spot while reversing is positively absurd. 

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, though. 

(As noted on the YouTubes, the background music is Gillicuddy: … Plays Guitar, and is used under license.) 

where we were today

Off-roading options are rather limited in the Raleigh area of North Carolina (unless you happen to know someone with land), so Better Half and I headed inland to the Uwharrie National Forest and experimented with what the FJ could do: 

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(Just so you know what I am talking about, a map of the Off Highway Vehicle trails is available here (look for the red dashed lines and numbers).)

The short story is that we successfully traversed Wolf Den downhill, Falls Dam downhill, and the eastern section (the short bit) of the Rocky Mountain Loop just fine.  I never had to go any farther down the FJ decision tree than Low on the transmission and Low-4 on the transfer case (the only further options are ATRAC and locking the rear differential), and even that might have been more for my comfort levels than a reflection on the vehicle’s abilities.  I will say this, though – as long as clearance is not the issue, the FJ will happily crawl up anything that does not tip it over in Low/Low-4, and its approach/departure angles are appropriately insane. 

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Regarding the trails, though – Better Half and I both agree that Wolf Den is not the best trail to start out on.  It was the first trail we took, and we went “downhill” on it (south), and… well, it was a hell of a lot more difficult than the eastern segment of the Rocky Mountain Loop.  Honestly, aside from being shorter, it was almost harder than Falls Dam.  It and Falls Dam had pretty much identical technical aspects (lots and lots of “thank-you-ma’ams” (the bigass humps used to direct water off the trail) and a few patches of interesting exposed rocks), but the Wolf Den trail had almost as many individual elements crammed into a trail about half as short. 

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Were we the suggesting type, and if you were to take the opinion of a complete and utter n00b to off-roading, we would recommend starting on the eastern segment of the Rocky Mountain Loop (just do NOT take the turn on to 390, pictured above – Daniel is strictly for the right (read “heavily built out”) vehicles with skilled drivers). 

All in all, I dare say we had fun, learned a lot about the truck, and I only managed to scrape up the rock sliders and a lower control arm, so that is definitely a win.  I might have some entertaining videos for later in the week, assuming YouTube does not crap out.