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

i was not dead last

… And not because of people disqualifying themselves either. 

So regular readers will know that I have shot in all of two competitive shooting events since first taking up firearms – that shindig at Gunny’s Range in Tennessee where I managed to walk away with a shotgun, and a demonstration of Caracal pistols at ORSA (though I have heard rumors that Caracals are dead in America for the time being).  Not exactly a stunning resume, I admit. 

Honestly, one of the biggest hurdles to getting into the competitive shooting sports, for me, at least, is all of the stupid rules – your gun has to fit in this arbitrary box, you have to hold on to any magazine that still has a round in it, you have to engage targets in a certain order, you have to keep 57.376% of your body behind this wall, you have to stand on your head while reciting the alphabet backwards…. and so forth.  Yes, I know that once I had a few rounds under my belt, I would get the hang of the rules and just run with them.  And, yes, I know that in any competitive environment people will try to find ways to give themselves an edge, so rules like that become necessary over time.  Still, I would rather spend my time shooting rather than keeping up with some hundred-page rulebook. 

Anywise, I found out about the Wake County Action Pistol by way of Triangle Tactical, and took a gander at their rules.  The summation?  “Be safe, and have fun.”  Well, hell, I can do that. 

So I showed up yesterday with my Baby Eagle in its leather paddle holster and a few magazines, and did exactly that.  I ended up scoring 37th out of a field of 56 shooters, which is not exactly amazing, but I probably cost my self at least 5 positions by very nearly giving myself a massive procedural error. Instead, I took the time to recover, which probably cost me less in the end. 

The folks who attended ran the full gamut of genders, skin tones, and ages, and were fielding the full range of firearms, all the way from fairly stock .22s in Fobus holsters to custom-built-and-tuned race guns in dedicated, ready-to-go-out-of-the-bag competition belt rigs.  Semi-autos did rule the day, but when individual stages required 20 rounds, a revolver would have taken a while.

I would like to especially thank the Range Officers at the match last night; their efforts in setting up interesting stages, and their patience for newbies like me asking admittedly stupid questions, is definitely appreciated.  Also worthy of note is that PractiScore is a pretty nifty piece of software; all the ROs had tablets and were recording scores to a central database as we were progressing through the matches.  The scores were posted online basically by the time I got home from the range. 

Take-aways from the shoot?  Pay attention to when the rules tell you that you have to reload.  Practice draw strokes… a lot.  Slow down a little – I was twice as slow as the top scorers, on average, but also had 30% more penalty points.  Dropping those down will not help my position too terribly much, but accuracy always beats speed.  And, I kind of hate to admit it, but it may be time to start moving away from my Baby Eagle. 

Yes, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but hear me out.  The Baby Eagle was the first firearm I ever purchased, and it was bought with one goal in mind – to provide a trainer for the M9 I was having to carry in the military at the time.  Well, I do not carry an M9 any more, and never will again if I have any vote in it, and I have concluded I dislike both slide-mounted safeties and Double-Action/Single-Action triggers.  Unfortunately, I do not have any other full-size, semi-automatic handguns, and I do not want to have to start up another logistics train. 

So, in the interest of not having to acquire another stash of magazines, I am vaguely looking at a CZ 75 SP-01.  I would like to get away from manual safeties entirely, but I cannot find a striker-fired handgun that takes CZ magazines, unfortunately (feel free to point one out if you know of one), and this arrangement at least allows me to carry “cocked and locked” with the safety on the frame where it should be.  Plus, finding holsters for the SP-01 is basically trivial, while a holster for the Baby Eagle took a custom job from a friend… or shipping one in from Israel. 

Anywise, just a thought.  If you are in the Wake County area, I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Action Pistol shoots.  There is another one coming up next Wednesday, and they explain how to register on their Facebook page; at the very least, they let you practice two things most ranges do not let you touch – drawing from a holster and shooting while moving. 

weld your cheek on that

As I said in a previous post, there are always workarounds for governmental idiocy: 

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To give you a better frame of reference, here are the “before” pictures of my AR pistol

In a beautifully coincidental turn of events, a package from Thordsen Customs arrived in the mail the same day the BATFE reversed their previous decisions and concluded that shouldering the SB15 is a Very Bad Idea™.  In any case, the SB15 came off and was replaced by one of Thordsen’s “Enhanced Buffer Tube Cover Kits”,  on which I also mounted a CAA Saddle, courtesy of a Saddle Adapter Kit.  

There were no real problems with installation; the only slight catch is that the Buffer Tube Cover is designed to go over a “normal” buffer tube and use the stock key on the bottom of the tube to center the cover.  Since my tube lacks that feature, I just had to eyeball it and go.  It is worth noting that Thordsen sells keyed buffer tubes without stock detents milled into them, so you can have both the advantage of not having to worry about centering and not having to worry about some overzealous BATFE weenie claiming you “intended” to install a “real” stock on your pistol.  In any case, the Buffer Tube Cover worked just fine with the KAK SB-15 Pistol Buffer Tube, so no worries on that count, and it gives me a little more clearance so my monkey arms are not all bound up. 

My only real complaint is that the CAA Saddle is… well, crap, which tends to correlate with my other experiences with that brand.  It gets the job done, sure, but the amount of flashing on the plastic I had to scrape off one way or another was absolutely atrocious: 

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If I had known for certain that an MFT E-VOLV would have fit, I would have bought one of those instead, but I was not sure if it was compatible with the necessary Adapter Kit to get it to mate up with the Buffer Tube Cover.  Oh well, the CAA thing works just fine, but it solidifies my inclination to shy away from that company. 

The only other change is that the previous end plate was swapped out for a rather interesting Damage Industries QD Thin Profile end plate – basically it allows a quick-detach plug to be inserted into the divot in the lower receiver directly beneath the buffer tube.  The QD gadget is then rotation-limited by the buffer tube, and happily ambidextrous to boot, which works out pretty well when coupled with a Single-Point Sling from the same people. 

The intent – which has been tested with dry-fire at home, but not live-fire at the range yet – is to adjust the single-point sling appropriately that the saddle is perfectly positioned for cheek-welding when the sling is taught, and then use my right hand on the pistol grip to push out on the firearm and the sling to pull back to create something of a dynamic tension, with my cheek stabilizing the whole thing (kind of like the middle image here, but definitely not like the bottom image).  Obviously this is an AR pistol, just like it always has been, so it is not exactly going to be the most accurate thing in the world, but it will work just fine for entertainment purposes.  My only slight glitch is that the single-point sling has a rubber strip on the inside, which complicates repositioning it; not the end of the world, though. 

Better Half asked why not just cheek-weld on the buffer tube itself, and the answers are pretty straightforward – the bare metal is uncomfortable, the recoil spring inside is loud when not dampened by surrounding material, and most AR sights are optimized for having material on the buffer tube.  Basically, this all comes down to user comfort. 

As folks on the Book of Faces have noted, the Thordsen rig is not immune from the BATFE whimsically changing their minds in the future (Thordsen posted the current letter they have from the BATFE), but I figure it has two things going for it.  First, it is not a “stabilizing brace” or “arm brace”, and thus does not fall under the purview of the recent bout of F-Troop idiocy, and, second, it does not have the “foot” of a actual stock, and thus the likelihood of idiotic people ruining a good thing by bombarding the BATFE with “clarification” letters is markedly diminished.  Yes, I do believe that they would have eventually reversed their “shouldering it changes nothing” decision, just because even the imbeciles at the BATFE would eventually realize how badly that was endangering the validity of the NFA*, but I have absolutely no doubt that idiots looking a gift horse in the mouth and bombarding the BATFE with “mother, may I?” letters accelerated that process precipitously. 

So, for the love of God, shut up and stop asking stupid questions you do not really want the answer to. 

(* – I am not a lawyer and all that, but before this most-recent “clarification” letter I could totally see an argument being made along the lines of, “So, DC v. Heller mentions that firearms ‘in common use for lawful purposes’ are protected by the Constitution.  Y’all at the BATFE have indicated that shouldering a pistol with an SB-15 is lawful, in that it does not change a firearm into an NFA-regulated device, and given the number of SB-15s in circulation right now, they are certainly ‘in common use’.  So if shouldering something that looks like a stock – but is not – is ok, why is shouldering something that is a stock not ok?”  Obviously, this is no longer valid with the most-recent letter, especially given how they called out and “revoked” the previous letters, but I have to wonder if this thought occurred to them.  Only their underwear will ever know.)  

well, that is that

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Screwing Up a Good Time decided to go ahead and make itself clear regarding “stabilizing” “arm braces” on pistols.  The takeaway you should take to heart is as follows: 

The pistol stabilizing brace was neither “designed” nor approved to be used as a shoulder stock, and therefore use as a shoulder stock constitutes a “redesign” of the device because a possessor has changed the very function of the item. Any individual letters stating otherwise are contrary to the plain language of the NFA, misapply Federal law, and are hereby revoked.

Any person who intends to use a handgun stabilizing brace as a shoulder stock on a pistol (having a rifled barrel under 16 inches in length or a smooth bore firearm with a barrel under 18 inches in length) must first file an ATF Form 1 and pay the applicable tax because the resulting firearm will be subject to all provisions of the NFA.

Or, to put it another way, if there is a picture of you firing a pistol with your SB15 or equivalent item braced against your shoulder, and the BATFE gets their grubby little mitts on it, you could be facing up to and including 10 years in prison. 

I particularly like how they specifically call out the previous letters and “revoke” them.  I wonder if the people who wrote them still have their jobs?  Given the state of “civil service”, I would wager yes. 

Of course, the fact that anyone at the BATFE still has a job is a damning condemnation of “civil service” if there ever were one. 

(Originally brought to my attention by WizardPC.) 

sadly, not a new concept

A little while ago, I posted this quote on the Twitters: 

Quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit: occidentis telum est.

To which Robb Allen responded

That quote was from the National Sword Association, bought & paid for by the swordsmith lobby!

On the surface, that is an all-too-appropriate characterization of how anti-rights cultist treat any argument that boils down to “blame the person not the tool”, but think about the larger concept for a second. 

You know that people – not the tools they happen to be using at the time – are responsible for their own actions.  I know this.  Any sane person knows this.  But we still have people, even to this “modern” day, who blame the object, not the wielder. 

And, as Seneca the Younger there demonstrates, this is not a new concept – after all, apparently it needed to be said, even back around 50 AD. 

Think about that for a second; nearly 2000 years have elapsed since Seneca last picked up his pen, but we are still saddled, both legislatively and culturally, with the positively bizarre notion that objects are to blame for people’s actions, or objects cause people to act in certain ways, or so forth.  For all that we consider ourselves modern, our society certainly has not matured very much past fetishists being terrified of little clay idols. 

slightly more secure data

So I have had a Cannon gun safe (basically what turned into their Scout Series before it was actually named that) for a number of years now, and I have been planning on exploiting their ethernet/USB-pass-through features for almost as long, without any easy way of actually accomplishing that.  The safe was always too far from the router for an ethernet cable to be anything but a trip hazard or eyesore, homeplug-style hardware works, strictly speaking, but I have never found it to be terribly reliable, and shoving a full computer in the safe did not exactly seem… well, safe, on account of heat build-up. 

This past Christmas, Better Half provided me a solution by way of getting me a Raspberry Pi.  For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Pis are really, really small form-factor computers that can run basic Linux distributions (among other operating systems, but those are the big ones).  They have no hard drive to speak of, and no real heat source, but they have USB connectivity, which is all I really needed for my little project to work. 

I started by installing Raspbian by way of the NOOBS install package, which was about as painless an OS install as one can get.  After turning on SSH (by way of the command “raspi-config”), I did not need to have a keyboard or mouse plugged into the Pi any more, and to keep things simple and always know “where” the Pi was, I had my router assign its MAC address a permanent IP address (I initially tried to have the Pi handle its own static IP, but that proved beyond my limited Linux abilities).  Better Half also got me an Edimax EW-7811Un nano USB wireless dongle, and while there are instructions on how to get it set up and running from the command line, I will admit I was never able to get those to work… so I gave up and used the GUI interface inside “startx” which was about as painless as getting the adapter to work on Windows would have been. 

After that just came the question of mounting an external, self-powered (or hub-powered – the Pi does not have massive USB power output abilities) hard drive and installing/configuring samba, and I now had a network-accessible hard drive that I could put basically anywhere in the house. 

So I did. 

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Above, on the left, you can see the Pi resting on top of a Seagate 2TB external hard drive.  Yes, it is that small.  In the middle, you can see the inside of the safe’s power / USB / ethernet pass-through – the top two plugs are for the Pi and the hard drive, with the bottom plug being for the dehumidifier rod Better Half also got for me.  Obviously the safe is a very large metal box, so wifi signal inside of it will not be optimal, if available at all (do safes count as Faraday cages?), so I had to use a male-to-male USB jumper to plug the Pi into the safe’s pass-through, and then a male-to-female USB extension to get the dongle on top of the safe, as seen in the right picture.  Better Half also included this case with the Pi, which I still need to install. 

The only other big thing I did was told my home router to refuse any and all incoming and outgoing traffic to/from the Pi (after updating it thoroughly, of course).  The Pi and its hard drive are providing a tertiary backup to the RAID’d hard drive in my home computer, so there is no need for it to even know the internet exists. 

Once that was all set up, I went into SyncBack and changed the destination of its nightly backup routines, and I was done. 

Now, the Scout series is only good for 1200° for 30 minutes in fires, by which Cannon means the interior of the safe should not exceed 350° within that timespan given that exterior temperature.  That is all good and well for paper and wood, but I have no idea how temperature-resistant external hard drives are.  Still, that beats having the drive just sitting on a desk, and that is, of course, the bare minimum of most fire ratings these days – Cannon has pass-through-capable safes running all the way up to 90 minute fire ratings, and other companies claim fire resistances of even higher temperatures for as long or longer.  Plus the safe offers a degree of physical protection for your data as well, in the event of a theft or other break-in. 

I will not lie, you should at least be aware of command line interfaces before undertaking this project, and we definitely checked and rechecked everything before plugging a hard drive with backup data already on it into the Pi.  But, all said, it really was not that bad, and gives some degree of security to those those 63,000 pictures I somehow managed to accumulate.

[Update]  I had to implement this change in order to prevent the wifi connection from going to sleep.  [/Update]

in light of recent events

In case you have not heard, 12 people were murdered today by a couple of undereducated, over-indoctrinated, violent radicals who got their lace panties in a twist over a couple of cartoons depicting their chosen messiah in less-than-flattering ways. 

And even without me specifying the religion of the attackers in that sentence, I bet you can figure out which one the murderous assholes adhered to without clicking through the link.  Which is part of the problem. 

Anywise, I had originally made this graphic to address anti-rights cultists who were demanding that I surrender my rights/property/etc., but it seems equally applicable to religious radicals who demand I surrender my rights/speech/etc.: 

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This variation is my current Twitter header: 

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(Original photo by Oleg Volk.) 

Finally, there is a (graphic – you have been warned) video of the terrorists shooting a police officer begging for his life in the street.  Assuming that video was taken with a cell phone, and assuming that cell phone’s field of view is anything like mine’s, a shot on those terrorists would not be difficult for a decently-practiced individual with a handgun, much less an actual carbine or rifle.  At the very least, unexpected return fire from an elevated position would have distracted the terrorists and possibly saved the police officer’s – and others’ – life. 

As I said on the Book of Faces and Twitters earlier today, just imagine if everyone with a camera or cell phone recording the shooting had a firearm – along with the training and will to use it – instead. 

Or, as someone with a little more first-hand experience once stated

GunnotaCamera

Feel free to use these as you like, but remember that far better artists than me are risking their lives to express themselves.  For some particularly disgusting individuals and groups, simply holding to or verbalizing a position different from theirs is sufficient cause for them to want to murder you; what is your planned response should they decide that you are next? 

Me, I do not plan on going home in a body bag, and thus I will equip and train myself accordingly. 

quote of the day – noequarter

A separate discussion of my last post has cropped up on the Book of Faces, wherein NoeQuarter mentioned something I kept meaning to inject into my previous posts and completely forgot about: 

Well the Atf have probably been losing money over people choosing the sig brace and not filing for the sbr tax form.

As of 2013, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives was processing 200,000 NFA-related applications a year, which was a growth of over 380% from 2005.  Each of those applications carries a check of $200 (assuming they are not for Any Other Weapons, which only cost $5 to transfer), which results in around $40,000,000 in revenue for the New York Avenue Boys.  Obviously not all applications are for short-barreled rifles (I would bet the plurality, if not majority, are for suppressors), but if people are buying “pistol braces” instead of paying tax stamps, well, that is unrealized revenue for the BATFE, and we just cannot have that. 

And after the BATFE came out and said, “Using such an accessory improperly would not change the classification of the firearm per Federal Law,” you know and I know and everyone knows why people were buying SB-15s – to brace their AR pistols on their forearms, of course. 

Anywise, things have changed, and while the potential impact “pistol braces” had on the NFA tax stamp market may not have been the motivating factor in the BATFE’s changing opinions, it is always good to remind ourselves that the Bureau’s roots can be traced back to part of the Department of Treasury, originally as the “Revenue Laboratory”.  The revenoors may have diversified from their original purpose, sure, but the government rarely gives up a source of revenue – any source of revenue – without a fight. 

Just look at how many toll roads persist in keeping their tolls long after their construction has been paid for… 

addition to my last

It seems the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives wants to make itself abundantly clear on the topic of “pistol braces”, this time in the form of a letter to Thordsen Customs, a company that makes “buffer tube covers” that allow for saddle kits to be attached to them. 

As Mr. Adam Krout, Esq. says, the takeaway you want to pay attention to is this: 

However, if a pistol assembled with an AR-type buffer tube or similar component; which in turn, redesigns the subject AR-type pistol to be designed or redesigned and consequently intended to be fired from the shoulder; an NFA weapon as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(3); has been made.

(Alright, seriously, does the BATFE just not proof anything that goes out their door any more?  I could write a better sentence than that, and do so frequently.) 

How will the BATFE, in its infinite wisdom, determine that you have changed a firearm such that it is now “intended to be fired from the shoulder”?  I have not the foggiest, but I would reiterate that if there is any documentation of you using a pistol with a “pistol brace” attached to it by means of placing said “pistol brace” against your shoulder, I would go ahead and remove that from the intertubes now. 

As for my SB15-equipped pistol?  Well, like I have always said, it was built as a pistol and it is presently a pistol.  I am contemplating replacing the SB15 with one of Thordsen’s kits, though, just to make that abundantly clear. 

Also, given my prospective, and now cancelled, next build was going to be something that was not an AR-15 but used an AR-15 pistol buffer tube, I direct your attention to this paragraph: 

The receiver extension/buffer tube on an AR-type pistol serves a legitimate, vital function in the operation of the weapon system; and if utilized as originally designed is not considered to be a shoulder stock.  Further, a pistol that has an AR-type buffer tube or similar component assembled to it, which consequently allows for the installation of a saddle/cheek enhancement accessory, is not classified as an SBR; nor unlawful to possess. 

On the one hand, a buffer tube serves absolutely no “legitimate, vital function” on a pistol built around a Charger receiver.  On the other hand, the BATFE claims putting a buffer tube onto any given pistol does not make the pistol an SBR.  On the gripping hand, now that the BATFE has mentioned it, I think I will just keep my distance. 

I will not lie – I bought now-both of my SB15s to poke the bear, but I think it is safe to say that the bear is now fully aware of the situation and paying attention.  What the bear does now is anyone’s guess, but I am betting it will not be pleasant for those to whom it does it.  Like I said before, I sincerely hope the SB15 and its brethren are the foundation for knocking out at least the SBR portion of the NFA, but until that happens, the potential for Very Bad Things™ to happen to people over arbitrary and whimsical “determinations” remains pretty high. 

(For bonus reading material, the Prince Law Offices blog has a couple of posts up about how “pistol braces” have… magically transformative properties.  If honest-to-God lawyers are having difficulty figuring out what the BATFE is saying, I think I will back away slowly.) 

next build – canex’d

So I was going to write a post about how my next firearm build was going to involve Ruger’s re-released Charger in a Nordic Components AR22 Stock Kit with an SB15 attached to the back end, but then the BATFE, in their infinite wisdom, went and said this:

Consequently, the attachment of the SB-15 brace to an AR-type pistol alone; would not change the classification of the pistol to an SBR.  However, if this device, un-modified or modified; is assembled to a pistol and used as a shoulder stock, thus designing or redesigning or making or remaking of a weapon design to be fired from the shoulder; this assembly would constitute the making of a “rifle” as defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(7). 

Leaving aside their positively horrific grammar (seriously, learn what a semi-colon is and how to use it), apparently the act of taking an AR pistol with an SB15 brace attached and placing it against your shoulder “makes” the firearm in question a rifle.  It is worth noting that this was written by Max M. Kingery, the Acting Chief of the Firearms Technology Industry Services Branch; on the other hand, these paragraphs were written by Earl Griffith, the Chief of the Firearms Technology Branch: 

FTB classifies weapons based on their physical design characteristics.  While usage/functionality of the weapon does influence the intended design, it is not the sole criterion for determining the classification of a weapon.  Generally speaking, we do not classify weapons based on how an individual uses a weapon. 

FTB has previously determined (see FTB # 99146) that the firing of a weapon from a particular position, such as placing the receiver extension of an AR-15 type pistol on the user’s shoulder, does not change the classification of the weapon.  Further, certain firearm accessories such as the SIG Stability Brace have not been classified by the FTB as shoulder stocks and, therefore, using the brace improperly does not constitute a design change.  Using such an accessory improperly would not change the classification of the weapon per Federal Law.  However, FTB cannot recommend using a weapon (or weapon accessory) in a manner not intended by the manufacturer. 

Now, the former blockquote – from FTB # 907010 – arguably supersedes the latter blockquote – from FTB # 903050 – just on account of being “newer”, however, here is the stickler: neither of these are legally binding, in any sense of the word.  Both are simply “opinions” provided by the BATFE and only applicable to the specific case / question that they are responding to. 

Which, as far as I can tell, means the BATFE is trying to set people up to be an example.  The unfortunate truth is that we will not “really” know if the SB15 is legal to use as a stock until the BATFE does make an example of someone and the case goes before a court… But, suffice to say, if you have any pictures online of you using one from the shoulder, I might suggest taking them down at your earliest possible convenience. 

(And for those people who incessantly whine, “Just get the tax stamp and make an SBR,” my answer remains, “No.”  Having to pay $200 and pass a background check that verges on a proctology exam all for being allowed the “privilege” of shaving an inch off your rifle’s or shotgun’s barrel is completely and utterly asinine.  I am all for finding any and all workarounds for that particular piece of archaic idiocy, and I sincerely hope the prevalence of the SB15 can and will be used to overturn the National Firearms Act, in part or full.  I am not particularly optimistic about that happening, but I still support the attempt.) 

(I do have to wonder what happens if you put a Glock in a stockless RONI and hold it up to your shoulder, though…) 

merry christmas

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And all that. 

back behind the trigger again

For those keeping score at home, the Remington 700 has been sold, to someone who was even aware of the whole story, no less. 

W00t. 

While I was waiting for Remington to unscrew themselves, I concluded that a Savage Model 11 Long Range Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor would be my next choice for a Boomershoot-able rifle, and went ahead and ordered one from Dragon Leatherworks

Oh, did you not know?  Dragon Leatherworks is presently a fully-operational FFL, from which you can order firearms and parts online.  Obviously any firearm you purchase has to go through a local FFL, per the relevant federal laws, but here is the cut-above-the-rest detail for working with Dennis – he is planning on personally inspecting everything people buy from him before he sends it out.  In the case of my rifle, he shipped it first to himself, checked it over, and then sent it on to my FFL; at least that way, I was sure I was getting a rust-free rifle. 

The extra step added a few days, but given my last experience with mail-ordering firearms, it was worth it. 

Atop the rifle I decided to mount a Vortex PST 6-24x SFP MOA optic by way of an EGW Heavy Duty 20MOA Scope Mount and EGW 0.990” Tactical Scope Rings

If you have not heard of Vortex Optics, they are worth a look based on their warranty alone, and aside from that, their upper-end stuff gets consistently good reviews.  Admittedly, I purchased the upper end of their middle line, but I have been pretty happy with it so far. 

Evolution Gun Works Inc. is kind of an interesting company, if only because everything they make is serialized (well, that I have seen so far, at least).  Sure, the scope mount is serialized, and that is not too surprising, but the scope rings are serialized as well – all four parts.  Front and rear rings are made together, on the same machine, at the same time, so they are as close to “matching out the box” as you can possibly get. 

Assembly of all the parts was about as easy as it is supposed to be.  I ended up getting a Wheeler FAT Wrench to properly torque the mounts – I figured if I was going to spend that much on glass, I might as well do it right – and a couple of cheapy bubble levels to get the scope properly lined up with the bore.  Amusingly, the leveling was the most annoying aspect of the installation – I would get everything more or less where I wanted them, torque down on the screws, and then see that everything shifted ever so slightly.  I must have tightened and loosened the screws… honestly, I lost count. 

The only other slight hiccup is that, while it does come in a Accustock, the Savage was not fully free-floated.  The very tip of the stock touched the barrel, and apparently this is an issue that Savage has been aware of for a number of years now.  I called up their customer support line, and they said I could send the stock back and they could fix it, or I could simply sand down the offending part of the stock and call it a day.  30 minutes of effort later with a piece of sand paper and a metal punch I had out in the garage, and I figure it is good enough for my uses. 

With the rifle and optics sorted, the only thing remaining is ammunition – I went with Hornady’s Match 140gr A-Max rounds just based on their impressive (on paper, at least) performance, which, coincidentally, is exactly what Savage recommends for the rifle as well. 

Alright, enough with the yammering; how did it actually shoot?  Once I got the optic mostly sighted in (I ran out of ammo to get it really where I wanted it) and after I did shoot-five-swab for 50 rounds, these were the best three groupings in increasing awesomeness (all of them are 5 shots at 100 yards at an indoor range with a sandbag under the fore-end and my hand under the buttstock, and the squares are 1″): 

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  0.88” grouping center-to-center if you include the flyers, which I did not call, so you probably should.  0.2” without the flyers. 

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1.1” grouping with the flyer, 0.47” without. 

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0.45” group, period. 

If this rifle is starting as a 0.5 MOA rifle with my sorry arse-who-has-not-seriously-pulled-the-trigger-on-a-long-range-target-since-the-last-Boomershoot behind it, I think this is going to work out just fine. 

I did have some interesting notes from the range…  24x allows me to self-spot my own hits without a spotting scope, which is something 16x did not.  And after fooling around with glass at the last NRAAM, I realized I honestly cannot tell the difference between a $5000 scope and a $1000 scope in terms of clarity and color, but I definitely can tell the difference between a $850 scope and a $160 scope (I am trying to work up a post with photographs of the differences, but taking pictures through rifle scopes is annoyingly challenging).  The adjustable comb on the Long Range Hunter model is nice, but I need to remember to try it on while wearing hearing protection before going to the range next time.  I am never going to mix MOA and mil measurements on an optic again; the PST has an MOA reticle and MOA adjustments, which makes life so much easier.  Apparently the muzzle brake on the LRH (which I left open – I will examine how closing it changes the point of aim later) makes the rifle quite loud, according to other people, though the noise was not that bad right behind it.  Likewise, the recoil for the new round really was not that much worse than .243 Winchester – I know there was more energy being thrown downrange, but apparently the muzzle break counteracted it or the new rifle is heavier or something.  And I have no idea if this is a normal characteristic for 6.5 Creedmoor, but the barrel never really warmed up (i.e. it was never uncomfortable to touch), and the brass was hardly even warm straight out of the chamber.  Honestly, it was kind of strange, though I am not strictly complaining. 

And, in reality, I think I am pretty happy with this outcome.  Now I just need more trigger time. 

presented without comment, updated

On account of me potentially fumble-fingering the last version, and new yearly data being available, here is an updated version of the last one

USEnglandMurderRates

If anyone has any data from England and Wales that goes farther back than 1967, I would appreciate it – I have data on the US going back to 1960, but I want to compare equivalent time spans.  The intersection point of those two trendlines is now about 40 years out, for those curious. 

(United States murder rate from Disaster Center / FBI UCR.  England/Wales murder rate from Office for National Statistics, Crime Statistics, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2012/2013, Appendix Table 2.01.  Readers are reminded that the murder rate in the United Kingdom as a whole is much higher than published, potentially up to two times higher, due to their … questionable … categorization methods.) 

‘tis the season

There is an advantage to having a vehicle with a built-in 120V adapter and a roof rack: 

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North Carolina being North Carolina, I figure it is only a matter of time before I am pulled over for having non-DOT-approved lights. 

we now have the most awesomest christmas tree ever

ChristmasLightYup, that is a real, live, honest-to-God, NCDOT traffic light underneath it. 

No, I am not saying where we got it. 

Yes, I wired it up myself. 

Yes, there is a fire extinguisher handy. 

well, that was different

I have a thing about raw meat.  Blood does not bother me in the slightest, but I go out of my way to not touch raw meat – I use forks to hold things I am cutting, I am very careful about unwrapping the whole thing, and I am obsessive about washing my hands afterwards, regardless of whether or not I actually touched it.  Honestly, this is probably one of the primary reasons I do not hunt*. 

On a completely related note (I promise), Better Half and I elected to totally slack-out this past Thanksgiving, and got one of those all-in-one-meal-deals from Kroger, wherein they provide the turkey, the side dishes, and so forth, and we provide… well, the utensils.  Frankly, it was awesome.  I mean, the quality of the side dishes obviously did not measure up to what we could make for ourselves, but, by the same token, “preparation” consisted of shoving what could be in the oven for a few hours, and microwaving the rest, and “clean-up” consisted of putting a few plates in the dishwasher and throwing away the trays the food came in. 

Yeah.  I could get used to that. 

Anywise, one of the primary reasons we went with a preprepared Thanksgiving meal is because we wanted to try a fried turkey, but had absolutely no interest in actually frying one ourselves.  Kroger provided exactly that, so what the hey? 

I want to stress that the turkey came from Kroger pre-cooked, and we followed the instructions for preheating – X amount of time in its foil, Y amount of time outside of the foil, and so forth.  We accounted for its weight, and even left it in the oven a little long as we got everything else ready.  In other words, we were not actually concerned over the meat being cooked. 

Well, at the end of it, this is what the dark meat from the leg – arguably the most-definitely cooked portion of the bird – looked on my plate: 

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That red stuff at the back was the cranberry salad, but I did not get any on the piece of “dark” meat there at the center. 

Yeah, given my difficulties with raw meat, finishing my dinner was… a challenge.  After we wrapped up Thanksgiving proper, we shoved the turkey back into the oven, uncovered, and roasted it for another hour or three.  After that, the meat reached more the consistency we were expecting, though the pinkish coloration stuck around. 

So, yeah, fried turkey is tasty, but be prepared for an… unusual… coloration and consistency, unless you reheat the crap out of it.  Though I have no idea if a freshly-fried turkey would have the same result. 

(* – Another off those reasons being, as my father once phrased it, “It’s called ‘fishing’, not ‘catching’.”  And a third reason is that I am not convinced that my accuracy is good enough.  I think I am ok with killing prey**, but it would upset me to no end to mortally – or even not – wound an animal, only to be unable to finish the job because it got away.) 

(** – Though, me being me, I would only kill something if I (1) planned on eating it or (b) was exterminating vermin (coyotes, prairie dogs, etc.).) 

bottoms up

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For being such an… interesting… drug, methotrexate pills are rather… unimpressive. 

Anywise, I have managed to kick my rather persistent cold to the curb (that was a fun way to spend Thanksgiving), so we figured it was time to attack my immune system a new and different way.  Because that sounds like fun. 

Hopefully this stuff helps with the psoriatic arthritis.  Or hopefully it does not suck too bad.  With my recent history, though, I would not be surprised if I were 0 for 2. 

for a less civilized age

I am certainly not encouraging my readers to knowingly break the law, nor am I saying I am going to break the law, but we all know how absurdly ineffective security theater really is, and the notion that law-abiding, peaceful citizens should be forcibly disarmed while criminals will simply ignore, bypass, or plow through the “security” measures is… distasteful. 

Thankfully, people have been thinking outside the box when it comes to self-defense implements for inside “non-permissive” zones; for example, my tactical pen has been through airport security repeatedly on two continents with nary a problem.  Or, if you want something a little more purpose-built, you can consider something like the SOB Puncher, created by the “Sheriff of Baghdad” John McPhee

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The Puncher measures 4.57” in overall length, and 2.165” in overall width, and is made of two laminated scales of G10 micarta and thus has no magnetic signature. 

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The handle section is 0.51” thick, with the blade segment being 0.255”, and the blade itself extends 2.6” past the finger guards. 

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This is definitely not meant to be an everyday-carry kind of knife; the G10 is dense enough that the grind does provide it a noticeable edge and a point that will assuredly work, but sharpening it is not really an option and the handle does not lend itself to trivial tasks like box-opening. 

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From a scant day of fooling around with it, I have found that gripping it, at least for me, has to be done carefully.  If I just grab it quickly, the blade has a tendency to protrude out from my proximal interphalangeal joint (basically, the first one out from your knuckles), which cants it down about 30 degrees.  It is still in the right direction, but one punches with one’s knuckles, not one’s fingers. 

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When I grasp the grip between my first and last phalanges, however (i.e. not involving my palm at all), the result would work just fine for an average punch. 

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Obviously strikes can be modified for the direction of the blade, but it is something to bear in mind. 

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I do not have any mil-spec-correct MOLLE equipment handy at the moment (the blade width – 1.03 at its widest – was designed to fit in those loops), but I dare say my tactical sporran provides a convenient place to mount it. 

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I am still contemplating how to make a kydex sheath/holster/holder for this thing, given I do not always have tactical gear on (no, really); I have a few random ideas, but am not sure whether or not I can execute them, especially since the goal is to use a minimum of metal, if any at all. 

Alton Brown regularly warns against unitaskers, and I generally agree with him.  In fact, SGM (ret) McPhee makes it quite clear that he intended this little implement for people who Go Places, Do Things, and intentionally put themselves in harm’s way… in other words, not lazy slobs like me.  However, this tickled my irony bone, and serves as a wonderful reminder that if people really want to circumvent security measures, they can and they will.  It is wise to plan, train, and possibly equip accordingly. 

(Speaking of, I have no idea of the legality of carrying this gidget in your state, much less my own.  I am not sure if this legally counts as a “knife” on account of having no metal or cutting edge to speak of, or what other category it might fall under.  I imagine that if you were to use it, you would have larger issues to contend with, but, as always, your remaining lawful is up to you, not me.) 

(If you want an SOB Puncher of your own, you will have to email SGM (ret) McPhee directly at “john (at) sobtactical (dot) com” on account of SOB’s marketplace not being operational quite yet.) 

in honor of gt beating uga

And as a palate-cleanser from the last post, I give you: 

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Have not had a chance to start the exciting meds yet… some stupid cold tackled me the day after we decided to proceed, and something told us that taking an immunosuppressive when already sick was something of a bad idea.  Shocker, I know. 

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.)