Friday, May 29, 2015

It begins.

After all the crazy that has been happening around here of late, I sniffed a chance to do something meaningful with the girls in the short space between naps and making dinner.  So I rounded up the Air Venturi Bronco, the girls got their safety glasses, and we went out onto the porch for a bit of "chicken-and-sheep".  That's the game in which one of the girls calls a target, and from Standard Ready I mount and hit it.  (It started with two rimfire spinners at 10m, one a chicken, the other a sheep...and now it has expanded to include a second spinner sheep at 25y, self-sealing Newbold targets at 10, 25, and about 40, a paint can lid and a few soup can lids hanging in the spruce trees.)

Both girls got chances to load and call, and then we wound up with a variation in which each girl called which target they wanted me to hit at the same time, and if they didn't call the same one, I had to hit the target closest to the midpoint between them.  A good mental processing exercise, with that many targets available!

After a bit, the 3yo decided to go back inside, and the 6yo then got her first chance with a manual stopwatch, timing my shots from her call to the hit, which she seemed to enjoy.  And then I offered her the chance to take her first shot.  She got a bit wide eyed and said sure.

Conditions were good.  Vibe was good.  We rested the Bronco's fore-end on the railing of the front porch/deck in my right hand, and she got pretty comfortably behind the rifle without having to lift it. We went through exactly what she was going to do with sight alignment, safety, and trigger, and I provided whatever elevation adjustment she needed with my right hand as she figured out how to look through the aperture and hold the post on the big yellow disk.  Okay, ready?  Breathe.  Safety to Fire position. Back on post.  Find trigger blade without pressing.  Still on post.  Okay, now start slowly pressing while staying on post, a little wobble is okay, slowly more press, slowly until--POP-THWAP--the trigger breaks.  An obvious hit at the 10m line.

Finger straight.  Smiles.  She even asks me if we should put the safety back on before opening the action.  (You do neither with this spring-piston breakbarrel design, but still, "A" for attitude!)  We conclude and she goes in to tell Mom.

And so it begins.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nothing like a few quick shots off the porch to brighten your day.

Took a few minutes this morning to reconnect with the TalonP carbine I put together last November, which has apparently been on back-burner for a while.  

Click for more bigger awesome.

Just a few offhand shots on the 25y rimfire spinner, off the front deck, followed by a top-off fill to 3000psi.  Total time from the first thought of "hey, I should work the airgun" to refilled, clean, tightened piece and accoutrements all put away, was probably twenty minutes.  And this is the complicated pellet gun, which trades a few operational conveniences for the potential of nearly half the power of a .22 Long Rifle.  (I could have put the same number of shots downrange with the breakbarrel AV Bronco in under half that time, from first-thought to all-put-away.  The Bronco is not about power at all, but rather about easy, high-volume practice shooting--and it is very, very good at that.)

Yeah, I have become a fan of airgunnery as a valuable personal training tool.  :-)

Confirmed:  I really do like this piece, and look forward to learning more about it this year with working chronography, a goodly supply of .25 caliber pellets, and a whole lot of manual pump strokes into the Hill pump.  With a little luck, I'll be able to work with the six-year-old on some select tasks as a school subject (physics, arithmetic, and statistical concepts in chronography and in accuracy testing), and of course work on my own as well.

For whatever reason--maybe it's just warmer now and things have loosened up--I was able to roll the power adjustment wheel with little issue, and so adjusted it all the way down to the bottom of the scale, where I fired the last few shots of the session.  This should set things up well to begin testing how miserly the gun can be in terms of shots-per-fill, and what power it generates at that level.  I suspect even at the lowest setting there will still be plenty of power available for the sort of game I'm most likely to pursue (think spruce grouse and snowshoe hares), and as anticipated I am already beginning to appreciate the effort required to feed a PCP ("precharged pneumatic") airgun with a high-pressure (2000-3000psi) hand pump.  I still love the concept, but it's enough effort that it does tend to keep you from wasting shots needlessly.

Once we get things dialed in for chronography testing and most-accurate-pellet choice, I look forward to swapping out that lovely but huge and heavy Leapers glass for the Walther dot sight, and adding a Giles sling to make the piece more wearable.  The whole plan for this piece in the longer term, after all, is to serve as a knockabout carbine of minimum bulk and weight;  someday I still hope to acquire a "slightly bigger brother" in the form of the AirForce EscapeSS, which features both readily interchangeable barrels (and a reputedly subtler valve) and sound suppression built into the frame.  (That's the piece I think the Leapers glass would be ideally suited for.)  The two guns could share air tanks and parts, and I like the idea of having one set up as a .22 (for higher-volume shooting) and the other as a .25 (for maximum power and range).

I did notice that the top hat came loose again, which was a little aggravating.  I may have to use threadlocker on those tiny set-screws after all.  (If I'm reading things right, the top hat is mostly a set-and-forget item anyway.)  We'll see how a really good scrunch goes.

Functionally, there's still only one thing I have reservations about, and that is fumbling the load in really cold weather.  I seem to notice that every time I shoot the piece, even when (like today) the weather is just fine and there is no trouble at all.  It's as though now that I've thought about it, the brain can't let go.

Very well, then, I'll make it a matter of practice and habituation.  Shucks.  :-)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Yeah, but I know this grapevine.

In the last week I have noticed a distinct splash of attention to politician professional cretin Bernie Sanders in my Facebook feed.  Even before he officially announced his candidacy for the next edition of the I Wanna Rule The World Sweepstakes (which happened yesterday), it was apparent enough what was going on.

Given most of the comments, I must conclude that the functional dynamic here is completely lost on the general public, from the fawning acolytes to the partisan predictions of intergalactic collapse.  And it's not just a simple case of statist beer goggles, either.  Even before taking a degree in "political science" all those years ago, and even as a blissfully ignorant statist back then, it just didn't seem that hard to figure out that the purpose of a candidacy like Bernie Sanders' has nothing to do with actually vying for the position.  He's not there to compete for the throne himself;  he's there to make the party-designated front-runner look less toxic in comparison.  (Tough gig, I know.)

The party machines do this all the time.  If they have identified their golden child this early in the game, the strategic goal is to encourage as many "fringe" candidates to join as possible, in order to make the party designate look like the least disgusting best possible option.  (You'll hear variants of the phrase " chance of winning..." more and more leading up to the primaries.)  If you can keep in mind that it's never actually an open field--never--then all the dynamics, posturing, marketing, and breathless suspense actually make perfect gameplay sense.  The whole point is to wind up, at the point of the primary and through the general election, with a unified set of pragmatic partisans, usually dissatisfied with the party choice (who is invariably an Establishment cretin) but effectively cowed into supporting it as the (wait for it) ..."least of evils".  Sadly, this is wildly effective.  The machine gets what it wanted in the first place (wait, wut, you mean the House always wins?), the plebes can pat themselves on the back for having considered the matter carefully and made the agonizing "best choice" as informed voters, and the whole lot can get about excoriating the Other Team for... procedural shenanigans, misdirection and misinformation, and generally being more concerned about politics than protecting life, liberty and property.  See how this works?

Anyway, so here we have the "self-described democratic socialist" Sanders, who is going to wind up doing nothing more than making Hillary look more palatable to the credulous. That is the point.

All of which reminds me of the "grapevine" scene from Johnny Dangerously.  What starts as "Hey Bernie, wanna ingratiate yourself with the Party?  Go be yourself and make people forget how bloody hideous a human being Hill is..." becomes "w00t! Bernie for President!"

Embedding is disabled, but here's the YouTube clip.

Sanders won't be the last such stage prop, and of course the Respublikans will go through their own breathless gyrations to validate their own predestined choice, until then the Grand Illusion of "Choose Your Master" will be finally set, giving people yet another opportunity for The People to choose The Establishment once more.

Oh, swell.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Notes from the Fun Shop at Wild West.

Spent the last couple days in Anchorage at a conference, and while up there got a chance to stop in at Wild West Guns.  I'm hopeful that this can become my "local" go-to shop for 'smithy work and specialty items;  today's visit was a productive one.

I admit I do still love the idea of the Co-Pilot takedown rifle, although I've little need for one, having built up my own Marlin long before I learned of Jim West's variation on the theme.  The takedown feature would be really nice, but the rest of the concept is still simply outstanding.  (I am not aware of any combination that combines true kerflättenböomer power with such a compact, ergonomic, and pleasant-to-shoot platform as the short-barrelled .45/70 Marlin with ghost-ring sights.)  Still, there's just something about handling one of the WWG guns...and so of course I had to do that.  :-)

But the real treat was getting to meet a Blaser R8 for the first time.  For years I'd read Jeff Cooper fawn over the R93, and when I first saw one I remember being suitably impressed myself.  That was a long time ago, and I've learned a great deal since then--and the R8 is an update on the R93.  Today I noticed the Blaser a bit by accident;  the counter-jockeyette was trying to help a left-handed customer with a left-handed rifle, and after fumbling a bit she wondered aloud if it was "one of those 'pull-straight-back'" bolts.  Having heard that, I took a look and noticed it was a Blaser, said "Ooh, yes it is" with confidence, and he was on his way.  Turns out there was a right-handed R8 in .375 H&H on the rack as well, and I got to see with my own hands.


It's not just that it's beautifully crafted and commensurately expensive.  I have seen plenty of $3000+ rifles that did not impress me at all.  Yes, the Blaser is one of those "fine German craftsmanship" experiences in general, but what really compels about the R8 (and the R93 before it) is the design.  The straight-pull bolt is an absolute sensual joy to run at speed, and the trigger is simply otherworldly.  (The trigger design is very unusual in that there is no sear;  you have to feel it to believe it, right out of the box.)  On these two features alone, I'm not sure the R8 has an equal anywhere, and for a non-fighting rifle (I'm thinking general hunting here) it's arguably the pinnacle of the art.

It's not perfect, though.  Magazines are not only low in capacity (three for magnum case heads and four for standards), but they cannot effectively be extended or modified, either--or even replaced.  What the R8 does to improve on the R93 is that it makes the entire fire-control system quickly removeable--which is great in one way, but it highlights the fact that the trigger group and magazine are bound together.  I don't imagine that people are going to carry spare magazine/trigger groups for "a magazine change" in the way I understand that concept.  Sure, being able to pop out the trigger group/magazine will make it easier to load and unload the magazine, but it still seems like a step backwards from the detachable box magazine system that works so well in other designs.  (The R93, by contrast, has a fixed trigger group and a fixed, "blind" magazine--so the R8 truly is an improvement.)

Extraction and ejection are both my least-favorite possible designs--plunger ejection and a sliding plate, push-feed extractor.  It's not that I've heard of failures in Blasers, but 100+ years of history still suggests that controlled-feed, claw extractors and inertial ejection are simply more robust in heavy use.  Maybe I'm just looking for nits to pick;  recall that even the Steyr Scout uses a plunger ejector and push-feed.  (Still...if the Blaser straight-pull action could be wedded to a traditional detachable magazine box, and somehow use controlled-feed and inertial ejection...well, one could argue we'd have the perfect rifle action.  Yeah, I do think about these things.  :-)

Anyway, I was tickled nearly witless to run across it, and confirm again just how awesome the trigger and bolt-flick really are.  In his last years, Jeff Cooper loved to write that the three most significant pinnacles of rifle design of the 20th Century were the Steyr Scout, the Wild West Co-Pilot takedown, and the R93 Blaser.

I understand.  I get it.  And I can hardly disagree.


Also, while on the way into town, the fam stopped in at the new Cabela's, and I got to meet an item I hadn't seen before there, as well.  However, in general, the store struck me as having a more impressive appearance than content choice;  at least in the gun section, it looked like there was a great deal more on the shelves than there actually was when I started looking closely.  As well, the phenomenon of having lots of stock of what are presumably the most popular models was noticeable, which contributed to the sense of not having nearly as much variety as I would have expected.  (By contrast, the Sportsman's Warehouses in ANC and in Soldotna seem to have conspicuously more choices to look at.  Interesting.)

Anyway, I can now say that I have met a Walther PPS firearm...and frankly, at least based on one  sample, I was not as impressed with it as I wanted to be.  (I was hoping, from the simple spring-piston Airsoft iteration that I actually quite like, that I might find the firearm to be friendly.)  The trigger was meh, the weight seemed distributed a bit awkwardly, the magazine release did not seem accessible, and the grip on the slide seemed more slippery than ergonomic.  I'll look at a few more iterations of course before cementing the opinion, but with others in this space like the Kahr, the Shield, the XD-S and the Kimber Solo, I don't think one has to compromise to this degree.  Bummer;  I was hoping to be more positive about another contender in this space.

More positive was having my 6yo with me, and taking another look at a Browning 1911-22 in her growing hand.  She's so close to there...and with the "Black Label" trim available--including with pink accents--I'm convinced this is the learning gun I want to go with. 

Now this is the way for a small hand to be introduced to the pistol.

With the 'smithy at Wild West explicitly confident that a trigger job is possible, it's now just a matter of affording the piece and that critical mod, a few magazines, and basic leather.  And, of course, acquiring .22LR, which is hardly a trivial matter. 

Still, these are just problems to be solved.

Monday, April 13, 2015

When Joel 'pos[es] as a really smart person'...

...something worth reading is often seen to follow.  It's a curiously reliable phenomenon.

And so here he vamps on the Sisyphean futility of "solving" "the police problem" by...policing the police.  My paraphrase:  it's a great idea and all in concept, but in the end, it seems about as likely to produce its advertised result as this:

Anyone who says religion is dead clearly does not understand the meaning of the word.

I'm with you, Joel--if people continue to insist that we must have enforcers (thereby conflating the abuse of power with the power to abuse), let's by all means hamstring them with everything possible, including body cameras, duct tape and ideally a legion of crusading Serpicos. 

Just don't expect that any replacement mirage of Unicorn Ass, in the above image, is going to materially change the fantasy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Did I need another reason to despise F-Troop?

No, I did not.  Seriously.

But then again, like any other thug, they're not exactly known for asking, are they?  They just do what they do. 

And now they're doing it to Gunsmoke.

You know, the Gunsmoke that still has my completed 03 Springfield and repaired 4" 1911.  Oh, swell.

Kinda reminds me of this, somehow:

I've fulfilled a lot of people's predictions about me.  I've become a real scumbag.

F-troop.  Making the Danny Vermins of the world look positively honorable since...why, since July 1, 1972.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Yeah. So...Much...Yeah.

Go immediately to the front of the line of Wish I'd Said That, and find Welcome to the Arena in the Clouds, by one Max Borders at the Foundation for Economic Education.

It is a subject that is usually done so very badly - the "argument in the clouds" idea is usually delivered as a sneering epithet - but this didn't have that feel at all, at least to me.  Somehow it had more of the feel that I have myself:  that of having firmly been, at one time or another, every character in the story.  I swear, as I was reading along I started to root for the little inline jabs to "Do me!  Please, do me!", and dang if they didn't!

Sweet.  I deserved every one of them.

I found the whole thing endearing, but have to call out a favorite insight in particular:

“I just wanted to congratulate each of you on how much bigger your teams have gotten.” It occurred to her that with most memories from childhood, things seem smaller when one returns as an adult. She felt a bit disoriented, as if she’d ingested Alice’s “drink me” potion.

I could chew on that all day.

Bookmarked here, so that I can explain to others a little better why principles are (and have always been, even if I didn't realize it) more important to me than purity.  I know I've never done it that well, myself!

Deep tip of the hat to Joel for this share.