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

how not to drive a ship

A few days ago, Sean Sorrentino asked me if I had anything to say about the recently released bridge conversation from the USS Porter right before and during its collision with a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. Of course I do have a lot to say, but I had to figure out how to say it.

Before I embark, let me first say that I was not on either ship and am not intimately familiar with the circumstances revolving around the collision – I only know what is public. Further, I mean no disrespect to anyone on either ship… unless I make it abundantly clear that I do.

For those of you who only care about my take on the tape, skip down to the first horizontal line; otherwise, read on.  Alright, the first stop is to ensure everyone is speaking the same vocabulary. On the bridge of a US Navy warship, there are (generally) four people who really matter in terms of where that multi-thousand-ton object is going:

Picture 250 Small- The Helmsman: This is the guy with his hands literally on the wheel of the ship, and he controls the rudder(s) back behind the screw(s).  There are a couple of different ways he can do his job, both in terms of the hardware and what he is actually doing (maintaining a course vs. maintaining a rudder angle, etc.), but this guy is the one who physically directs the ship.  He is always enlisted (unless an officer is doing some training), and is generally a Boatswain’s Mate

- The Lee Helmsman:  If the Helmsman controls the steering wheel, this guy controls the gas pedal.  Different ships have different ways of setting their speeds, but this guy operates the lever(s) which tell the engines how hard to push.  Once again, this position is manned by a BM. 

- The Conning Officer:  This is the only person the Helmsman and Lee Helmsman listen to when it comes to the direction of the ship.  It does not matter if God Himself were to appear on the bridge and say that the ship must go thataway or risk eternal damnation – if the Conning Officer does not give the order, the ship should not move.  On a similar note, the Commanding Officer must take the ‘conn’ – which he can do whenever he likes – before the Helmsmen will listen to any direction-related order he gives.  This distinction is rather important, because the bridge of a ship can become a nightmare of noise sometimes, but the two guys actually driving the ship only have to listen for one voice.  This role is generally filled by a Junior Officer, and sometimes by a Non-Commissioned Officer. 

- The Officer of the Deck:  Also known as the OOD.  This person is the direct representative of the Commanding Officer on the bridge, and he is not only responsible for the safe navigation of the ship, but also for the safety and security of the ship as a whole.  He has to keep up with the tactical situation, the orders of the day, the day’s schedule, any major evolutions going on in the ship, the bridge crew, the engineering plant, and pretty much everything else going on onboard the ship.  To be an OOD, you have to train (generally as a Conning Officer), complete a qualification checklist, and pass a board of the ship’s senior officers and CO, which makes sense – you are being entrusted with his boat.  Interestingly, OODs technically have the conn by dint of their position, but invariably delegate it to the Conning Officer; in fact, on both ships I served on, it was a standing order that the OOD could not keep the conn.  OODs are again generally JOs or NCOs. 

There are, of course, a lot of other people on the bridge of a ship, especially when she is doing something unusual, dangerous, or significant, but those are the big four. 

StraitsofHormuzMoving on, the Straits of Hormuz suck.  Go ahead and blow up the chart to the left (borrowed from here) or use this slick interactive version.  At its narrowest point, the Straits are about 30 statute miles across, but thanks to the topology of the area, there are three instances where ships are restricted to two-mile wide channels – you can see them just off Ra’s al Kuh, the northern tip of Oman, and around a small cluster of islands, from right to left.  In those cases, all ships are supposed to keep to their respective lanes, as prescribed by the arrows on the map; in all other cases, you are given pretty much free reign, with the understanding that you are invariably in national waters when transiting the Straits and are under an obligation to get clear of territorial claims as quickly as you can. 

Aside from the geography, the Straits of Hormuz are one of the busier narrow sections of water in the world on account of all the oil trade flowing through it.  Worse, you are in range of no shortage of Iranian missile batteries on the shore, and the Iranian Navy has a wonderful tendency of trying to harass US warships as they are trying to transit. 

In other words, this was probably the most stressful transit I ever had the privilege of executing, and that includes the Panama Canal and the Straits of Malacca

Speaking of things I have done, I have only served onboard an FFG and an LPD – a Miata and a minivan, respectively.  DDGs are rather the Corvettes of the US Navy (not to be confused with actual corvettes), and their captains tend to be somewhat akin to Top Gun aviators.  I am, of course, stereotyping, but these ships are the pointy end of the spear, are brimming with power (both in terms of weapons and propulsion), and will be the first to fight.  It takes a certain mentality to command a vessel like that, and the Navy and its captains know that. 

One final thing; the United States Coast Guard defined and maintains the International and Inland Navigational Rules, otherwise known as the “Rules of the Road”.  Unsurprisingly, these are not significantly different from some of the road-based “navigational” rules, but, let me tell you, it is bloody dry reading – there are light configurations, signaling methods, transiting instructions, special rules for the Mississippi River, hierarchy of “right of way”, and on, and on, and on, and I had to memorize most of it. 

Arguably the most important Rule, though, is also the simplest, and can be summed up as such:  unless you absolutely, positively have no other choice whatsoever, do not turn left when other ships are around.  Why?  Because the default direction to turn is “right”; if two ships are headed straight for one another, the correct answer is for both to turn right.  If one does that and the other turns left… well, things get bad. 

Which brings us to the USS Porter and its collision. 

The general gist of the situation appears to be that the USS Porter was inbound to the Persian Gulf at about midnight, and had passed through the second restricted channel and was headed on into the Gulf proper.  Reports indicate that this was the Porter’s 13th Straits transit on their deployment, and the CO was initially not on the bridge during the transiting.  Personally, I only did four transits of the Straits, and I cannot say as though my crew ever got comfortable with it, especially what with the Iranians dropping packages in the water in front of some of the ships in our deployment group.  Did the Porter’s bridge crew, or CO, get complacent?  Who knows. 

While steaming along, the Porter came across a freighter showing “the international signal warning other ships to stay clear”; I kind of fault the Navy Times for not being specific about how the vessel was indicating this, because there are a variety of ways indicating a variety of problems on the ship, but I guess the finer points of it are immaterial.  Ships showing warning lights have the right of way, regardless of any other applicable Rules. 

So, for some reason, the Porter turned left to get clear of the disabled vessel.  Remember that “most important Rule” up above?  So much for that.  We will likely never know why that first decision was made, since the bridge recording starts immediately afterwards, but that already put us in a bad situation.  Is it possible there was a good reason for turning left?  Absolutely.  But I have had COs have me come to a dead crawl to avoid having to turn left. 

How do we know the Porter turned left?  Two reasons.  First, all US warships have AIS technology onboard now, and while the data broadcast is understandably neutered, it does track the ship’s location.  Second, all navigational orders are entered into the Ship’s Log, which is a legal, binding document and a track of all the orders given on the bridge.  OODs actually have to sign off on the Log before turning over the watch; I have actually stood watches where the only things separating my signature from that of my predecessor and relief are the lines on the page.  Those are good watches, or horrible ones, depending on how you handle boredom. 

Which brings us to that fateful tape. 


00:00 – 00:06:  Warship bridges can be noisy places.  They are not supposed to be, precisely because of the situation you can hear right now – conflicting orders and people talking over one another – but it is almost unavoidable that as the stress levels increase, people get louder and more people start chiming in.  Some of the noise is unavoidable – for example, watch standers must always repeat an order back to ensure that they heard it properly, and then audibly confirm that the order has been executed – but that bridge is pretty darned loud. 

00:15 – 00:22:  The OOD is explaining a concept that it sometimes takes people a while to understand.  Ships steer from the stern, unlike bicycles, automobiles, and pretty much every other vehicle we are familiar with.  When you have a ship turn left, the first thing that happens is the stern “kicks out” to the right, and then the bow starts moving to the left; this is something you have to bear in mind during underway replenishments, docking maneuvers, and other tight quarters. 

00:28 – 00:31:  “’Base course’ means nothing.”  This is a true statement; all orders involving a direction you want the ship to go should involve an actual number for the bearing, not an assumption that everyone is on the same page. 

00:33 – 00:38:  OOD:  “Rudder amidships.”  Conn:  “Rudder amidships.”  Helmsman:  “Rudder amidships aye.  Rudder is amidships, no new course given.”  In general, Conns are given a little bit of lee-way when it comes to driving ships.  OODs know where the ship is supposed to be going, and that they have to get it there at a certain time, but if a Conn wants to do something along the way to practice ship-driving, and it fits into the schedule, there is no real harm.  In high-risk / high-cost / high-stress situations, though, Conns are basically puppets with either the OOD’s or CO’s hand up their nether region, as this situation shows. 

Helmsmen are basically always repeating stations, doing exactly what the Conn tells them to do, and providing no input into the situation.  Behold:  the chain of command. 

00:46 – 00:55:  When underway, all warships have at least three lookouts on watch all the time – port, starboard, and aft.  These are junior, and I do mean junior, enlisted sailors whose sole job is to scour the horizons and provide an idiot check to the ship’s onboard radars with their Mark 1 Mod 0 Eyeballs.  In this particular case, it sounds like the starboard lookout saw another freighter poking its bow out from behind the freighter the Porter was attempting to avoid.  From the way the OOD was talking, he was looking at the new contact himself while informing the CO of its presence, and he saw a red running light, indicating he was seeing a port aspect on the freighter. 

Why any of the surface search radars onboard the Porter did not pick up this contact is anyone’s guess. 

00:55 – 01:02:  The OOD provides one of the “correct” suggestions in this particular case: come right, and pass the ship port-to-port.  Now, he did say “pass them down their starboard side”, but, at this point, it is fair to say that he was somewhat flustered, and “turn to starboard” turned into “pass them on their starboard”.  Unfortunately, people are fallible, and miscommunications like that are not uncommon when thousands of tons of metal are floating around the ocean near one another. 

From personal experience, OODs getting flustered when the CO is on the bridge is not unheard-of.  You will hear the CO repeatedly asking why the OOD chose a specific course of action on the recorder, and the OOD stumbling for an answer; a lot of that has to do with the intimidation of being interrogated by the CO, but a lot of it also has to do with having to juggle two or ten other things at that moment, and not having enough attention to provide a solid answer.  Understanding thought processes is important, but discussing them is sometimes best saved for times when you are not in close proximity to other ships. 

01:05 – 01:15:  The OOD provides another “correct” suggestion: slow down.  Almost no ill can come of slowing down, so long as the ships in convoy behind you are informed of the decision.  The Porter weighs in a somewhere around 9,000 tons, and when she is moving at 20 knots (20 nautical miles (a NM is 2000 yards) per hour), which she was when she entered this situation, that is a lot of momentum.  DDGs luck out by having variable pitch propellers, which means they can slow down and speed up a lot faster than steam ships, but “faster” does not mean “fast”. 

Speaking of letting the ships around you know of your intentions, why do we not hear the Porter going out on bridge-to-bridge radio trying to make passing arrangements with the ships around them?  On the one hand, freighters very rarely actually have people on their bridges, and the Porter may have given up trying to connect with them.  On the other hand, everyone on the bridge could be busy trying to keep up with the contacts and the situation and it just did not cross their minds.  On the gripping hand, someone could be on B2B, but we cannot hear them on the recorder. 

01:16 – 01:17:  “Why did we come up to flank?”  Good question, CO.  Another good question is when did you come up to flank, and a third good question is why were you not aware of it?  Short of a combat situation, I cannot come up with a good reason to come up to flank in the Straits, and especially not when you are busy avoiding other shipping traffic. 

01:23 – 01:35:  Given that the OOD requests that their speed change be passed on to the ship behind them in formation, and given that the CO indicates the information should be passed over FleetTac (the Navy’s encrypted radio network), someone is obviously on the radio.  It sounds like the OOD was asking the Combat Information Center to pass the speed change, which raises another really good question: where was the CIC in all of this? 

If the bridge drives the ship, the CIC processes all of the information that comes into the ship.  All of the radars, radios, and so forth pass through CIC first on their way to the bridge, and the CIC is responsible for keeping an eye on the overall tactical picture.  Additionally, they maintain parallel navigational and track plots to serve as a backup for the bridge and to further idiot-check everyone.  Finally, the bridge and CIC should be constantly communicating back and forth regarding contacts and such, just so everyone is on the same page.  As far as we can tell from the recording alone (which, in fairness, does not even show us half of the picture), not a lot of that happened.  Now, having spent a lot of time as a CIC Watch Officer, I can tell you that we often felt like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed gos-se – but in that case, you get on the horn with the bridge and ask what on God’s Green Earth is going on up there.  Or you get up out of your chair and find out yourself. 

01:35 – 01:37:  “Passing 230 to the left.”  So, we are in a bad situation because we turned left, we have a ship on our starboard side, and we are still coming left.  I do not know about you, but this seems like something we should tend to… soonish. 

01:38 – 01:46:  But, instead, let us discuss how coming to flank was a bad idea.  Yes, it was a bad idea.  No, the OOD / Conn / whomever made the decision should not have made it without consulting with their CO.  Hell, on both of my old ships, if I rang up flank without checking with the CO first, regardless of where he was, I would be receiving a phone call in very short order asking just what the hell was going on. 

But maybe we should discuss that at another time? 

01:47 – 01:53:  The OOD realizes they are in a bad situation and slowing down is not making it any better. 

01:54 – 02:00:  The OOD recommends turning left, the CO concurs, and orders are given for first left full rudder (generally ~35 degrees) and then hard left rudder (generally ~38 degrees).  I am of two minds about this command.  On the one hand, turning left is bad, for all the reasons we discussed previously.  On the other hand, if your situation looks less like a “T” and more like a backwards “7” when it comes to your course being the vertical line and the other ship’s course being the horizontal line, I can see how turning left could work.  You would end up pointing the “wrong” direction when it comes to transiting the straits, but that beats… well, what happens in a few seconds. 

Unfortunately, at five knots, there is generally insufficient wash over the rudder to make any significant course changes.  Surface ships’ rudders are behind their screws, and if the ship is at all-stop, you can put your rudder in any direction you want and it will not matter.  Conversely, if you put over a hard rudder at flank, you are liable to break something.  A lot of things, really.  On both ships I served on, five knots was just enough to get the bow turning, but certainly not at anything approximating a quick speed. 

As an aside, we generally avoided using “hard” rudder commands on both my ships, as the rudder is probably going to bounce off the stops installed to keep it from bouncing off the hull itself, and those are expensive and time-consuming to replace. 

02:04 – 02:06:  The CO requests “five short” – five short blasts on a ship’s horn is the universal “danger” signal.  If you are underway and you hear that, you immediately look around and try to figure out what is going on and if you are involved. 

02:20 – 02:30:  The OOD asks the CO if he wants the ship to continue coming to port, but the CO orders “steady as she goes”, which is shorthand for “whatever heading you are on right now, come back to it and stay there.”  The helmsman announces that they are coming back to 170, which is not a reciprocal course for the heading they were just on.  This will become important in a moment. 

02:44 – 02:50:  I can only assume that the CO is now realizing that he took a bad situation and made it worse, and literally attempts to dive out of it by ringing up flank speed.  At this point, it is safe to say that the Porter has successfully dropped to five knots – that order was given a minute-and-a-half ago, and before a 100 degree turn; both time and the simple act of turning will have successfully slowed the ship down.  Going from 5 to 35 knots on a DDG is a relatively quick process – they will even “rooster-tail” if the conditions are right – but that term “relatively” is important; we are still talking on the order of minutes. 

“Let’s go, get me up there to flank,” are the words of someone woefully… unaware… of his platforms capacities and limitations.  DDGs are awesome ships, there is no doubt, but physics are a bitch and will not be denied simply because you realized you put yourself in a sticky wicket. 

03:04:  Someone orders five short blasts again. 

03:09 – 03:11:  In what can only be an attempt to mitigate the damage/impact, the CO orders left full rudder. 

USS-Porter-203:14:  The CO’s career is over as the Porter and the M/T Otowasan trade a lot more than paint. 

03:35:  After checking the status of folks on the bridge, “all engines stop” is ordered. 

03:48 – 03:53:  The OOD makes a report to the TAO (Tactical Action Officer, the guy in charge of CIC) that the ship has been hit on the port side, and that they are setting general quarters.  The ship was actually impacted on the starboard side, but, at this point, it is quite safe to say the OOD is more than a little flustered. 

And that is about that. 


So what went wrong?  Where do you want me to start? 

Why did the Porter initially turn left? I sincerely hope there was a compelling reason behind that decision, because the root-cause analysis basically points to that as the pebble that started this avalanche.

Why was the bridge so damned loud?  I have been on some busy bridges and some loud bridges, but in either cases, all of the COs I served under, even the most laid-back amongst them, would have outright demanded silence on the bridge, especially given how chaotic the situation was getting.  On two separate occasions that we could hear, bad information was passed, and I feel certain the distraction of the background noise factored in. 

Why did the CO think now a stressful, complicated, contact-filled transit of one of the most dangerous (militarily speaking) straits in the world was the correct time to take the time to psychoanalyze his subordinates’ decisions and thought processes? 

Why did the CO not relieve the OOD, if not take the Conn himself?  He would be well within his rights and abilities as a CO to do so. 

How the hell was the bridge crew supposed to keep track of who was in charge?  Unfortunately, speaking from experience, this is a systemic problem on warships; when the CO is up on the bridge, as the OOD, it is almost impossible to determine who is in charge of the ship.  By all standards of rank- and position-based authority, the CO is always in charge, but by the same token, the OOD is in charge of the safe navigation and operation of the ship.  You can see how well the conflicting positional authorities worked out in this case with the CO and OOD shouting out conflicting and confusing orders, with the Conn just trying to go with it. 

Why did none of the surface search radars pick up the Otowasan?  DDGs sport AEGIS Combat Systems, which include SPY-1 Phased Array Radars (those big octagonal plates on the sides of the ship’s superstructure), which are supposed to be THE premier radar in the world, and no one thought to pick out that contact?  And why did the lookouts only see it after it passed the disabled ship? 

For that matter, where was the CIC during this entire incident?  They are supposed to serve as a check and balance for the bridge, and, as far as we know/can tell, were largely silent. 

Why did no one question the CO’s / OOD’s decisions to ignore the Rules of the Road?  I can answer it in regards to the CO – people are terrified of them.  COs might as well be God Himself when a ship is underway, and questioning a CO, even when you are right, sometimes especially when you are right, can lead to disastrous consequences down the road.  Unfortunately, the Navy honestly has engendered a “the CO is always right” mentality amongst the crew, and any observation of any chink in that façade is viewed very poorly. 

And Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was happening on the bridge after 01:54?  If you are in that crappy of a situation, and no one is right on your ass (which should have been handled by CIC), then throw it into full reverse and back your way out of it if you have to.  But turning left into a contact that is passing you on the left when you can already see the left side of their ship?  When did that even begin to make sense? 

As the saying goes, no true disaster is the work of one man, and this one involved the efforts of the CO, OOD, CICWO, TAO, and potentially a few other people to boot.  And, yes, for those curious, the CO of the Porter was fired and officially reprimanded, though he appears to still be active duty according to his LinkedIn profile. 

And please understand that I am not trying to disparage those on the bridge or CIC, or their service, or anything like that.  But the fact is, something went wrong – a lot of somethings went wrong – and if we do not take the time to figure out what those were and why they went wrong, then there is no positive value of this incident at all.  But if we can learn from the incident, and try to ensure things like it do not happen again in the future, maybe some good can come out of it. 

If anyone has any issues with what I have said here, feel free to sound off.  If anyone has any further information than what I was able to dig up and present here, feel free to sound off.  If you have first-hand knowledge of the collision and feel like sharing it like was done here, I will happily publish here sanitized of any identifying information to keep it from being traced back to you.  And if you have any questions about anything, please sound off – ship-driving is complicated and not for pansies, and I probably omitted a lot of smaller (and potentially larger) details simply because I did not think to think of them. 

(Image of the damage to the Porter is a U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/Released.) 

your government, strangely getting results

I came home today to this email from my congresscritter’s office, which was passed on to his district counsel from the State Department: 

I have been advised by our Verification Division that [Linoge] received a Tentative Non-Confirmation (TNC) because his passport record reflected “pending” in the Department of State’s system at the time of the verification inquiry.  Verification placed his case in “continue to process”, and sent a request to the Department of State to confirm the passport was valid.  The Department of State responded today and confirmed the passport is valid, and [Linoge]’s record has been updated to reflect the passport was updated appropriately.  [Linoge] was verified as Employment Authorized on 6/26/14 (this morning). In this particular case, he should not have been referred to the Department of State and we regret any confusion.

Do note that I received my passport in 2005, and I have travelled out of the country on three separate occasions since receiving it; why it was still “pending” in some system somewhere I have no idea. 

I pinged my employer to see if they had heard anything, but no word yet.  I guess the situation is about as fixed as it is going to be. 

your government, still hard at work

Remember this fun story?  It has gotten better.

Shortly after penning up that post, I faxed the Department of Homeland Security a copy of my still-active US Passport, per their request, and under the impression that doing so would allow the situation to be cleared up in “about 24 hours”, to quote the customer service representative I spoke to.

I called back 24 hours later, and was told that they had received my documents but nothing else had transpired.

I called 48 hours after that, and was told that the package was awaiting supervisor approval, but he was out of the office at the moment.

24 hours after that, I gave up and contacted my congresscritter and spoke to his district counsel.  She was tremendously confused why my employer was processing me through E-Verify (I honestly have no idea why they would do so, but I imagine it starts with “C” and ends with “YA”)*, and indicated that they probably could not do much, and certainly nothing on the short term.  She still wanted me to email her the appropriate documentation necessary for them to look into the case, along with another copy of my passport (I thought making copies of passports was illegal?), and said that she would do what she could.  I expressed that even if they were unable to really help the situation any, I would still like to file a complaint through the Representative’s office regarding the DHS’ handling of the situation and general inability to confirm that I am a US citizen.

The district counsel laughed at me.  Literally.  And then proceeded to tell me that would go nowhere.

*sigh*

So, in fairness, the counsel emailed me back today, and indicated that their liaison at the DHS was looking into it.  Out of curiosity, I called up the DHS’ E-Verify line and inquired as to the status of my “tentative nonconfirmation”.

Apparently my case has been passed off to the Department of State.  I asked the customer service representative why, and he literally had no idea.  He did give me a phone number to a call for further questions, which turned out to be the National Passport Information Center, who were very confused why I was calling them, and were, through no fault of their own, no help at all.

For those keeping score at home, the Department of Homeland Security just officially gave up in their attempts to confirm that a natural-born United States Citizen who served in the US Navy and maintained secret and top-secret security clearances is, in actuality and fact, a US Citizen, even after the aforementioned citizen forwarded them a copy of his still-valid US Passport.

I would try to say something witty here, but I am officially at a loss for words.

(* – [Update] After doing my homework, it would appear as though a bill was signed into law in NC in 2011 requiring all employers to E-Verify new employees.  That answers that. [/Update]

yes, this is a pistol

IMG_0110small

It amuses me that none of the “flat dark earth” parts actually match.  The total build is as follows: 

Some lessons learned from my second build… 

Buying a lower parts kit from the same manufacturer as the lower alleviated the problems I had with things not fitting, and hopefully purchasing from a “name” manufacturer will prevent exciting problems in the future

I love that Chip McCormick triggers have abandoned spring clips to hold their trigger pins in place, and instead have moved to torx screws on both sides.  I have some concerns that the screws might back out, but Loctite will handle that, and I am much less likely to mar my rifle’s finish with these than with fighting with those bloody clips. 

On a related note, the CMC Flat Trigger is completely incompatible with the Phase 5 EBRv2 Extended Bolt Release, or vice versa, depending on how you look at it.  The bolt release is far enough back in the trigger well, and the flat surface of the trigger is far enough forward, that I can just barely shove my finger between the two, but would end up with beastly blisters on both sides of my finger tip if I actually fired it.  I will be making use of Brownells’ Forever Guarantee to send the trigger group back and replace it with an identical one with a curved trigger – removing the trigger group is easier than removing the bolt release, and I am not sure any other extended bolt releases would not have similar problems. 

And speaking of, the Phase 5 EBRv2 was a pain in the ass to install.  Since that big armature is permanently attached to its right side, you cannot really use pliers to squeeze the roll pin for the bolt catch into place, like you can with “normal” bolt catches.  I figured this would be a more solid assembly, and I was probably right on that count, but I think I will be going with one of the add-on type levers in the future, just to make installation simpler. 

On the other hand, the Dead On Arms pin-less trigger guard was as stupid-simple to install as they advertise it to be.  My only qualifier on heartily recommending their product is that it rattles slightly when installed. 

You can never have too much tape on the pair of pliers you are using to squeeze the bolt catch roll pin into place.  Good I have a touchup pen for black finish… 

Now I just have to decide what upper to drop on it.  I am thinking something chambered in 5.56 with a 7.5” barrel and enough of a forearm to cover the entire barrel up to or slightly past the rear end of a muzzle device that does its best to direct what will probably be copious quantities of muzzle blast forward.  I like that the industry is trending away from cheesegrater hand guards, but I do want the ability to at least mount rail segments that can support an AFG, light, and possibly a forward sight if I do not end up with some other receiver-mounted optic.  Looks like I might have to get someone to build something for me, from the looks of the COTS market. 

And then I will have a 100% legal AR-15 pistol… that just happens to have a funky little device hanging off the back end of it which works pretty well when I hold it against my shoulder and do not blade my body… 

sometimes i give people what they want

Especially when they are so vociferous about it. 

I could kind of look the other way when James Grant arbitrarily proclaimed, based on his own limited, purely-anecdotal experience, that all “teabaggers” (his words, not mine) are racist, while simultaneously proclaiming that the movement is universally comprised of old white people, because sometimes people cannot help themselves from being jerks.  But watching him tell veterans that, unless they are active duty, they should “sit the fuck down, have a coke, and shut the fuck up” if they do not agree with him about not going back into Iraq… well, that sealed the deal for me*. 

So Failure to Fire – a webcomic loosely dealing with firearms, for those not in the know – is officially off my reading list.  There are plenty of funny webcomics out there that do not see a need to repeatedly club you about the head with their assholery, and I recommend you look into reading them instead. 

And, no, I am not going to give links, because I see no need to drive traffic his way; if you are morbidly curious, though, look to the post and comments on 17JUN14 for the most-recent example of the former incident (there are lots of others, but I am not going to waste my time digging for them) and the post and comments on 18JUN14 for the latter. 

On a related note, since John Scalzi all-but** called me a misogynist for being a fan of Larry Correia, and said Larry “looks like a rapist excusing asshole” while callling him a misogynist outright, I see no reason to continue buying his books new.  John is a decent enough author, but if he honestly believes the headline of “The Naive Idiocy of Teaching Rapists Not To Rape” is actually “excusing” rape, he is a blithering moron; Michael Williamson goes into a thorough explanation of why, but the simple summation is this: sociopaths exist, and teaching people how to defend themselves is  far superior tactic than trying to teach sociopaths to not be sociopaths. 

Anywise, John has already made it clear that he does not care if I buy his books, so who am I to argue?  Just means I will have the funds free for a signed copy of Nemesis, which is shiny by me. 

(* – For the record, I, a veteran who spent time in a war zone, do not believe we should go back into Iraq, but that is entirely secondary to the point.) 

(** – John seems to lack the necessary spine to actually say almost anything, instead relying on innuendo and “interpretation”.) 

i r prsntly srs gnblggr

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Hopefully everyone else got theirs today too. 

customer service; you are doing it right

So I have started accumulating parts to build out my never-used bare AR-15 lower I have laying around my safe, and I stumbled across the Pin-Less Trigger Guard offered by Dead On Arms.  At the time, Brownells was sold out, plus they did not offer it in anything but black, so I went ahead and ordered directly from Dead On Arms themselves. 

The part arrived in a few days, but it turns out they shipped me a black one, rather than the flat dark earth color I requested.  I shot them an email late Friday evening asking if I could exchange it for the right color, and this was the response this morning: 

Good Morning,

I am terribly sorry about that. I am sending you out the correct one this morning. No need to exchange, please keep the incorrect one, on us:) Below is the USPS tracking number for the FDE guard being sent out today.

USPS Tracking #: XXXX

Please let me know if there is anything else i can assist you with and again i am so sorry for the inconvenience.

Thank you so much and have a great day!!

That, ladies and gentlepeople, is good customer service.  That is customer service Remington could learn from*.  Hell, the folks at Dead On Arms did not even ask for proof that they sent me the wrong part, they just handled the situation expeditiously and with functionally no impact for me. 

In any case, if the part is as awesome as the company is, I think I will be very satisfied; I will, of course, let everyone know how it goes. 

(* – Yes, I know, there is a radical difference between a $500 gun and a $30 part, but the point remains the same.)

where we were yesterday

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The hike up was only three miles, which does not sound bad, until you realize the altitude gradient looked something like this: 

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(I have no idea what that “796 ft” nonsense is about.) 

Of course, then we drove down the Blue Ridge a little farther, hung out in a cute little town*, and drove home, and then I got up bright and early this morning and spent three hours learning how to take firearms away from people. 

I am down with the whole “not moving” concept right now. 

(* – Floyd, VA is something of a quirky little town, and we got there while there was a small outdoor market thing going on.  There were the usual all-organic whatnots, and all-natural things, and pottery, and art, and whatever else you might find in a town that depends on the tourism of yuppies and nouveau riche, but the conversation we had at the home-made soap booth took the cake.  We were looking at some of the options, and the husband of the proprietor piped up and commented that the soaps labeled “Simply” were scent-free, which would work great if I were a hunter.  He just threw that out there, as if it was nothing. 

I miss living in towns where one can discuss hunting and other firearm-related topics without having to sound-out your conversational partners thoroughly first…) 

i do not get it

I understand muzzle brakes – they are intended to capitalize on the gasses being ejected out the muzzle in such a way that dampens perceived recoil, often at the expense of the ears of everyone around the firearm.  And I understand things like the Noveske KX3 – in addition to “suppressing” flash (i.e. directing it all forward), it also has the added benefit of forcing all of the muzzle blast forward as well, reducing the perceived noise for the user. 

I do not really understand why you would take the two concepts and wrap the former in the latter

kinetitechmuzzlebrakeIt has been a while since I took Statics and Dynamics, and S&D is only a very, very rudimentary proxy for Fluid Dynamics, but it would seem as though if you took a gas, vectored it out one direction and then right into a wall connected to the very thing doing the vectoring, you would be counteracting exactly what you wanted that gas to be doing. 

On the other hand, I have started building out a bare AR lower into an AR pistol, and the idea of a muzzle attachment that reduces the perceived noise for the user is something that appeals to me greatly, especially given that I am eyeing 7.5” barrels*.  I had been considering a Levang Linear Compensator for the purpose, since I am a little cheap for the KX3, but I have to wonder why companies do not make something like the Kineti-Tech “Muzzle Brake with Sound Director”, only leave out the “Muzzle Brake” part in the process? 

(* – No, I am nowhere near badass enough to sport one of these, much to my chagrin.) 

(Found by way of The Firearm Blog.  Image borrowed from Kineti-Tech.) 

something i did not know

As I briefly, previously alluded, I will be starting new employment in the near future.  The job is a contract-with-intent-to-hire position, which is not exactly what I was looking for, but, at this point, a paycheck is a paycheck, and it gets my foot into both an industry and a job title I think I would be interested in, so go me. 

Where my ignorance came into play, and, honestly, bit me in my arse, was in terms of the negotiations.  I was under the impression that contract positions were like full-time positions, where I name a salary number, that is treated as a starting point, and we go from there.  This was woefully incorrect. 

The negotiations for my salary started, and ended, when the recruiter looking to fill the contract asked me what I wanted to be paid.  He then put together a “package” that he submitted to my prospective employer, and they accepted it after I passed their interviews. 

But the catch is the package is what they accepted, and it was locked in as soon as the recruiter passed it on to them. 

Would my prospective employer have accepted the package if I asked for more money?  I certainly hope so, considering I will be asking them for more money when they bring me onboard as a full-time, regular employee.  Could I have potentially priced myself out of employment?  Absolutely.  Which is one of the reasons I hate the modern form of salary negotiations where the employee has to throw out a number first (and, yes, I have tried a variety of ways to dodge that question, but it invariably comes down to me naming a number).  But that “price myself out” problem is why my number started out as low as it did. 

Anywise, learn from my misunderstanding – when it comes to contract-based employment negotiations, always give your recruiter/contact a number you will be happy with.  I am happy with the number I gave mine, but I certainly could be happier… 

tiwhatnraam – choate machine and tool’s emergency car tool

Choate Machine and Tool is definitely an interesting company, where form always comes after function.  I would never go so far as to call any of their products singularly attractive in any aesthetic way, but they all appear to work just fine, and often have really useful features included at a very affordable price. 

In fact, if they had one at the NRAAM, I would have forked over for one of their Tactical Remington 700 Short Action ADL stocks with full-length aluminum bedding, especially since they were offering a screaming convention price; unfortunately, all of the models they had on-hand were equipped for removable magazine baseplates rather than the factory Remington one. 

Anywise, while Fuzzy and I were talking with the remarkably helpful folks at the Choate booth, I happened to ask about a random little thing they had on their table; specifically, their Car Rescue Tool

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Apparently this little tool was created after some Choate employees saw a couple of other folks in serious car accidents where they were unable to get their seatbelts to disengage or open their doors. 

It is an unfortunate truth that if you lock up your seatbelt hard enough, it will not release at the button, which is where that double-bladed-and-hooked razor blade comes in.  I do not have any webbing I want to destroy, but after playing around with it on paper, it would seem to have no problems tackling a seat belt. 

On the other end is a molded-in Phillips-head screwdriver bit, which functions just fine for turning screws, but also doubles as a glass-breaking implement.  Put your fingers through the holes, cover your face with your other hand, and swing the point of that hard into your side window, and it should shatter.  Safety glass beads are nowhere near as “safe” as their name would lead one to believe, but it beats being trapped in a car when your door latch refuses to work. 

Finally, for less-catastrophic events, that straight edge above the finger holes is designed as an ice-scraper, should the need arise. 

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Of course, if you do not get a couple of ideas for how else this handy little tool can be used, you need to hang out on this guy’s site a little more. 

One thing this particular device has on a lot of its competition is its mounting methods – most of them come with their own brackets that are meant to be screwed into interior trim, and not many people are too keen on putting holes in their cars.  The folks at Choate recommend using the finger-holes and a few strands of dental floss to tie this thing where you know it would be after an accident – under your seat or your dash, for example.  Single strands of floss are fairly easy to break by hand, but probably will not snap in an accident, and do no permanent damage to your car. 

The only catch with this particular unit is that once you factor in shipping you can procure two of these “original” Life Hammers for the same price; granted, you have to figure out how to mount those, and they are not Made in the USA, but it is something Choate should consider. 

your government, hard at work

Why do I oppose firearm registrations?  Well, one of the many reasons is that the government cannot seem to keep track of the registries it has already. 

For those of you who do not follow me on the Book of Faces, I seem to have acquired employment, and hopefully start getting paid again on this coming Monday.  In order to facilitate that, my employer has to run background checks on me, as well as verify that I am eligible to work here in the US (in short, be a citizen or legal alien). 

When I was born, I was, of course, enrolled in the government-run Ponzi scheme known as “Social Security”, and of course have a unique identifier number to go along with it.  Likewise, since I have been out of the States on occasion, I have a passport with its own, disjoint unique identifier number on it. 

Apparently the Department of Homeland Security, in all of its infinite wisdom, firmly believes that some combination of my birthdate, my SSN, and my passport number do not match, and is therefore tossing an E-Verify “Tentative Noncomfirmation” back at my prospective employer and me. 

The best part?  It is on me, the private citizen, to unscrew this idiotic federal Charlie Foxtrot.  I have verified the information repeatedly now, I have held multiple security clearances, I have passed more background checks than I care to count, and I am obviously an American citizen, but the DHS is refusing to own up to it. 

If the FedGov cannot keep track of essential data like who is or is not a citizen and what identification numbers are or are not tied to the person in question, how good of a job do you honestly think they will do when it comes to keeping track of non-essential data like who owns what firearm?  Do you think no-knock raids are bad now?  Just wait until tac’d-out door-kickers hit up Jane Smith, 90-year-old arthritic grandmother, because James Smith has an “assault weapon” he neglected to inform the feds about. 

When did “land of the free” get replaced with “papiere, bitte!”? 

compies go “squish”

This game is totally worth $1 – as one of the reviewers says, you get to take on a T-Rex in a mech.  Do I really need to say anything else? 

(Ignore the Metacritic score; apparently this game has evolved over the years and they have never seen fit to re-review it.) 

tiwhatnraam – a. g. russell’s odin’s eye

So on the last day of the NRA Annual Meetings, we arrived in the Media Room and noticed that someone had left sheets on all the tables proclaiming, “Writers, we have a present for your wives! Stop by booth #XXXX to pick it up!”* 

I will not lie, we did not really make any serious plans to actually do so, but by complete happenstance we stumbled across the booth, which happened to be owned – and manned – by none other than A. G. Russell himself.  Let me get my fanboyism out of the way and just say that Mr. Russell is an outstanding individual, and it was a distinct pleasure to be able to chat with him about his business and what he does.  I will not lie – I have lusted after a few of his knives for quite some time, but I have never really reminded myself of that when I happened to have the necessary money free. 

Anywise, the gift Mr. Russell had for us was, predictably, a knife – specifically, one of his Odin’s Eyes

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As you can tell, this is meant to be a “punch” knife, with one of your fingers through the hole, which is just a hair over an inch in diameter.  The knife comes with a ball chain for neck carry and a keychain ring for attaching it there, with both accessories fitting through a loop at the tip of the sheath.  The blade is made of 8Cr13MoV steel, for those of you who know what that means, and is about 1.75” long overall and has about 1.5” of edge.  It is important to note that this is a double-edged knife (and both are double-bevel edges, not chisel grinds), and thus may not be legal in all jurisdictions.  Additionally, the knife is manufactured in China, but Mr. Russell has an honest explanation for that

Anywise, the gift was only half the experience – the other half was Mr. Russell explaining exactly how he came up with the idea and who he intended it for.  To put it very simply, Mr. Russell is very much on our side, in that he very much believes in and supports the right of self-defense, and by that I mean he wants people to be able to do whatever is necessary to stop a threat against their person. 

His concept for the Odin’s Eye (and please bear in mind this is all hypothetical / fictional) was that a woman was walking back to her car after work one day, alone and in a darkened parking deck.  An assailant approached her and she held out her full keychain in her off hand and shook it at him, indicating she would whack him with it if he came any closer, and screamed at him to go away.  He continued to close the distance, making all outward indications of wanting to physically assault her; she put her off hand to her side as if she were prepping to do a swinging backfist at him… and then hacks and slashes at his face with her Odin’s Eye in her dominant hand once he was close enough.  The knife was on her keychain, and she used the distraction of the keys itself to draw it.  Mr. Russell was quite clear that he meant this knife to only be deployed as a surprise, and that he wanted folks to consider slashing their opponents diagonally across their face one way, and then diagonally across their face the other way, to get the full impact. 

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His demonstrations were quite energetic, involving demonstrating the slashes and targets he had in mind… on me.  With a sheathed knife, and at a distance, of course. 

Perhaps the best part was at the conclusion of his demonstration, where he indicated the victim should just go home and have a stiff drink to steady her nerves after successfully defending herself.  I commented that calling the cops might be good as well, and his response was something along the lines of, “Oh, yes, that too, if you think of it.” 

The man is not wrong, though; I would never suggest a push dagger as a primary defensive tool, but as a back-up or emergency tool, the simple truth is that punching is a natural movement, and if that punch happens to have something sharp-and-pointy included with it, all the better.  Once you get your finger through the hole, you are not going to drop this knife, and even flailing becomes a potentially lethal threat to your assailant.  I am sanguine with that, and apparently Mr. Russell is too. 

(* – As I was talking with some of the folks behind the booth with Mr. Russell, one of the ladies there passed on a story that the sign they left in the media room was not a hit with everyone.  Apparently a female media person – I do not know who so asking me will be of little use – came by the booth and vociferously expressed her displeasure at the gender-specific phrasing of the signs.  I will not deny that “spouse” would have been a better term to use, but the truth is an older man from a past generation was trying to be nice and give a family member – or you, he did not actually require people to be married – a gift, regardless of how he phrased it.  Sometimes we are embarrassed by what old folks do, but the polite thing to do is to smile, say “Thank you,” and move on with your life.  Or maybe I was just raised right.  (And, yes, I have run this line of reasoning past Better Half and she agrees.)) 

t-shirt reminder

If you were saving up some spare change to jump on this

irsrsgnblggrfront

Now is pretty much your chance.  With three days, 17 hours to go, we have sold 16 t-shirts, with another 14 necessary to sell to make the run.  It is possible that I will be able to request a goal drop, but I have no idea what the probability of success is… so buy one!  Get your friends to buy oneBuy two!  Spread the word and get the deed done, because you know these need to exist in the real world. 

helpful hint

If you buy an SB15 Stabilizing Brace, do not mount it on a KAK Super Sig SB-15 Pistol Buffer Tube until you have a bare, never-built or pistol-designated lower, a castle nut, and an end-plate handy. 

The KAK buffer tube was built specifically for the SB15 brace, and the latter fits over the former very snugly. 

Ask me how I know… 

The good news is that my previously-bare, never-built lower is now officially a pistol lower, which means it can be used for either pistol or rifle purposes in the future, assuming I am careful as to how braces / stocks / tubes and various uppers are attached simultaneously.  This is important for one silly reason: if you build a bare lower as a rifle, it is always a rifle lower and can never be used for anything else.  How stupid is that? 

tiwhatnraam – kel-tec cl-42

Alright, so what is that gibberish at the front of the post title?  “Things I was handed at the National Rifle Association Annual Meetings.”  These will be brief blurbs about things that companies at the NRAAM handed me; no promise or even discussion of a review was made or had, though I feel certain the companies in question were really, really hoping I would do what I am doing now.  Might as well indulge them. 

So, first off, we have Kel-Tec’s basically-brand-new CL-42 flashlight

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The good?  It does one thing, and it does it absurdly well – Kel-Tec claims it can throw 420 lumens out of its CREE LED, and while I have no way of testing that exact number, I will not disagree that it is blazingly bright. 

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The bad?  It only does one thing – be absurdly bright.  There are no modes, no settings, no output levels, nothing but a regular clicky (meaning you can partially depress it for momentary or push it all the way down for it to stay on) switch and a belt clip. 

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The ugly?  It costs you $85 for a flashlight that only does one thing, though it does that one thing quite well. 

My only other two complaints with this flashlight is that the button needs to be guarded in some way so it is not inadvertently activated and so maybe it could tailstand, and the lens assembly is occasionally way too tight.  I actually had to take the first one Kel-Tec handed me back to their booth simply because I could not take it apart; neither could the person I talked to there, and they handed me another one.  I guess tight is better than the alternative, but one does need to replace batteries from time to time. 

On the plus side, the finish is nice and subdued, the machining on the tube affords you a very solid grip, the flashlight is waterproof, and the light is very focused and bright, but still has some splash around it to illuminate the space around your target too.  This model takes 2 CR123 batteries, and the button is where you would expect it to be; the CL-43 FuzzyKBP scored takes 3 CR123s, and has a grip/button arrangement that seems more-suited for being used with a pistol. 

I guess at this price-point, Kel-Tec is intending the CL-42 to be a direct competitor for the Surefire G2X Single-Mode (at least at MSRP), but, for $10 less (again, at MSRP), you can get a brighter flashlight with more bells and whistles than you can shake a stick at.  I think the CL-42 could be an interesting competitor on a somewhat flooded market, but Kel-Tec is going to have to work on the price, and that involves increasing production, which is something that company has always struggled with. 

start the clock

Remington admitted to receiving my 700 SPS Varmint at the factory yesterday for repairs to its rusty bolt and receiver.  A timer has been added to the left side of this site to keep track of how long it takes them to address the rust and perform the recall replacements

I figure if I get the rifle back in time for next year’s Boomershoot, I will be ahead of the curve. 

primary arms 4-16×44 – a review

So as I previously mentioned Oleg paid me for services rendered / to be rendered by calling in a favor with Primary Arms and convincing them to let me use one of their 4-16×44 Illuminated Mil-Dot Scopes for Boomershoot.  I am just going to go ahead and say this up front, in case you do not want to read through the rest of the review: 

For the price, I do not think you can find a better scope. 

Seriously.  For about $172 to your door, you get a 4-16x optic with a 30mm tube, illuminated mil-dot reticle, 1/4 MOA lockable and resettable turrets, and a range of adjustment of 80 MOA.  No, it is not perfect, and we will get to the few details I had issues with in good time, but it is really hard not to see the value in this product. 

From the top, it is pretty obvious that Primary Arms saves money where they can, and I have nothing against that whatsoever.  For example, their packaging is perfectly functional and resulted in the optic getting to me in one piece and undamaged, but it had pretty much no adornment whatsoever.  Hey, it works. 

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In a similar vein, the instructions (pictured to the right) are not exactly War and Peace, but this is not exactly a complicated system either.  Clarification on how the resetting turrets work is always appreciated, and they included the appropriate torx wrench to undo the screws holding the turret caps on.  Also included are the ubiquitous lens wipe and the two factory flip-up lens covers, which were already mounted on the optic itself. 

The finish on the optic is a uniform, shiny-but-textured (Is that “satin”? I have no idea.) black, which worked just fine for my non-stealthy purposes, but hunters may want to rough it up or paint over it with something a little more matte.  Branding is limited to the single “Primary Arms” stamp on the left side of the objective bell, which I definitely appreciated. 

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All of the markings on the controls were clearly stamped in bright white and all of the knobs have enough purchase on them to make them easy to rotate even when the optic is soaking wet.  The parallax / focus ring is gradated from 10 yards to infinity on something of a logarithmic scale, the reticle illumination dial ranges from 0 to 10, and the elevation and windage knobs clearly show you which way to turn them to move your point of impact, and remind you that they are 1/4 MOA, or 1/4” at 100 yards, adjustments. 

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DSCN1337The bottom of the middle segment is stamped with what I assume to be a unit-specific serial number, and that is about the extent of the features. 

On account of the previously mentioned – and rapidly corrected – problems with the original rings I received, I ended up using a set of 30mm Medium Tactical Rings, which functioned… well, like you expect rings to.  These too were packaged with the appropriate torx wrench to operate the six set screws per ring, and the ring-clamping nuts were compatible with wrenches or wide flathead screwdrivers (coins work in a pinch).  I had no problems at all mating them to the Brownells 20MOA Remington 700 rail I used, and they are supposed to be compatible with Weaver rails as well, though I have no way to check that. 

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So, I think those are all the features… what did I actually think of the optic?  Like I said, it worked great for my purposes – I was able to distinctly make out 1MOA targets at ranges up to 700 yards, and was even able to spot my own splashes assuming I could come back down on target quickly enough.  Hell, I could make out bits and pieces of leftover targets, so clarity, at the reticle, is not a problem (I cannot speak to seeing bullet trace because, apparently, I suck at doing that even on some of the most expensive glass I have ever handled).  I did not actually end up using the Mil-Dot functionality, but the reticle is calibrated to be what appears to be a standard measurement of 1 MIL between dots with the dots themselves being 0.22 MIL at maximum (16x) magnification.  I never really had call to use the reticle illumination, but setting 10 is more than bright enough for daylight, and the rig runs off now-standard-for-optics CR2032 batteries, which should make your logistic chain easier.  The scope and rings held up to the admittedly limited recoil of .243 just fine, as well as my own occasionally rough handling, and the glass showed no signs of fogging during Idaho’s crazy weather and temperature swings.  As for waterproofness, I did not exactly go swimming with it, but: 

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(Photo by Oleg Volk, used with permission.) 

That was not even the worst of the weather – the rain actually ended up coming down hard enough to affect visibility to the 375-yard line, and the rifle and optic sat out in all of it.  No leaks, and no problems, aside from me forgetting to close the front lens cover and then forgetting to wipe off the lens. 

The simple truth is that the Primary Arms 4-16×44 just plain worked; I did not have to worry about it, so my time was free to worry about why I could not hit a boomer to save my blessed life. 

So what are the compromises made to get such a nice package at such a nice price?  Well, to start at the front, the flip-up optic covers are worth exactly what you paid for them – nothing.  That said, since they are included in the price of the optic whether you want them or not, I am glad they are bottom-rung, so the optic can retain its affordable price.  They work great as slip-on covers, but the front one had a tendency to fall off after about 20 rounds, and the hinge pin worked itself out at my last range trip. 

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The good news is that, as you can see, the front objective is threaded for a sun shade, but the bad news is that it really needs it; even at my indoor range, if I catch the overhead lights just right, the optic whites out.  Unfortunately, Primary Arms does not appear to make a shade for this optic quite yet, but I will see about bugging them. 

Moving backwards, this is not Nightforce glass, obviously, but it also does not have a Nightforce price tag.  The sight picture gets a little fuzzy out towards the edges, and there was a definitive chromatic aberration – I cannot recall if the pink stickers on the boomers looked orange or vice versa, but FuzzyKBP and I had to occasionally clarify which target / color we were talking about. 

I was an idiot and forgot to get pictures through the glass at Boomershoot, then when Fuzzy and I went to his local range to do it there, I was a further idiot and forgot to bring a backup battery for my camera.  I did snap a few shots with my cell phone through this optic and his Kowa spotting scope, but, honestly, the camera on the cell phone is sufficiently crappy that I do not think they are worth anything.  Sorry about that. 

[Update]  And Oleg swoops in with a save – turns out he had a perfect picture through the optic at 16x that shows a little of what I am talking about: 

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Now, I do not have much experience with truly awesome glass, but Oleg does and he describes what is going on at the edges of the siding and trim as “red and cyan fringe”.  [/Update]

Finally, the locking turrets can occasionally be troublesome.  The “locking” aspect of them is handy, but takes some getting used to; unless the turret is precisely lined up over the teeth, you can press down with all your might and not get it locked in.  Likewise, there are two detents or stops when pushing down – the teeth engaging, and then the bottom of the movement – and unless you get to the latter, the turret will still turn.  I got in the habit of kind of wiggling the turret as I pressed it down, and then tentatively turning it once it was there to ensure everything was locked up.  The “resettable” aspect is likewise handy, but, for the life of me, I could not get the windage turret to reinstall indexed on “0”.  It could be that the optic-adjustment teeth do not line up with the turret-resetting teeth, or that they use a different ratio, or something, but it just would not work. 

Are any of those items deal-breakers?  Not for me.  I am not making 1000-yard shots on enemy insurgents concealed in the bush, so little things like a little color shift or a little fuzz around the edges does not really annoy me.  I do wish I could get the windage turret zeroed, but as long as I know where the zero is supposed to be, I am in good shape… and at Boomershoot I never really had time to fight with resetting the turrets regardless, so it was kind of a moot point. 

But when it comes down to it, the only reason I would replace this optic is if I decide Boomershoot calls for higher magnification than 16x, and by the time I make that decision, I am hoping Primary Arms has something that can fill the desire. 

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(Photos by Oleg Volk, used with permission.)

(Dear FTC:  This optic and its mounting hardware was provided as payment for services rendered.  No agreement for a review – positive or negative – was made; I am exclusively writing this because I was satisfied with the product and believe it could serve other people equally well.  In other words, you are kindly invited to pucker up and…) 

browning auto-5 magazine spring retainer

If you own a Browning Auto-5 and, for whatever reason, want to remove the magazine spring and/or follower, if you put the magazine spring retainer back into the magazine tube in any other orientation than this one: 

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YOU ARE [EXPLETIVE DELETED] DOING IT [EXPLETIVE DELETED] WRONG.

In other words, if that flat side of the clip with the holes in it – holes that would have made my life a lot easier if my clip had them – is not facing you as you shove the clip into the magazine tube, you are doing it wrong, and need to fix yourself NOW. 

It took a pair of vice grips, some penetrating oil, a hammer, more elbow grease than I care to admit, and the sacrifice of two toggle bolts to get the backassward retainer clip out of my A-5, and then significant quantities of patience, sand paper, and free-handed metal forming to undo the burrs and deformations I caused at the end of the magazine tube.  It probably did not help that the magazine tube had not been cleaned in… ever (this has since been corrected), but still, put the damned clip in the right way. 

All that said, this makes me giggle more than it probably should: 

IMG_20140526_161028

Yes, that is a 9+1* round Auto-5.  Why?  Because I can.  Something tells me Mr. Browning himself would approve.  And the good news is that since I started with a Light-12, the overall rig is not very heavy, even when loaded fully. 

It is, however, worth noting that the Nordic Components Low Drag Follower does not work in Browning Auto-5s – the ring inside the magazine tube to keep the follower from popping out is sufficiently far back in the tube that the last round does not feed properly.  You can see how far back the follower catch is on the original Browning follower; I will probably toss one of the bright-red Brownells followers in my cart when next I place an order with them, since the picture indicates it should work just fine. 

(* – Depending on the specific shells used.)