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

security theater at the north carolina state fair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

graphics matter, year the fifth, part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that said: 


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

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

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

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

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

graphics matter, year the fifth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, the updated chart: 


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

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

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

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

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

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

my get-home bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

they lack the capacity

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


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

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

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

Who would have thought? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

roll the tape

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

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

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

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

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

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, though. 

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

where we were today

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


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

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


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


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

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

second and third fj mods

These are small enough there was no point in giving them each their own post. 

First, a cheapie blind spot mirror


Yes, FJs’ visibility is a little… suboptimal behind the vehicle and to the left side – even when you have my mirrors just right, I am losing the rear bumper of a vehicle in my rear-view just as the front bumper comes into view on my side mirror… which is all good and well for cars, but a motorcycle could fit in that gap.  Obviously I look over my shoulder as well, but the C pillar completely obfuscates the third window, and the B pillar is not a lot better with the second window.  So, convex mirror. 

Next up, Better Half and I did make fun of the Bullitt’s integrated navigation system, mostly on account of how dimly Steve McQueen would view it, but the honest truth is that it was kind of useful.  The FJ has no equivalent (though aftermarket devices can be installed in the stereo slot), so I took the quick-and-easy route: 


The ProClip mount does kind of obstruct the air vent it is clipped over, but the mount is solid, does not require any adhesive (though some is provided if you want it), does not block my view of the binnacle behind it, and that obstruction may be a blessing in disguise given how hot Androids get when they’re running navigation. 


One important note, though – that is my phone, and Google Maps is only as good as its data connection.  As driving cross-country to Boomershoot showed, data connectivity is quite limited in some places (specifically, T-Mobile seems to just generally suck west of the Missouri River), and you will be forced to rely on offline systems.  Thankfully, FuzzyKBP brought along a stand-alone GPS unit, which got us where we needed to go.  For my purposes, I have purchased, which is a fully-offline maps system, with the small detail that it cannot do route mapping or turn-by-turn directions.  It can, however, import routes in KML/KMZ format, and they are supposedly working on navigation, so there is that. 

I might eventually figure out whether or not I can route the USB power cable through the dash (it appears I can, but one never knows until one checks), but I am not sure how much I care, and doing so would require permanent modifications… 

I promise the next upgrade will be a little more interesting. 

ares armor came through

As promised, the new NiB AR-15 bolt carrier group arrived in the mail yesterday along with a label to send the old one back.  That was… well, astonishingly easy. 

If Remington’s service had been that seamless, I would be singing their praises to the heavens.  As it is… well. 

Of note, though, I think the problem may source back to how Ares Armor stakes the gas key: 


I am not, by any means, an AR expert, but that seems to be a significantly less… aggressive? staking than some companies employ.  But, like I say, I am no expert, and the only way to truly test it is to shoot the everloving … fluff … out of it.  Oh, the horror. 

more customer service reports

For those keeping score at home, Remington Arms acknowledged receipt of my rusty-from-the-factory 700 SPS on 05AUG14.  I still do not have it back.  And, as a reminder, this is the second time I have had to send it to them.  I figure I might get it back in time for Boomershoot next year (speaking of, registration is now open). 

The free replacement extractor spring from Kel-Tec worked flawlessly, however, and I see no reason why it will not continue to do so. 

Moving on to new items, however, I recently purchased a factory reconditioned Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014 keyboard from, and within about a week, the “s” key was double-tapping every time I pressed it, making typing a… challenge.  I contacted Razer, and they had me ship it back (on my dime), and sent me a new one – total elapsed time, somewhere around two weeks.  The new-to-me unit (this time, “recertified”) had a dead light behind the “G” key right out of the box, and now the “-” and “0” keys are double-tapping.  Razer’s response?  Cut the cable, send us a picture of the cut cable along with the serial number on the back of the keyboard, and we will send you a new one.  I offered to send the recertified unit back on their dime, and they said they would prefer the “cut” route, and cross-shipping was right out. 

So I guess I will be cutting the cable… far enough down the cable I can rewire it if I really care to.  Regardless, I will be without a decent keyboard for another week, and have to fight with rearranging cables again (my computer lives in a cabinet to avoid cat gnawage). 

Moral of the story?  I would recommend against buying Razer products.  Granted, my only experience has been with their “used” material, but one would tend to believe that “recertified” means “certified by Razer to work, fully”.  Maybe I am misunderstanding? 

Back on the “happy” end of the customer service spectrum, though, we have Ares Armor.  Regular readers will know that the AR-15 pistol I recently built sported an Ares Armor upper, complete with one of their Nickel Boron-coated bolt carrier groups.  The firearm performed quite well at the range, apart from the recoil being sufficient to shake loose pretty much anything that could be shaken loose (the instructions for the various parts did mention “Loctite”, which I have since applied, so there is that) but after getting home and disassembling it for cleaning, I noticed that the gas key on the carrier group had started to rattle around.  After consulting the Greater Intertube Collective Mind, I realized this is not normal behavior, and reached out to Ares Armor. 

Their response?  Something akin to, “That’s not right.  We’ll mail you a new one; throw the old one in the same box and use the shipping label we’ll be including.” 

Now that is customer service.  I fault Razer for having two failed units in a row, and for being completely and utterly unwilling to cross-ship, much less simply ship me a new one and charge me for it if I do not return the old one or provide proof I destroyed it.  As for Remington… well, what can I say that has not already been said? 

first mod for the fj

That did not take long, did it? 

Well, for some strange reason, the storage bin in the center console of FJ cruisers comes without a lid: 


And, for some reason, that bugs me.  Yeah, I know, that does not really make any sense, but there it is.  That said, I am apparently not the only person with this particular bug up my arse, as there are options to provide a lid to that little cubby, ranging from $89 all the way up to $213 and beyond. 

After considering the situation for a moment, though, I devised a fix requiring nothing more than a piece of scrap plywood, some paracord, two leftover and quite useless Ikea nuts, and a random can of spray paint: 


Granted, having a scroll saw and a benchtop sander made life a lot easier, but it only took me a few hours to get everything cut and fitted, so this should be something anyone can do.  The cubby opening measures about 7.5” wide by 7.375” long, and tapers towards the bottom, so the trick is to cut the wood to those dimensions, and then bevel the bottom edges.  You have to be a little careful setting it into the opening so it ends up being square, but it will stay in place just fine all on its own. 


The nuts are heavy enough to pull the slack of the paracord down, and I dare say the end product came out looking quite nice.  At least for my efforts. 

12 hours left on the defender

If you were hoping to get a pretty awesome truck at a pretty decent price, you have 12 more hours to hop on the eBay auction for my 1985 / 1995 Land Rover Defender 90


You know you want it. Hell, I want it, if it were not for the fact that we were already over-budget on it.  But I am sure it will serve someone in good stead for a number of years to come. 

it followed us home


That is a 2011 FJ Cruiser with 4WD, locking rear differential, a backup camera, and almost every other little bell and whistle one of these can have without being an actual TRD or “Trail Teams” vehicle.  The only significant things it is presently missing are a hitch and a passenger arm rest, both of which are completely fixable. 

Something tells me this will be a lot more capable than the Bullitt was, and probably not that much less fun… just in a different way. 

last call on the bullitt

Remember that 2008 Pre-Production Mustang Bullitt I have had for sale on here for… well, a very long time? 

It is probably getting traded in for something entirely different tomorrow, so if you have been harboring a secret desire to drive your own rather shiny piece of history, now is your chance to speak up. 

1985 / 1995 rhd v8 land rover defender 90, now on ebay

In an attempt to get the Land Rover Defender 90 I have for sale in front of more people, we have listed it on eBay as well as Craigslist and everywhere else I can think of.  Someone has already bid on it, which I guess is a good thing, but it has to hit the reserve price before we will get really excited… so get bidding!  The worst that can happen is you do not have to spend the money if you do not break the reserve… or you do, and you end up with a pretty awesome truck. 

Anywise, bidding ends next Sunday at 1718 PDT and 2018 EDT, so you have a little time to shake down your couch. 

1985/1995 rhd land rover defender price drop

The asking price for the Rover I have for sale has been dropped to $27,500, and I have relisted it here

Make an offer!  The worst I can do is say no… 

yes, this is still a pistol



The full build is as follows: 

 IMG_6695- Stripped, never-built DPMS lower left over from my post-election purchases
DPMS lower parts kit, sans the trigger group. 
Curved Chip McCormick Tactical Trigger Group, since the flat one did not work with my extended bolt release
Phase 5 EBRv2 Extended Bolt Release
Dead On Arms AR-15 Pin-Less Oversized Trigger Guard, in flat dark earth. 
Bravo Company Machine Gunfighter Grip, Mod 2, in flat dark earth. 
KAK Industries Super SIG SB-15 Pistol Buffer Tube.  
VLTOR SASE-2 HK-Style Endplate
Sig Sauer SB-15 Pistol Stabilizing Brace, in flat dark earth (noticing a trend yet?). 
Carbine Length Buffer.
Carbine Length Buffer Spring.
Ares Armor Flat Top Upper*.
Ares Armor 7.5” 5.56 Barrel*.
Ares Armor Nickel Boron Bolt Carrier Group*.
Ares Armor Pistol Length Gas Tube*.
Ares Armor Low Profile Gas Block*.
Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 Gen 1 Charging Handle.
Samson Manufacturing 7” Evolution Rail, cerakoted flat dark earth*. 
Magpul AFG.
Inforce WML.
Kineti-Tech Muzzle Brake with Sound Director
UTG 5-Slot Universal QD Riser
See All Open Sight
Troy Battlemag, in, of course, flat dark earth. 

* – Assembled by Snake Hound Machine

Better Half had been complaining that all of my firearms were aesthetically boring.  I figure a firearm that technically only has two colors, but where none of the instances of the second color match any of the other instances, is about as non-boring as one can get these days without going full-on Hello Kitty

The angled forward grip may or may not end up staying, but it currently serves two purposes – first, it is there to remind folks that while this firearm might resemble a rifle, it is, in fact, a pistol, and attaching vertical forward grips to pistols is strictly forbidden.  In fact, it magically transforms that pistol into an “Any Other Weapon”.  AFGs on pistols are perfectly ok, just like the SB-15 is… and just like the SB-15, that will last until the BATFE randomly and arbitrarily changes its mind.  Second, it serves as a somewhat necessary hand-stop, and I will be figuring out something to fill that role even if I do en up removing the AFG; something tells me that if I were to grip this firearm too far forward, that would be a mistake I would only make once. 

Hopefully I will be able to hit the range this weekend and make sure everything works… dialing in pistol-length ARs can be somewhat challenging, from what I understand.  Likewise, the See All sight is promising, but only time will tell how it actually performs. 

Oh, and the letter stating that it is legal to fire SB-15-equipped pistols from the shoulder is currently folded up in the cargo compartment of the pistol grip, which is something I would suggest all SB-15 users do. 

And I cannot say as though I really grok any of the memes involved in this, but it was in the package with the handguard: 


You can get your own here

kel-tec customer service > remington customer service

Everyone remembers the slight hiccup I had with my recently-purchased Kel-Tec PF-9, and how Kel-Tec sent me a part to try to fix the problem, free of charge. 

Well, the fix worked.  The new extractor spring yanked out 50 rounds of Freedom Munitions factory reloads, 50 rounds of American Eagle, and 50 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense without a single jam or problem.  I will admit that 150 rounds is not exactly an earth-shattering test and I would have kept going, except the trigger on that thing blisters the hell out of the inside of my index finger for some reason.  I might look into replacing the trigger with something that does not have nearly as much “wrap” underneath the finger…  or I might just suck it up, since this is not a gun I plan on shooting a great deal (just enough to remain proficient). 

So, let us just summarize here.  Two companies sent me a firearm that arguably did not work out of the box.  After I contacted them, one company requested I send the firearm back to them, failed to fix the problem over the course of a month and a half, and the firearm is now back at their facility again with an indeterminate return date.  The other company sent me the part to fix the problem gratis, and it worked, right off the bat, total elapsed time of about two weeks. 

I am still not a Kel-Tec fanboy, but I will definitively say that their customer service is significantly superior to Remington’s. 

As for the 1903, cleaning things seemed to help, which is about as counterintuitive as one can get.  The firing pin retaining pin still walks out about a millimeter or two when shooting – just enough to notice that it did something – but it does not try to fall out of the gun like it did before.  Considering I have no intentions of carrying it, I consider the problem “fixed”, and will just keep an eye out for affordable replacement parts in the future. 

The Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center (say that ten times fast) does not seem to have changed significantly after its annual maintenance, so it is still the best-condition range I have visited in the immediate Raleigh area so far.  I will say, however, that I really wish they would find some range safety officers who are either not fudds, or not firmly convinced that they are God’s gift to firearm training.  You are there to keep people from being idiots, not give them irrelevant, and arguably bad, “pointers”.  Taking my AR pistol there, once it is finished, should be all kinds of fun… 

fs: one-of-a-kind 1985/1995 rhd land rover defender

The Craigslist ad is live: 

How is this a 1985 / 1995 Defender? Easy – the original, from-1985 2.25L I4 engine that was in the truck when it was shipped over from Great Britain decided to catastrophically connect two of its cylinders, and the fix was to replace it with a refreshed 3.9L V8 from a 1995 Discovery.

All of the work was done by Braddy’s British Motorworks up in Youngsville, NC. The 2.25L was taken out and replaced by the aforementioned 3.9L EFI aluminum-block V8 (on which the lifters, rod bearings, head gasket, etc. were replaced); the ZF4HP22 automatic transmission and 1.22 LT230T transfer case (both from the same donor vehicle as the engine) replaced the manual transmission that was there before; the original, tiny radiator was replaced with one designed for a Defender V8 and an electric fan was added to supplement the belt-driven one on the engine; an all-new exhaust system was fabricated and installed; the front driveshaft was replaced with one from a Range Rover Classic; a secondary, 15-gallon fuel tank was installed underneath the rear bed along with a remote-controlled pollak valve to allow you to switch between the two tanks on the fly; and LED indicator lights were installed all the way around to replace the woefully inadequate original incandescents. The truck does not have air conditioning (it never did), but the compressor is still attached to the 3.9 and blanked off if you want to add it in the future. The right hand drive was retained, as was power steering and power brakes (disc fronts, drum rears), and a custom center console was fabricated to hold the new shifter. The engine has all of about 35 miles on it since the refresh (90k before), though the body has 154,039 miles on it. The refreshed engine and all new parts included in the install are covered by a 12-month, 12,000 mile warranty from Braddy’s British Motorworks, and the transmission, transfer case, and all other used parts are covered by a 6-month, 6,000 mile warranty. No other warranty, implied or stated, comes with the vehicle, though.

This is a bad-ass, go-anywhere, all-wheel-drive-all-the-time, British truck that thinks it’s a tank, and everything else on it is pretty much ready to go. It comes with a hard-top – which can be removed – and a fold-down windshield for the full summer driving experience. All four wheels have desirable Wolf (6.5Jx16x20.6) rims, the lower door frames have been replaced recently, and the frame and body are in great shape. The rear spare tire is being held up by a Mantec spare tire carrier, and the front is protected by a newly-powder-coated and -installed brush bar.

It’s currently set up for "station wagon" configuration with two seats in the front and four sideways seats in the back. The front upholstery has been replaced with Exmoor Trim "Denim Vinyl" and heated elements have been added to those seats.

For those keeping up with the news on Defenders, this one was 100% legally imported, and both its VIN and original British license plate check out as being old enough to import. In fact, you can check for yourself: the original plate is C689 TRT and the VIN is available on request. The truck is currently registered and plated in Wake County, NC, and I have the title in-hand with no lien or loan.

So why am I selling it? This thing has been an ongoing project, and our most-recent discovery is that, despite being a Defender, it left the Land Rover factory with Series gear ratios in the front and rear differentials. So while the V8 may be more used to 3.54:1 ratios, it is actually trying to turn wheels that are hooked up to 4.7:1 ratios. The current ratios are great for off-roading, rock-crawling, cruising around town, and that kind of awesome stuff, but I bought this truck to be a daily driver, and it really does not like highway speeds. The fix is to take the front and rear axles off a Discovery and bolt them onto the Defender, but that’s somewhere north of $2000 that we weren’t planning on spending… and we’ve reached our limit. Braddy’s does have these parts available – from the same vehicle that the engine and transmission came out of – if you wanted to pursue this option. Alternative fixes include an overdrive (maybe?) or figuring out what size wheels/tires make the ratio work out to being nearly correct.

Known issues include a heater core that is jammed on (you have your choice of no blown air or hot blown air), a dash blinker indicator that doesn’t blink (could be due to the LED indicator light installation… could be a blown indicator bulb, haven’t checked), a leaky right-rear wheel hub (a $5 seal and an hour or two of time, or it can be fixed by replacing the axles), a bent door stop on the driver’s side and a missing door stop on the back, one of the LED brake lights does not fully illuminate (faulty part, replacement is in the mail and will be included with vehicle), and the usual sporadic Land Rover surface rust. The rear crossmember was replaced long before it was imported to the States, the passenger (left) side seat box bottom has some rot on it ($100 in parts and some quality time with a rivet gun or spot welder), and the door frames have a little rust at the bottom leading corners on both sides. None of the rust is catastrophic or outside the realm of "normal" for a Rover of this age. Finally, someone tried to fix a scratch on the passenger door using some rattle can paint; it doesn’t exactly match, but it’s not painfully obvious (much less in person than the pictures, actually). The touch-up paint will likely buff off.

Really, it wouldn’t take much for this to be a pretty awesome Rover, but we’ve reached our own personal limits. Our loss, your gain :). And, really, I just wish my commute did not involve interstates… if you want an awesome town cruiser that you can take out on the trails on the weekend, this is definitely it.

Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. Alternatively, the truck is currently parked at Braddy’s British Motorworks if you want to see it in person.

Open to trades of small trucks or SUVs; four doors and 4×4/AWD are mandatory. Current asking price is $28,500, but I am open to any and all offers. Willing to work with shippers on your dime. I have additional pictures; feel free to email or call at eight-six-five-two-seven-five-five-zero-four-four for them.

(The transmission in the bed has been sold. The other parts back there are leftovers from the 2.25L conversion, and can be yours or scrap, as you like.)


For those keeping score at home, the brake issue has been resolved by way of a colder thermostat on the engine keeping the cooling system on for longer, and keeping the engine at a lower operating temperature.  I still strongly disrecommend long-term, or really any, highway driving, but the brakes work, and work quite well for their age.  Drop me an email at “linoge (at) wallsofthecity (dot) net” if you are interested, or point people at the Craigslist ad if you know anyone who might be interested.  Thanks! 

time to exit, stage left

It is kind of impressive how functionally all of the problems a vehicle is having can come down to one, little thing. 

In addition to the brakes failing, the Rover was also having a difficult time maintaining highway speeds as well as cooling its engine.  Defenders lack a lot (well, all) sound and heat insulation, but even through the bulkhead, I could feel – and especially smell – that the engine was getting really, really warm. 

Well, as with the last post, there is a reason for that.  For all of that, actually. 

Land Rover did a, frankly, shitty job with making changes to their vehicles.  Improvements were gradual, often spanned models and year changes, and were really, really poorly documented.  All of the documentation I read on Defenders indicated that all D90s had 3.54:1 differentials front and back, removing the need for an overdrive, and making them highway capable.  On the other hand, Series Rovers (i.e. I, II, IIA, and III) all had 4.7:1 differentials on account of the anemic 2.25L I4 they were built with – great for torque, not so much for top speed. 

Remember what engine my Defender originally came with?  A 2.25L I4.  Not so shockingly in retrospect, that means my Defender came with 4.7 gears. 

So, basically, the 3.9L V8 was having to literally work 1/3 again harder to maintain highway speeds than it was “expecting”, and those high RPMs (mind you my truck does not have a tachometer, annoyingly enough) were overheating the engine.  That excess heat was probably affecting the vacuum hoses or master cylinder in such a way as to cause the brakes to fail (at least, that is the working hypothesis of the shop at this point). 

The “fix” is to remove the front and rear axles of a Discovery (basically the same vehicle as a Defender, just with a different body and, conveniently, 3.54 gears) and bolt them into my truck.  All of this will “only” cost another $2000, on top of the more-than-I-was-planning-on-spending costs I have already sunk into the vehicle – a lot of which, mind you, were due to oversights of the shop working on it, including this one. 

Better Half and I have concluded that it is probably time to pull the ripcord.  It is going to be three weeks before the shop can get to the truck, so we are going to list it on Craigslist, Defender Source, and this site (look for the post tomorrow, probably), and if it sells in those three weeks, great.  If it does not… we will figure it out then.  The good news is those 4.7 gears will make a rock-crawler or other off-roader very happy… but are basically useless on the interstate or for commuters like me.  And the additionally good news is that the brakes can probably be fixed without swapping out the axles; it will just involve rerouting conduits and/or heat shielding and/or something else.

Well, that was a year of my life I will never get back, and a not insubstantial amount of money to boot.