Monday, October 31, 2005

Blog Stuff: Happy Halloween!

I suppose I'm expected to post something scary. Okay.

"President Hillary!"


Bikes: First impressions of the Zephyr...

Once upon a time, the American motorcycle market was crowded with machines known, somewhat derisively, as "UJM's", for "Universal Japanese Motorcycle". Each of the Big Four offered them: A backbone-framed machine, invariably powered by a DOHC air-cooled inline four, available in Small (<600), Medium (750), and Large (~1000) sizes and, protestations of brand-loyal partisans notwithstanding, they were all much of a muchness.

You'd buy one of these bikes, grab an aftermarket catalog, and kit it out for the flavor of riding you liked best. Profiling on a Saturday night? Get some high bars, chrome bits, and shiny engine guards. Touring? Add saddlebags, a Vetter fairing, and highway pegs, and you were good to go. Interested in going fast? Flat bars, a four-into-one pipe, and some trick shocks turned the UJM into a "cafe racer."

Kawasaki cheated a little bit with its "Retro UJM", the Zephyr 550; the four-into-one exhaust gives away the slightly sporty pretensions, and the rest of the spec sheet would have been a box-stock racer's dream back in the day. The previous owner of my bike had made a few more modifications to enhance the bike's performance, and the end result is a fun and uncomplicated little bike to ride.

Even with the slightly wider-than-factory bars, the "sit up and beg" riding posture would be familiar to any UJM rider, although the deliberately lowered seat hight can cause the legs of taller riders to feel a little cramped. When parking, your toe won't find the sidestand where you think it would be; it's tucked up underneath next to the exhaust collector in order to gain a bit more ground clearance. This search for lean angle also means that a standard feature of the old UJM's, the centerstand, is nowhere to be found on the littlest Zephyr. The front brakes are surprisingly capable, with twin piston calipers more than powerful enough for a sub-450lb tiddler.

You'll notice I keep mentioning the longer-than-factory bars; years of sportbikes with low-mounted clip ons had gotten me into a bad habit of straight-arming the handlebars. The Zephyr cured this in about three miles of twisty pavement. With this much leverage on the front wheel, a bent elbow and a relaxed grip on the bars are called for, lest small unintentional inputs have the bike hunting for a line through a turn like a beagle puppy on a slack leash. Also, with the Yosh pipe and jetting to match, the ZR550 pulls a lot more like my RF600 than my old GPz. Crack open the throttle at 6500 in third on the GPz, and it would pull strongly but unspectacularly forward. Do the same on the Zephyr, and the bike will emit an exuberant bark through the endcan, as the bars get light and the tach needle jumps to the right. The acceleration is probably a lot closer to the RF's on paper, too; the Zephyr may give up fifteen or so horses to the newer RF, but it's a good fifty or sixty pounds lighter in the bargain.

I wouldn't pick it as my first choice for a roadtrip, but I already have a bike for that chore. All in all, it's exactly what I was looking for: simple and uncomplicated; a bike that's unafraid to display the 'motor' part of 'motorcycle'; light and tossable and equally willing to toddle around town at low revs or get wild-eyed and playful if prodded. The fact that it's dirt cheap, reliable, and gets good gas mileage is just the icing on the cake.

A jog around the blog.

Box Stock Racer plays A Perfect Game.
Zendo Deb plays with her food.
Xavier plays the best Halloween movie ever.
SayUncle plays Cassandra.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blog Stuff: My practicality deficiency...

Many folks who love sportscars have a little roadster for sunny weather and weekends, and a truck or SUV to haul stuff or to drive when it's icky outside.

I have a motorcycle for sunny weather and weekends, and a two-seat roadster to haul stuff or to drive when it's icky outside.

Either I have some pretty lax "haul stuff" requirements, or I was born without a Practicality Gene...

Bikes: HappyHappyFunBike is dead; Long live HappyHappyFunBike.

The Interceptor now darkens my driveway, a glowering maroon reminder of the big plans I have for it; plans that will, unfortunately, occasionally leave it sidelined for repairs or modifications. The problem is that I'm one of those masochistic types who likes to ride year-round, and would therefore be annoyed beyond my ability to cope by having my wheels laid up in a shop through the winter months. What to do?

Well, Alston was getting the itch to ride a bike, much to his folks' chagrin, and my little Ninjette would make the perfect introductory set of wheels for a new rider; a complicated bit of chicanery involving a Colt CCO and crumpled wads of Ben Franklins ensued. He wound up with HappyHappyFunBike, and I was on the market for a good general purpose bike to keep me in wheels while the VF1000F was undergoing various surgeries.

A quick perusal of the want ads turned up a 1990 Kawasaki Zephyr 550. It was fairly high mileage, but the original owner had put almost all of them on it, and it had been meticulously maintained. He'd fitted it with a Yosh pipe, slightly wider bars, and had treated it to a top-end rebuild not 3,000 miles ago. For someone whose first ride, lo those many years ago, had been an '81 GPz550, the lure was irresistable (which was exactly the effect Kawasaki intended with this retro bike.) I 86'ed my stainless 1991A1 project gun to shake loose the few extra C-notes I'd need, and picked up the phone.

So, anyway, Scuderia Tamara now includes a new HappyHappyFunBike; it's light, small, has a reasonably potent, rorty-sounding motor, and feels nimble in the turns, plus it's kitted out like the trackbikes of my youth. Bonus.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: Note that HappyHappyFunBike sports much larger and more capable front binders than Lardassio in the background, despite being some 150ish pounds lighter.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ask The Gun Nut: Investment tips.

Dear Auntie Gun Nut,
I've been telling my wife that my guns are a good investment. She says they don't appreciate fast enough. Who's right?

Gentle Reader,
Few guns are going to outperform the market, but then few stock certificates will "make major" in IPSC, so it kind of balances out. There are three fairly volatile areas in the gun market where profits can be made right now, though:

1) Transferrable machine guns. Some of these things are appreciating fast enough that it's like having a part-time job sitting in your gun safe earning money. The appreciation curve is the flattest at the low and high ends, of course, with M-11's and Uzis still priced within entry-level reach, and with rarer beltfeds plateauing somewhat in the last couple of years.

2) Postwar, pre-'57 Smith and Wessons. S&W collecting has finally caught on with the masses, and the resulting explosion in pre-war Hand Ejector prices is eyewatering. This has stepped up interest in post-war 5-screw pre-model number guns tremendously. The days of the $100 M&P are in the rearview mirror for good, now.

3) American milsurps. With 1911, M1 Garand, and Springfield '03 pricing already high and climbing higher, look for prices on M1917's (both rifles and revolvers) and M1 Carbines to get sucked upwards in their wake turbulence. Between the sudden popularity of WWII with Hollywood, and the plethora of video games like Medal of Honor, expect to see the day of the $1000 M1 carbine sooner rather than later.

And that's the view from my side of the counter.

Boomsticks: Cue the calliope music...

...'cause it's time for the carnival again.

The 36th Weekly Carnival of Cordite is up over at Gullyborg's place. Bring the kids! You'll see cats with machineguns, dogs dressed as pumpkins, pumpkins acting like cannonballs, and more people playing whack-a-mole with the effete new James Bond than you can shake a stick at.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Politics: This is a surprise?

News Flash (via Zendo Deb): In a shocking study, it is reported that caring, loving parents usually raise well-adjusted kids. In other news: Sun rises in East today; some folks are stunned.

Politics: Someone needs a Reynold's Wrap yarmulke...

A "noted theologian" gives us the straight skinny on the collapse of the WTC.


Noted theologians are known for their architectural and structural engineering expertise in much the same way that noted actress Meryl Streep is an authority on biochemistry.

Perhaps by putting forward his "Intelligent Falling" theory, he can explain how the miles of detcord and kilos of explosives were somehow missed by all those people going about their business in the WTC prior to the events of 9/11. Maybe all of the survivors are in on the plot? Maybe the government terrorists were made invisible by angels?

Structural analyses and fireproofing problems are so prosaic compared to cloak & dagger conspiracy theories, but William of Occam finds them a touch more plausible.

"Moonbats to the left of me, moonbats to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you..."

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 9

S&W 640 Carry Comp and S&W PC-13, with Robbie Dalton Archangel and Walter Brend/White Wolf auto.

Boomsticks: Last of the '03A3s.

Via Les Jones, the CMP is running out of M1903A3s.

Buy one.


This is one of the best-shooting milsurps available, with good examples capable of hanging with any Swede or Finnish Mosin, and boasting much better sights than either of them. For bonus points, they're only $400. Folks, when's the last time you saw an un-sporterized '03 of any variety for sale for much under six bills? With the skyrocketing price of American milsurps, this is a safer investment than a time machine and a handful of 1930's-vintage IBM stock certificates. Ten years ago, would you have believed you'd see the day when good, original M1 carbines were trading north of $700, and any Garand was an Eight Bill proposition? No? Then take my advice; jump on one of these classic crank-cockers today.

(The truly fiscally savvy will bypass the '03A3s in favor of the Mark I's.)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Boomsticks: Are they really just 'things'?

The Gun Guy recently wrote of his trip to the Tulsa Gun Show, penning a poignant rant on how the thrill had gone for him. It seems that, after having to sell off many of his guns to stave off the lupine pest lolling at his door, he no longer views firearms as special entities, but rather as simple material commodities.

Allow me to commiserate.

Three times now in my brief life, I've been forced to sell off my guns in order to keep a roof over my head and that owie, empty, hurty feeling from my tummy. That, plus the fact that I buy, sell, and trade guns for a living probably causes me to view them with a level of mercenary detachment that is anathema to the casual collector (more correctly, "accumulator", as true collectors tend to be too neurotic to be casual.) The net result? This history, combined with the fact that I'm now collecting, rather than accumulating, makes trips through gun shows a lot faster for me. Other than an obligatory stop at the Georgia Arms table and picking up a bag of Blazin' Cajun ends 'n' pieces from the Crockett Creek jerky lady, my gun show experience consists solely of chatting up various collectors and business acquaintances to catch up on news, and a quick surf through the aisles to see if any S&W Model 58's or Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles are lying about and available cheap.

My guns themselves? Well, except for the one on my hip, they are just commodities. I have them ranked in my head more or less constantly in order of "sellability". The Excel spreadsheet I keep on my collection has a column titled "Fast Sale Value"; ie. the price I could put on a gun of a gun show Saturday morning, and not still be holding it come Sunday afternoon. Does this mean I'm some callous, unfeeling ice queen who doesn't care about her hobby? No, it's just pragmatism.

There's a definite heirarchy of sellability. At the very top are pieces with sentimental value due to being gifts, as well as one or two earmarked for personal defense needs. These are only for sale if needed to, say, keep me out of prison or off the streets or the like. Behind that come the milsurp rifles and my S&W revolver collection; I'm saving these for a really, really rainy day. For the forseeable future, they are my own personal museum, but some black day in the far future, they'll be part of my retirement fund, too, and I harbor no illusions about that; I'd no more sell one on a whim than you would dip into your 401k for a night at the movies. At the bottom of the totem pole are practical pieces; various hunting or target rifles, some custom 1911's, and Project Housegun. These remain ranked in my head in order of replaceability; for instance, if I need to shake loose a quick grand in cash, my decked-out M4gery goes on the block. After all, another stripped lower is chump change, and, within a month or three, it'll be all built back up into another swell Housegun. With 1911's, outside of exceptions like the Springer Pro or the Delta Elite, the build is half the fun. My stainless 1991A1 could go away tomorrow and be replaced in a month, and my heart would remain untroubled.

This is a viewpoint obviously shaped by my own experiences. I'll be told constantly by folks on the various gun boards how horrible it is to sell a gun, and how they've never sold one of theirs; I try to politely refrain from explaining the differences in viewpoint of someone who owns ten guns, and someone who may have owned half a thousand, but really has no idea what her total is.

They're just guns, folks; easy come, easy go. Unless you're talking about an heirloom, historical artifact, or rare out-of-production piece, they're easy to replace. And even those are easier to replace than a kidney, or the roof over your kid's heads. Don't lose perspective.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bikes: Where are the good little ones?

In the good ol' U.S. of A. the lack of a structured licensing system makes a hash of sportbike demographics. In most of the rest of the world, small- and medium-displacement sportbikes are the most common of their genre, with 900-1000cc machines occupying a rarefied niche at the top of a pyramid. Not so stateside, where the big bikes are almost as common as their midsize siblings, and the small-displacement class is nearly non-existant. Now, I have nothing to say against good old-fashioned Darwinism; in the grand scheme of things, I think it's swell that the brash young squids of America are dissuaded from such girly conveyances as 100+bhp 600's, and goaded by their buddies onto blistering literbikes where they can remove themselves from the gene pool with alacrity, but the downside of this is that there's almost no market in America for smallbore sportbikes. Anywhere else in the world, the sub-600cc market is crammed with bikes that, while smaller and lighter than the >600 types, are still full to the brim with all the necessary sexy goodness of a modern crotch rocket: stiff, twin-spar alloy frames; wide, radial-shod wheels; tree-trunk-like forks; et cetera. In los Estados Unidos, however, the smallbore sportbike market is populated almost solely by low-spec machines like the EX250 and 500 from Kawasaki, or the vanished Bandit 400; bikes designed to make a buck by selling last decade's technology to beginners on a budget. The rare exception, like Yamaha's late, lamented FZR-400, dies a fast death in the marketplace, only mourned by those who judge a sportbike's qualities on factors other than how long of a top-gear wheelie it can pull two-up on the interstate.

I spent last night on the porch curled up with a couple of older issues of Performance Bikes and Bike from the UK, reading head-to-head tests of GSX-R400's, ZX-4's, and NC35's, and wishing the market here wasn't so driven by the eager-to-impress squid. Ah, well... If wishes were horses, beggars would ride...

...Aprilia RSV250's.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Politics: The Good Guys win in Brazil.

It looks like the hoplophobes have been handed a stomping in the Brazilian referendum to ban all commercial gun manufacturing and sales.

CCW reform is sweeping over the USA, the inane Scary-Looking Gun Ban of '94 sunset with nary a whimper, a legal industry was protected against state-funded extortion, and now good news from overseas. Things are looking up all over.

A jog around the blog.

Marko breaks a firing pin.
SayUncle breaks camp.
Les Jones breaks into a coughing fit.
GrampaPinhead breaks his "no blogging on weekdays" promise. Ah, well, we all know winners never quit. ;)

Boomsticks: Silk purses from sow's ears..

There's something especially rewarding about taking a complete basket case of a firearm, and making it into something useful again.

At a shop I used to work at, we received a Turkish Mauser that had pretty much reached the end of the trail. Not one of Ankara's better re-arsenaling efforts to begin with, the gun was pitted, the bore looked like a mineshaft in coal country, the stock had more dings than the lunar surface, and, to top it all off, it didn't even remotely headspace. I was about to condemn it to life as a tomato stake, when I realized that I just couldn't pass up a chance at a good Oberndorf-made Mauser 98 action for only $35. With the addition of a Lilja barrel, Timney trigger, Boyd's stock, Leupold bases & rings, a Millett illuminated reticle scope, a few other odds and sods, and lots and lots of expert work by Shannon Jennings, the old Turk became a slick new sporter in .300 Whisper, complete with threaded muzzle, just waiting on me to spring for a suppressor. Although the gun you see in the picture below is still in the white, it has since been matte blued.

Making my rounds of area gun shops once upon a time, I stumbled across a real find: a pre-Series 70 Colt that was mechanically sound but cosmetically trashed by some guy's kitchen-table customization job, and therefore available cheap. Oh, well, you can't un-ring a bell, as they say...
Both Shannon Jennings and my friend Kaylee turned wrenches on this project, while I assisted with fretting, nagging, and making unreasonable demands. The replacement parts list is as follows:
Sights: Trijicon.
Slide stop: Wilson Bulletproof. (Not pictured.)
Thumb safety: Chip McCormick.
Hammer: Dlask.
Trigger: STI.
Grip safety: Ed Brown.
Mainspring housing: Smith & Alexander.
Sear & Disconnector: Ed Brown.
Teflon finish: Predator Custom.
The Springfield cocobolo stocks in the picture have since been replaced by a set of cordia wood stocks from Ahrends.
The result is a fine, unique pistol, that fits my hand and my needs like no other, and comes with a certain pride of ownership that "off the rack" just doesn't provide.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Boosters: Have we forgotten the dream?

If you're of my generation (and my bookwormish bent) you spent your childhood pawing through the cobwebbier sections of your local library, soaking up such classics as the Oz books, as well as yellowed tomes crammed with Chesley Bonestell's gorgeous visions of our future in space.

In case you've forgotten what the future looked like, a dedicated band of geeks remembers.

Here's hoping they can bring their vision to the public to remind us all; maybe the next generation of GPS satellites will have groovy swept wings.

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 8

Behold, the contents of my pockets and purse (and belt holster) one winter's day last year. A S&W 296, a S&W PC627, a S&W 38, a Beretta 950BS Jetfire, a CRKT K.I.S.S., a Kershaw Blackout, a Leatherman Juice kf4, and a cheap-ass Cricket phone.

Blog Stuff: Yes, but what does it _mean_?

My blog is worth $5,080.86.
How much is your blog worth?

If someone will just cut me a check, she's all yours.

Blog Stuff: Sunday Miscellany.

I Oppose The Miers Nomination.

Well, TruthLaidBear asked. Like it's any surprise that I'm not in favor of someone whose sole virtue seems to be that she's the ultimate fruit of the GOP's decision to woo the Religious Right in order to get Reagan elected. My stance differs from hers on Roe v. Wade, as well as on affirmative action; the White House has made publically approving comments about her religiousity that creep me out; yet one or two people I know still tell me I should like her because she has a carry permit and has obliquely said nice things about the Second Amendment. Folks, a government full of NeoPuritan Crypto-Fascists would make me want to use the Second Amendment.

Happy Birthday Alphecca.

Three years of checking the bias. Voluntarily combing through the mainstream media looking for their skewed perception on the RKBA indicates a man both strong of stomach and free of weak blood vessels.

As an aside, I knew that Gunsite had gotten pretty free with their licensing these days, but was unaware that they had branched out into baked goods... ;)

What If...?

What if WWII had taken place in a chatroom, via Dummocrats.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Blog Stuff: Yeah, what they said.

You turn up the oddest links in Site Meter, such as a visit from one of my favorite sites, vue du porche.

Bikes: Back to the future...

Riding the VF1000F is a trip down memory lane. Back in 1984, the big Interceptor was a technological tour de force, crammed to the gunwales with stuff that had been pure racing esoterica not too many years earlier: Twin-piston front brakes, anti-dive front forks, adjustable suspension damping, a perimeter-style frame, a mono-shock rear suspension, and that super-high-tech liquid-cooled 4-valve V-four powerplant. In a world of air-cooled, two-valve, twin-rear-shock, backbone-framed competitors, it was like a UFO; a Jetsons bike; something from the Future.

Now? God this thing is heavy. The front brake lever seems mostly to produce a poignant desire to slow down, but little else. The engine, while strong, makes nowhere near the 113 horsepower Honda claimed; most dyno tests of the time showed numbers in the low 80s, which would make it an also-ran in the 600 class these days. Except today's 600s don't weigh the better part of 600 pounds. Did I mention it was heavy?

Anyhow, this is what we now call a "sport-tourer", and is the kind of bike I was looking for; comfy, with plenty of power for freeway riding, and handling that's surprisingly good for a bike of its avoirdupois. It should make a pleasant freeway commuter and roadtrip bike, and there are some relatively inexpensive mods out there that can correct or reduce its most glaring faults, like braided steel brake lines, or retrofitting the 17-inch rims off a CBR 600F2. It should be fun.

Besides, nostalgia never goes out of style.

BELOW: FlabbyFlabbyTonBike, (with HappyHappyFunBike, l., shown to scale.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Boomsticks: The 35th Weekly Carnival of Cordite..

Come one, come all, and sniff that wondrous cordite smell...

Boomsticks: Project Housegun Update.

Finally got the XS Sight Systems 24/7 stripe front post sight installed on my carbine. I had one of these on my last M4gery, and had gotten so used to it that this gun felt naked without one. We sell 'em for something like $49 at the shop, so if you haven't experimented with a tritium post on your AR, it's not terribly expensive to give it a whirl.

Blog Stuff: The Powerball Meme.

Via the Countertop Chronicles, the Powerball Meme:

1) $17 million a year for 20 years or $164.4 Million Cash Value?

$17,000,000/year. I know me; given the lump sum, I'd wind up sitting on an Everest-esque stack of guns and books, rubbing my tummy, and saying "I'm hungry."

Besides, if you can't get into plenty of trouble on a mere seventeen megabucks per year, you have tastes that flat boggle my imagination.

2) First purchase?

The very first thing I'd do is endow a trust fund to teach the kiddies of America about Probability & Statistics, in the hopes that fewer of them would voluntarily pay the Stupid Tax play the Lotto in the future. Being stuck in line at the inconvenience store while trying to make a quick gas stop, all because some suburban matron in line ahead of me is engaging in a triumph of optimism over experience, is getting to be a major drag.

3) Statement to the Today Show?

"I would like to thank y'all for giving me this opportunity to appear nude on national TV while rubbing fat wads of hundred dollar bills all over my nekkid body. Now get lost, peons; you're fired."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Boomsticks: About those 71/84 Mausers...

...from SOG. Be aware that the "carbines" appear to have been shortened via hacksaw after importation by Gibbs, and are not any kind of actual stutzen. Caveat emptor, baby.

(Mine turned out to be produced at the Spandau arsenal in 1888. Groovy.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blog Stuff: I'm just a girl... Part Deux.

Two more fun ones from the last couple of days:

1) A customer comes off the range, having finished up with shooting the rental SIG P-220. We allow switching between rental guns of the same caliber without charging an additional fee, and so he flags me down behind the counter and says "Excuse me, I'd like to swap out this SIG for the HK USP in .45."
I take the pistol from him, visually and tactilely check the chamber myself, and bend down into the showcase to swap it out with the rental USP45C. Before I can even get the showcase open, he continues: "That'd be the black, boxy-looking one in the front row, right where I'm pointing."

What I wanted to say: "Well, gee, sir, thank you for that clarification. I'm not sure I could have found the USP without your assistance. Matter of fact, how would you like to hop behind the counter and help me manage this place?"

What I said: "Thank you sir. Why yes, that is it. Here you are."

What I didn't say: "...By the way, your comment is going to get immortalized on the Errornet tomorrow night."

2) A customer is looking for a spare mag for his Walther "P-38" (actually a recently-imported P-1.) He appears unhappy with Tiffani's help, so she decides to get me. When I walk around the corner from my cubicle, he appears nonplussed at the sight of another pesky female being offered up as the solution to his problems.
"What do you know about a P-38?" he snaps.
"Well," I reply, "It's a single-stack service pistol chambered in 9mm Parabellum that operates on the short recoil principle, with the barrel and slide locked together by means of the toggle-type locking block now commonly used in Berettas. It's a double-action/single-action pistol (the first of that type used by a major military) with a hammer-dropping safety. It was adopted by the German military between the wars in yaddayaddayadda, blablabla..."
His eyes glazed over before mine did.

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 7

S&W Model 625 and Emerson Commander:

Politics: First Person non-Shooter, from the Brady Bunch..

The bedwetters at The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence have launched their *ahem* way cool online FP(n)S game to teach kids that guns are bad, h'mkay?

This cutting edge video game, with its hip and in-touch text and edgy graphics, was obviously designed by socially maladroit types, who left it oozing with an odd mix of Leave It To Beaver-type obsequiousness towards adults not seen in real kids in living memory, and a gawky attempt at modern coolness: By making "right decisions" every time you are confronted with a gun in the story, you get a token to use in the virtual video games at the mall. Said virtual video games compare unfavorably with Pong in the entertainment and sophistication departments, which is a sad way to reward the few kids (or masochistic bloggers) with attention spans long enough to slog through all the improbable situations it takes to get to the arcade in the first place.

At least they didn't force my first-person avatar to be some faintly-homoerotic, square-jawed guy with a craggy chin and Polish surname. Oh, no, I got to pick from a whole rainbow of little boy and girl homunculi (none of which had blond hair and blue eyes, so I couldn't actually pick one that looked like me.) I went to virtual school, finked on my virtual friend Juan for the gun in his locker (young Juan was, oddly, chided for his heater by the principal, rather than being proned out by a SWAT team), wandered to the mall to meet my differently-abled friend, where we found a gun and properly alerted the nearest Mall Ninja. For making these two "Correct Decisions", I got to play two video games so dull they made me wish we hadn't forked over the gun to the rent-a-cop so I could turn it on myself.

The absolute best part? The Brady Center has wasted all this time and effort on this corny game to teach kids Three Things to Do when they see a gun. Can you guess what those three things are? That's right: Stop, don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult. Where have we heard that before? Well, I suppose that, when trying to come up with gun safety instructions for kids, one could do worse than ripping them off from someone who knows about guns.

Anyway, my verdict? This is positively the dumbest, most tedious video game since Sierra's mega-flop, Outpost. Anybody who thinks that the kiddies are going to tear their eyes away from Halo, Medal of Honor, or Day of Defeat long enough to listen to this drek should have their cranium examined to make sure it still contains anything.

Politics: It's a William Gibson future...

Via A.E.Brain, the Chinese have completed the Glorious People's Gemini Program, hot on the heels of their finishing up the Great Leap Forward Mercury Launch. At this rate, their Red Banner Long March Apollo moon walk is tomorrow, and a long-term presence in space is sometime next week.

Folks, unless we want to end up in a near future scenario where US rock stars and Wal-Mart board members are shelling out $1M US each for a quick exo-atmospheric hop on a Rutan bird, where they'll peer through the plexiglas to take in the vistas of Costco freighters docking at orbital Norinco microchip factories, it's time for the US government to do the best thing it can do for the long-term future of the US space program. The best thing the .gov could do, of course, is... get the hell out of the way.

Offer massive tax breaks to anybody who thinks they know a way to make a dime on the far side of the stratosphere. Make available the reams of data gained by NASA in its decades of tottering to and from orbit in our creaky committee-designed antique garbage scow. Make space a lucrative place for Americans to be by not tampering with any and all profits garnered from the beyond the atmosphere. The sky is going to be full of people sooner or later, and I'm going to go there as soon as I can, and when I get there, I'd like to order a nice, safe Big Mac, and not the No.13 Chef Special Happy Family with Stir-Fried Rice in Brown Sauce. I've eaten way too much Chinese take-out in the last month or two to be confronted with more of the same when I reach low earth orbit.

Boomsticks: The Weekly Check on the Bias... up over at Alphecca.

Apparently, the tofu and mineral water set is still all a-twitter about Alaska's joining the states with progressive pre-emption laws.

Also, much hand-wringing is still going on over Florida's law clarifying that one does not have to wait until one has actually been stabbed to bust a cap in one's assailant.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Boomsticks: Some antique Mausers found on the 'net...

If you collect old military rifles in general or Mausers in specific, or are (like me) trying to single-handedly start your own military rifle museum, SOG has a deal for you. They have apparently turned up a small quantity of German Mauser Gew. 71/84's, including some that have been shortened into a stutzen-type configuration. As an item of historical interest, these are fairly significant: The 71/84 was Mauser's first magazine-fed repeater. Plus, the lifter from the tube magazine is fun to watch in action.

The cool thing? Due to their age, these are considered to be antiques, and not firearms by the BATFE, and can be delivered to your doorstep, no FFL required. Factory-new loaded 11mm Mauser ammo is available from Rocky Mountain Cartridge, LLC. Bring money.

Blatant Capitalism: Writer's cramp.

My left wrist still hasn't recovered from the logbook work I had to do yesterday, and today is going to be even worse. We're making sure the showcases are chock full of sexy goodness for the upcoming uberbusy season, and that meant a full restock of Kimbers, including the more esoteric stuff. In the process, I fell madly, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with the Team Match in .38 Super. Will somebody please do my bank account a favor and buy this thing before I do something stupid?

Boomsticks: Funny.

...via an old thread at The High Road.

Of course, being a confirmed 1911 toter, this is hanging on the wall of my cubicle at work, you corrupt, Glock-loving dog, you.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blog Stuff: A night in the life...

So, last night I got off work fairly early (The Armory shuts down at 5:00 PM on Sundays,) stopped at Ruby Tuesday's for some chow on the way home, put the top down on the Beemer for the remainder of the commute, and finished up the evening on the porch (surprise!) enjoying beer, cigarettes, and a book (Heinlein's Citizen Of The Galaxy.) As the fire in the outdoor fireplace burned down to embers, I prepared to go upstairs to bed. My downstairs neighbor politely reminded me that he'd be starting his new workout program at Oh-dark-thirty in the morning, and we should probably shuffle our cars in the driveway so that I wasn't blocking him in.

I got up to move my car, and tossed my empty cigarette pack into the fire (note: this becomes an important plot device later.) We juggled the vehicles, and I toddled off upstairs at about 10 PM. I got a phone call shortly after arriving in my little apartment, and retired to the bedroom to chat, and... and... well, I must've been tired, because I opened my eyes, and I was lying on my bed fully clothed, complete with ball cap, boots, and 1911, with a cell phone in my hand, and the clock insisted that it was 3:47 AM. Swell. I padded down the hall to the smallest room, then grabbed a Diet Mountain Dew and sat at the computer to see if anything was shaking on the 'net. Hm. That drink hit the spot... Let's chug another one... Great, now it's 4:10 AM and I'm wide awake. May as well wander out for a cigaret... wait... where are my cigarettes?

A search of the apartment turns up nothing, except an empty pack that I must have left lying about as a decoy when I was in a particularly sadistic mood. Maybe I left them downstairs on the side porch? Grabbing an LED flashlight, I sneak about on the porch so as not to disturb my downstairs neighbor by waking his dog. No dice. Maybe in the car? Nope. Nada.

Realization slowly dawns through my sleep-deprived skull that there are no smokes in the house. Worse, I'm now blocked in, and my neighbor isn't due to wake up for another hour or so. Festive. The fact of being trapped makes things even worse: I'm one of those folks who can get intensely claustrophobic if her car is in the shop. I once had a boyfriend playfully suggest tying me up, to which I responded "If you ever tie me down in any fashion, you'd better have a way of untying me from about two counties away." The sense of confinement was driving my blood pressure through the roof. Wait! I don't need the car! I have the Ninjette! I can... ...not ride it because of the coolant leak.

By this point, I'm pacing like a caged animal.

Then, after one of the longer hours of my life, comes the sound of heaven's gate swinging wide: my neighbor is pulling out to go to his morning work out. Salvation! I'm off to the local inconvenience store. I stroll in and snag a Starbucks Doubleshot out of the cooler, and the nice lady at the counter asks "Will that be all?"
"No, I need a pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights 100's in a box... ...more than you could possibly imagine." The monkey on my back chitters in happy agreement.

Christ, this reads like a LiveJournal entry, doesn't it? I feel like I should add that I met my friend Suzi at the mall, and make some catty comment about her outfit or something. Oh, and maybe share a cookie recipe.

[mood| Angst-y.]
[music| U2, The Joshua Tree]

A jog around the blog.

Marko picks up a new rifle.
Zendo Deb picks apart the concept of Thought Crime.
Alston picks his favorite SF short stories.
Les Jones picks up on an unpleasant vibe.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bikes: Frustration.

Riding home from work last Thursday night, I came to a stop at an intersection and noticed that a cloud of evil-smelling smoke was wafting into the beam from my Ninjette's headlight. It had a vaguely glycol-like smell, but the temp gauge seemed hunky-dory. Since I was only a block or two from home, I finished the trip and investigated the bike by daylight the next day. Turns out that it wasn't smoke, but steam. HappyHappyFunBike seems to have developed a coolant leak that was dripping onto the exhaust pipe. Swell. It's sidelined until I can putter it to a shop.

Meanwhile, the VF1000R I had a line on turns out to be a VF1000F; a bike very much like the VF700F Interceptor I chalked up so many enjoyable miles on lo those many years ago. (Including a one-day 1000-mile blast from Kansas City to Atlanta; try that on an R1!.) I'll be going back to look at it tomorrow...

Boomsticks: Carnival of Cordite No. XXXIV... up for your reading pleasure.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Books: Greeting cards and recruiting posters.

Just finished a re-read of Haldeman's Forever War. If you haven't read it, know that its status as a classic is justified (although it's of little use to the cheery scribes at Hallmark or the US Army's ad agency,) but that it's not the kind of book you'd pick up for a quick afternoon cheer-me-up. (Although I always find it darkly uplifting in its own subversive way...)

I especially like the poke in the eye it gives to Clarke's hive-mind Ideal Future; instead, it celebrates the earthy joys that make, say, Heinlein such a pleasure to read.

Faithful Reader: "Gee, Tam, don't you read any books that suck?"
Tam the Blogger: "Not since Jennifer Government. I have a zillion-book personal library to draw on for emergency re-reads during dry spells until I've mined the Pournelle/Anderson/Card vein dry at the local used-book-o-rama. Once I have to start picking new authors by jacket blurbs again, expect the disrespectful reviews to start cropping up like daisies."

Boomsticks: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Via Alphecca, an article on the trials and tribulations of some well-known Illinois gunmakers.

Why, in Shiva's name, do gunmakers persist in locating themselves in states with anti-gun and (dare I say it?) anti-free-enterprise laws?

A small sampling:
Illinois: Springfield Armory, ArmaLite, Rock River Arms, Les Baer.
Massachussetts: Smith & Wesson.
Connecticut: Ruger, Mossberg, Colt (the state of CT, along with the labor union, are actually part owners of this once-great firm.)
New York: Kimber, Kahr, Remington.
Maryland: Beretta USA.

Let's see: If I were to compile a list of states with lousy anti-freedom laws and draconian gun regs, and states where gun manufacturers ply their trade, I'd have darn near 100% overlap. I mean, really, is there one state on that list to which any gun owner with a mere moiety of her marbles intact would want to move?

Now the CEOs of these companies have the unmitigated gall to whine to reporters about how (surprise!) the lawmakers in the rapaciously anti-gun state they decided to set up shop in (or remain located in) are trying to legislate them out of business. Are gun manufacturers congenitally stupid, or am I missing something with regard to the pleasurable benefits of sleeping with the enemy?

Sam Kinison said it so well: "See this? This is sand. Sand! You live in a desert! Move to where the food is!"

Friday, October 14, 2005

Politics: Why I'm occasionally un-squeamish...

...about the death penalty.

Via TFS Magnum, we read of one seriously off-kilter individual who kidnapped her pregnant neighbor and then, with the aid of a Stanley knife, tried to kidnap her neighbor's unborn child.

There are some things that you just don't "rehabilitate" from, y'know? Can you imagine anything as ludicrous as someone standing in front of a parole board and saying, "Yeah, I whacked her over the noggin with a Louisville Slugger, dragged her out into the woods, and tried to cut the baby from her womb with a rusty boxcutter so I could keep it for myself, but I was under a lot of stress at the time. Hey, I'm all better now, though, and I promise I won't do it again."

It is because of cases like this that I have few qualms about sentencing the occasional... well, evildoer is the only correct term... to the "Rehabilitation Through Reincarnation" program.

I understand that some folks get (rightly) all a-twitter about handing The State the power of life & death over its serfs citizens, but how rabid does a dog have to be before you shoot it?

Politics: An interesting note on the name-calling...

When you plug "dhimmocrat" into Google, it asks if you really meant "democrat", yet when you input "repugnican", it makes no attempt to correct you.

An indicator of the Eeeevil left wing plot? Probably not, but interesting nonetheless.

(As an aside, the most convoluted Right Wing insult attempt I've yet seen is "dhummbonRAT"; a tongue-dislocating attempt to conflate "dhimmi", "dumb", "demon", and "rat" all in one perjorative. Ten out of ten for effort, but minus several thousand for tortured etymology.)

Boomsticks: Sidearms.

On the day that I snapped the previous picture of the three AR carbines, I also took a picture of the sidearms being carried by the owners of the carbines in question. Coincidence? I think not...Follow-up reading material: The Book of Two Guns, by Tiger McKee.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Boomsticks: Uh-oh...

Dr. StrangeGun is thinking outside the box again...

He's on to something, though. What makes the 1911 so popular is its skinniness (relative to caliber), its relatively low bore axis (enhanced by things like beavertails and high-hand cuts), and its direct trigger linkage. If all those factors could be shrunk into a quality pocket pistol, I'd have a good replacement for my Jetfire; which is something that the credit-card-with-an-awful-trigger KelTecs will never be...

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 6

Just a little something to give the Antis the vapors...

Politics: The NSSF still has Bambi in its sights...

...and for some reason this surprises the good folks at Gun Law News. I don't know why it does, however, as this industry is absolutely, completely, overridingly dominated by the hunting crowd.

It wasn't until five or ten years ago that industry trade rags acknowledged that there even was another use for a gun outside the hunting fields, save the occasional passing reference to Camp Perry. Look, folks, the NSSF logo is going to feature Bambi or Daffy getting his just desserts for the next 10 to 30 years, until enough of the Hunting Mafia that has controlled the shooting industry in this country shuffle off their mortal coils, and are replaced by younger folks who got into guns via the other shooting sports, or for self-protection, or as a political statement in the early '90s. Fact. Sad fact, but fact.

Blog Stuff: Nailing down my geek cred.

I may as well go ahead and admit that I like computer games, seeing as how I bared my soul on the topic of SF short stories already. I was never much one for games from various fast-twitch genres, though; probably caused by a childhood predilection that ran more towards dollhouses and Legos than slot-car tracks and air hockey.

In First-Person Shooters, I greatly prefer the slow-motion sneaking and tactical pie-slicing of Rainbow Six to the rocket-jumping of Quake. I'd rather build a SimCity than play in GTA: Vice City. The dreary character-building of Baldur's Gate appeals more to me than the slay-a-thon of Diablo. When it came to strategy games, the RealTime fad caught me flat-footed; I absolutely sucked at RTS games like Age Of Empires. Oh, sure, the concept was intriguing and the game was beautiful, but that was also its main shortcoming for me; I'd get all caught up in the life and times of Woodcutter #73, steering him around the map, walking him to the top of yon nearby ridge to savor the view, helping him find the perfect tree to chop down, guiding him around waiting lions, and... wait... what's that smell? Oh, shit! The computer player is burning down my village while my peasants starve because I forgot to check on their farms.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I preferred my strategy games to be archaic and turn-based. Being a history geek, I especially loved the painstakingly detailed stuff from SSI; Grigsby classics like Age Of Rifles and Steel Panthers. The problem is that most of these hoary old titles went the way of the C:> prompt almost a decade ago, and a multi-googleherz Nanium machine running Winders 2050 requires work-arounds I'm too lazy to employ to run the old favorites.

Thanks to Cowboy Blob, however, I'm a gamer again. From his blog, I discovered that there's a whole new adaptation of the old Steel Panthers game that is native to the Windows environment and is available from Matrix Games. Any loss of sleep I have in the next couple months is all his fault...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Books: The...Three...Best...Ever.

I'd like to get in my nominations for the International Blogosphere "Three Best SF Shorts Ever" awards:

The Stars, My Destination, by Alfred Bester,
The Cold Equations, by Tom Godwin, and
The Enemy Stars, by Poul Anderson.

Golden Age SF at its most golden (bonus props to The Enemy Stars for making a Kipling fan out of me.) Put in your nominations. I know for a fact that Marko at the munchkin wrangler, Dr. StrangeGun, Jeff at Alphecca, and Food Court Six Actual are all SF geeks, and it'd be interesting to know what they think. (...and hopefully a good way to get new reading material selections from the LazyWeb.)

My vote for the Number One slot? Well, Bester's and Anderson's offerings were great, managing to transcend the boundaries of genre fiction into true Literature, but The Cold Equations is more than just a story to me; reading it was a life-changing event.

I was raised in a Baptist Concentration Camp, and the big bogieman I was taught to fear was the Demon of Secular Humanism, with its harbinger, Situational Ethics. "How could ethics be situational," I wondered, "when some things are Always Wrong and other things are Always Right?"

Then I stumbled across a yellowed volume of 1950s Science Fiction stories in the church library, containing an unprepossessing little tale by Godwin that asked the question "When is it Right to kill an innocent teenage girl?" The resultant hand grenade lobbed into my heretofore smugly self-assured thought processes triggered seismic tremors that still ripple in me today. How could I have ever seen the world so simply? What made me think I had all the answers? It's a rare piece of fiction that can trigger this reaction in only twenty-five pages. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, then go ahead and read it. I dare you.

Books: The Honorverse, and a Passed Master...

I've just finished Weber's The Shadow of Saganami, and I wasn't disappointed. Weber's series in the "Honorverse" trades on the two things that make fiction compelling: Characters you give a darn about, and an internally-consistant fictional setting. He draws his characters with a deft hand, giving most of his heroes human flaws, and making most of his villains more three-dimensional than the standard cardboard cutout eeeevil characters that populate less-deft fiction. His world is internally consistant and richly detailed and, when combined with a cast of believable characters doing believable things,gives a level of plausibility that falls short of nothing less than Tolkein's Middle Earth or Anne McCaffrey's Pern. The best part? By holding off until Shadows came out in paperback, I'm less than a month away from the hardback release of At All Costs.

Now I'm re-reading Poul Anderson's The Enemy Stars. Once in a while it's enjoyable to pick up a book from the Golden Age and be reminded why it was so all-fired Golden. No lasers, no space opera, no superdreadnoughts of the spaceways, just a few regular people as the characters and the laws of physics as the bad guy. Schweet.

Blog Stuff: Oh, Jesus, it's like a dream come true...

For anyone who, as a child, harbored secret visions of having legions of G.I. Joe action figures perform a 1:12 scale Rape of Nanking on the Smurf Village, UNICEF has prepared a film that will warm the very cockles of your heart.

Unfortunately, the attack on the annoying hamlet of mushroom-shaped homes and obnoxiously perky homunculi was apparently carried out using unguided iron bombs, and with a distressing lack of direct-fire artillery support, allowing Baby Smurf to escape unscathed. Even more sadly, the unavailability of ChemWar resources also prevented the unnamed invaders (believed at this point to be either the X-Men or Pinky and The Brain, though neither group has publically claimed responsibility) from using cluster-bomb-dispersed haemotoxins to discover just what color a Smurf turns as it convulses in the throes of terminal cyanosis...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Random Musing...

Was I the only person who, all the way through the movie Troy, kept expecting Hector to say "When that first javelin goes past your head, politics go right out the window," in a faux Southern accent?

Politics: Alphecca finds a whole week's worth of bias.

See here.

This week's most chucklesome entry?

In an historic first, FEMA creates what may be the only gun-free trailer park south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Blog Stuff: I'm just a girl...

As a woman working in a rather testosterone-soaked profession, I manage to accumulate some pretty droll war stories. Here, for your amusement, are a couple of gems from the last week:

1) I was getting ready to bolt out of the shop on an errand, when I noticed a customer milling about with that "I haven't been helped yet" look on his face. Since the sales floor is my responsibility, I decided to rectify the situation.
Me: "Can I help you, sir?"
Customer: "I need to speak with Alex."
M: "He's off today, sir. Is it perhaps something I can assist you with?"
C: "No, I don't think so. Tell him that Mr. X came in with that trade we'd talked about."
M: "Well, sir, I'm the person he'd refer you to; I handle the pricing on all incoming trades. May I see the gun in question?"
C: "Well, with his, er, beard and everything, I thought he was one of the owners..."
M: "No, sir, he's one of our sales professionals. Would you like me to look at the trade?"
C: (Reluctantly handing it over) "It's kind of esoteric, you see, it's a..."
M: "...Smith & Wesson 624 no-dash with a 4" barrel and Herrett's stocks, mid-'80s production. I see. Do you have the factory box & docs? The original grips? The tools?"
C: *Insert sound of crickets chirping*

2) Milling about behind the counter, frantically engaged in some errand or another, I notice a customer determinedly approaching me.
Me: : "Can I help you, si..."
Customer: "Yes, what I need you to do is this: As a licensed gun store, you can receive a firearm for me that I have purchased from an out-of-state store. I don't give you the money; this is just a transfer, so I've already sent payment to them. What I do is give you an address to send a copy of your Federal Firearms License off to. You'll need to have your boss sign it in ink. Then they'll... yada yada blablabla"
I didn't have the heart to tell this guy that I was the sales manager, and had probably handled enough FFL transfers in the last dozen years to make his eyes glaze over almost as bad as his painstakingly detailed instructions were causing mine to; plus, the place he wanted me to send an FFL to already had one of ours on file. I just nodded, smiled politely, and told him I'd try to get my boss to take care of it.

3) I noticed one of my floor minions attempting to help a customer put a freshly-purchased Hogue Monogrip on his old S&W revolver. She was reading him the instructions, but the actual process of sliding the grip on was causing the poor guy no end of frustration. I tried to elbow in:
"Sir? Can I...? Wait... Let me..."
I finally managed to get the gun away from him.
"Well, now," he said to me, "That thing's a mite tricky. There's kind of a thing stickin' out of the frame, and there's sorta a track thing in the grip and..."
*FOOP* I slid the grip on, and reached for a screwdriver to tighten it down.
"See?" said his wife, jocularly elbowing him in the ribs, "It was just waitin' for a woman to come along to show you how to put it on!"
"Wait," he said, with an accusing look, "You've done that before, haven't you?"
"Once or twice," I allowed.

I love my job, and not least for the occasional moments of unintentional humor it includes.

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 5

3" S&W 624 w/Ahrend's grips, and a Bud Nealy damascus Pesh Kabz

Politics: Why can't we have gun laws like Country X?

One hears this canard all the time. "Why can't our gun laws be like those in Country X? They have so many fewer senseless killings than we do!" Among more inept pundits, this homily is trotted out in the complete absence of differences between "Rate" and "Absolute Number," but those clever enough to dig will note that the Rate in the US doesn't exactly cover us in glory, either.

However, the comparison of gun murder rates between the US and country X often overlooks other things, too. Although the British Home Office was caught red-handed "cooking the books" in their response to the media-hyped "crime wave" in England, I don't think things are as bad as the Brit tabloids would like us to believe. Murder rates with guns are higher in the US than in Canada, the UK, or Germany. I get kinda leery whenever that fact is trotted out as "proof" of anything, however, because our homicide rates are also stratospherically higher than these nations in the categories of knife-, blunt object- and bare hand-inflicted murders.

Does Canada have a more efficient steak knife registration program? Better background checks when purchasing cleavers and Stanley knives?

Are they stricter about Louisville Sluggers and tire irons in the UK? Are there weight limits on candelabra?

Is Germany's prohibition of "assault hands" with more than ten fingers responsible for their lower rate of murders committed with no weapon at all?

Our absolute murder rate is higher, but guns obviously aren't the causative variable. Figures don't lie, but liars figure...

(BTW: the rate of people killed with terrorist bombs, especially those in vehicles, is astronomically higher in parts of the EEC, but I don't see the UK moving to ban private vehicles. Although I shouldn't be giving them any ideas... )

I wonder about certain other types of crime, however. F'r instance, based on anecdotal evidence, motorcycle theft is a huge problem in the UK. I've e-corresponded off and on with many a rider in the UK and they've all had at least one bike nicked, as has pretty much everyone they know. I've been riding for almost 14 years here in the states, and in that time only one person I know has had a bike stolen. The rate of "Hot Burglaries" (or, as we call them here in the 'States, "Home Invasions") are higher in the land of'tshootback, too. Makes one wonder…

Lies, damn lies, and statistics: When presented with a number, one should always turn that number over to see what slithers out from underneath it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A jog around the blog.

the munchkin wrangler gets his kicks at the movies.
Xavier kicks it old school.
Alphecca kicks lazy libertarians in the slats.
Les Jones kicks over my gigglebox with a link to The World's Funniest Comic Review by Dave Campbell.

Baseball: Darn.

"Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Atlanta..."

Well, that's one way of looking at it.

The other way would be to just be tickled pink that AAA Richmond made it to the NLDS.

Boomsticks: That boy ain't right...

Behold: The NASC-AR15.

Politics: I'll take "Irony" for $500, Alex.

While Googling about this morning, I stumbled across this gem from the Washington Post. It takes a certain special blend of naievity and chutzpah to write an article on asset forfeiture, title it "Chasing Down the 'Ill-Gotten Gains'", and not have the "Ill-Gotten" portion of the title referring to, oh, say the massive conflicts of interest inherent in the whole process.

A few years back, asset forfeiture reform legislation came up for a vote in the state of Washington. Washington law enforcement officials were apopleptic in their opposition, pointing out that departments in the state made four million a year off forfeiture, and several agencies depended on that money, viewing it as an "essential part of their budgets during lean times."

They opposed asset forfeiture reform? No kidding? You mean they don't want to have a FOUR MILLION A YEAR cash cow taken away? Imagine that! Next thing you know, you'll be telling me that the trial lawyers association is against 'loser pays' and other tort reforms.

You'll note that in Civil Forfeiture cases, the funds are seized from folks "suspected" of drug crimes. This means "accused", not "convicted". Hope your kid's friend doesn't drop a roach in the back of your S-class Benz on prom night. Could lead to an inconvenient traffic stop for you, and a bunch of new toys for the local PD.

Departments need the money for their budgets during "lean times"? What in the heck does that mean? Look, the people (that's us) want a police department. We tax ourselves to pay for one. That is all the police department we care to pay for. It can't suddenly decide it wants to be bigger and go look for more funds so's it can buy all those cool toys in Guns & Weapons for the King's Men by seizing them from folks who haven't even been convicted in a court of law.

If the Mayberry PD finds out it's short of cash, then it's probably time to sell some of the Night Vision scopes, MP-5's, shiny new panzerkampfwagens, helicopters, and maybe lay off a couple of the officers whose sole policing talent seems to be running a radar gun behind a billboard (every department has one or two of those.) The answer to the funds shortage is not to try to essentially loot some more money by kicking down a few doors in Crackton. This tactic got booed on movie screens when the Sheriff of Nottingham's men tried it, why do we let it continue in present-day America?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blatant Capitalism: Offer Not Valid For Me, Dammit.

My boss arrived at the shop this morning, and I had to ask him if he'd gone nuts.

Me: "I thought we were in business to make money."
Him: "I just wanted to see if anyone was reading the Blog."
Me: "Okay, whatever. Er, hey, does that mean..."
Him: "Offer not valid for employees of Coal Creek Armory, Inc. Void where prohibited. Et cetera."
Me: *sulk*

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blog Stuff: Delaware Supremes screw up, accidentally Do Right Thing.

Via Michael Silence: The Delaware Supreme Court screwed up recently, and decided in favor of free speech and internet anonymity. Look for a higher Federal court to rectify the error as soon as possible.

The flap centered around several anonymous bloggers using their bandwidth to smear a local politician with the kind of playground name-calling that passes for political speech these days. Cahill reponded by throwing a snit and, deciding he didn't like the exposure to slings and arrows his Junior Woodchuck political career entailed, taking the bloggers to court.

In a series of obscenity-laced tirades, the bloggers, among other things, pointed to Cahill's "obvious mental deterioration," and made several sexual references about him and his wife, including using the name "Gahill" to suggest that Cahill, who has publicly feuded with Smyrna Mayor Mark Schaeffer, is homosexual.

Now, please understand that I think that John Doe No.1 and cronies were cowardly curs for dragging Councilman Cahill's wife into things and making anonymous slurs and sexual innuendos about Cahill's preferences, but I don't think they should be held criminally liable for anything. What the craven pamphleteers should be held accountable for is their honor; in a perfect world, Cahill would be able to make a public and very un-anonymous demand for satisfaction...

(PS: If Mr. Cahill doesn't like anything I've written here, my name and location are proudly displayed at the top right of the page, and pistols at dawn is my general preference.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 4

'64 S&W Model 27-2, with CRKT/Corkum First Strike. Absolute sex on a stick...

(For the sharp-eyed revolver geeks among you: Yes, I know that's a HKS .41 Magnum N-frame speedloader. It's what was handy while the light was decent...)

Boomsticks: Set it to 33 1/3rd...

Carnival of Cordite XXXIII is up.

Go here.

Or else.

Politics: Go stand in the corner.

I am so over having to employ my Vast Right Wing Conspiracy decoder ring to descramble the Politically-Correct Name Of The Day in order to figure out what political actor is being described at the various rest stops on the right shoulder of the Disinformation Dirt Road.

Is nobody else tired of the playground nonsense of "Feinschwein" and "demonRATS" and such? It's so Fourth Grade Schoolyard. It's so... so... so Democratic Underground.

"You're a Repugnican!"
"You're a dhimmocRAT!"
"Oh, yeah? Chimpy McHitlerburton!"
"Well Komrade Klintoon to you, too!"

For chrissake, how can anyone over age twelve with an IQ larger than their hat size mistake that for intelligent conversation or find it even remotely amusing? Isn't emotion-driven spittle flinging supposed to be the hallmark of the other side?

And even one of you kids so much as peeps a "They started it", I swear to god I will turn this car around right now! Ya buncha big poopie-heads!

Boomsticks: So you want to be a gun collector?

There seems to be some confusion as to what exactly constitutes being a "gun collector", so let's start by defining it by what it isn't:

"Fred, who lives next door, has a pretty nice little gun collection. He has his dad's service pistol, that shotgun to shoot sporting clays, and that little pocket Beretta." Fred just happens to own guns; he doesn't collect them.

"Joe from work is a hella big gun collector. He's always horse-trading, has to have one of whatever was on the cover of Guns & Ammo this month, and can't pass up a gun if it's on sale." Joe is not collecting; Joe is accumulating.

"My uncle Frank has quite the gun collection. He's got a beautiful Weatherby he takes after elk with every year, then there's all those bird-hunting shotguns: one each for duck, pheasant, and turkey. Oh, plus all those guns he uses for Cowboy Action Shooting." Your uncle isn't a gun collector; he's a gun user.

"I hear tell old man Rogers down the block is a little touched in the head. He's got, like, one of each Japanese military rifle ever made, and some of those old things cost him thousands of dollars. And get this: it's not just one of each rifle, 'cause he's got one from each factory that made 'em, and then like one from each year from each of those factories. To top it off, he's only got maybe a hunnert rounds of ammunition, total, for all those guns, 'cause the ammo's so hard to find, and costs like two dollars a shot." Old man Rogers is touched in the head: he's a gun collector.

All right, now that you've decided that you, too, want to be touched in the head, how do you go about it? Well, from my experience, I'd offer three pieces of advice: First, define your collection. Second, know your market. Third, make good connections.

Defining your collection is important. "One of everything" is impossible for even the most bottomless checkbook. You could spend yourself broke even if you confine yourself to, say, 19th Century Colt revolvers, Pre-'64 Winchester Model 70s, or pre-war S&W revolvers. Focus is important, and is, in fact, what defines a gun collection. So, decide what really interests you (and what you can afford; a collection of Walker Colts or GE Miniguns is going to put a strain on non-seven-figure incomes) and how much time and money you are willing to invest in the hobby. This is how I picked my two collecting passions: S&W revolvers and milsurp bolt actions. The initial entry costs were gentle, examples are common, they hold my interest, and as time goes on, I can get more serious by focussing down further within those broader fields. Now you're ready start building.

Next is knowing your market. There're only two ways to do this, both of which are necessary: Reading and Legwork. Books like Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values and Krause Publishing's Standard Catalogs are only a start; you need to get your hands on the specific reference works for the types of guns you're interested in. Dedicated, specialist reference books are a must, because trying to collect Smith & Wesson revolvers, military Mausers, or Colts without knowing who Supica & Nahas, Ball, or R.L. Wilson are is an isometric exercise: It's strenuous and gets you nowhere. You need to pick up Shotgun News and Gun List, as well as reading through and the various internet sites and forums dedicated to your area of interest. For legwork, you need to attend gun shows religiously, and make a habit of stopping in at gun shops in your town on a weekly basis. The net result of all this is a basic, gut-level knowledge of the scarcity and the going market price of firearms in your field of collecting. You should be able to know, faster than your eyes can focus, the rough selling price of the gun you are looking at within the nearest $50 or $100. There are a plethora of factors which can effect the value of guns in various fields, like scarcity, condition, and regional demand, and you should have them committed to memory. Be aware of how badly you want certain guns, versus how rare they are: I once jumped on a 3" 625-7 for a good $100 over what was the going rate for stainless 3" N-frame Smiths in these parts, simply because there were only 200 of these .45 Colt guns made, and I didn't want to wait 'til I stumbled across another one; the market has since vindicated my decision. It's really no different than the effort other people put into analyzing the stock market, except that you can't take a stock certificate to the range and use it to punch holes in the ten ring.

Lastly is building a network. Get to know the small dealers at gun shows who cater to your market. Make friends with them, and you'll be surprised to find how willing they are to bird-dog for you. If there's a collector's society dedicated to your particular addiction, join it, and get to know local members who've been doing this for a while. Benefit from their experience (and the castoffs from their collections.) Get friendly with a local FFL. I have a small stack of cards with phone numbers in my wallet: If I take in a 4" blued S&W K-frame, a Springfield '03, or a pre-war Colt revolver at work, it may not make it to the showcase, because I know exactly who I need to call. If you travel on business, another benefit of knowing a local FFL could be the provision of signed FFL copies. At a shop I used to work at, we had a travelling businessman who'd stop by the shop to pick up a few every time he left town. When he got to his destination, while his fellow conventioneers were out tipping shoe models he'd be off wandering through gun stores and pawn shops and finding nice specimens to send back home, thanks to the FFLs we'd provided.

Being a collector is fun, and doesn't preclude Accumulating (despite collecting milsurps and S&W wheelguns, I still accumulate customized 1911s) or Using (I do plenty of target shooting, and try and keep a varied bag of hunting, plinking, and home defense guns on hand), plus it can add an enjoyable new dimension to the basic human urge to collect stuff: When's the last time a baseball card, comic book, Hummel figurine, or postage stamp went *BANG!*?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Politics: The Bogeyman of "Felons & Guns."

My stance on background checks and waiting periods for guns (I'm agin' 'em) gets thrown up in my face fairly often. "You're in favor of convicted rapists owning guns?"
"You want lunatics to be able to buy firearms?"
"You want to give guns to criminals?" (Honey, I don't want to give anything to anybody; I'm a capitalist pig.)
I'd attempt to dive to philosophical bedrock to rebut them, but I may as well be trying to explain particle physics to Papuan tribesmen, so let's bring it back to the stuff likely to sway the unwashed; let's drag it back to tendentious pragmatism. The point I'll attempt to make is this: If somebody is too dangerous to trust with a gun, then they're too dangerous to trust with a book of matches. These people belong in an asylum, in a cell, or under a tombstone, not walking the street.

Has the Brady Law, with its mandatory background checks, done anything to help reduce crime? A Justice Department study said no.

Prior to 1994, you could buy guns without a background check.

Were there more or less office and school shootings back then?

Have tedious forms, whose completion is necessary to take home the most plebeian single-shot .22, made us feel more secure?

Prior to 1968 you could buy a gun with no paperwork whatsoever in this country. You could mail-order a semiautomatic rifle. Your thirteen-year-old cousin could plunk down money at Ace Hardware and walk out with a shotgun. Were the streets safer or more dangerous in those olden days? Did more people feel safe leaving their doors unlocked at night then or now?

The argument in favor of these controls is flawed at its base. They do nothing to keep guns from criminals, and merely serve to annoy and inconvenience peaceable citizens.

The denizens of Chicago or DC live with gun control laws that are absolutely byzantine and draconian compared to those of the state I live in, yet the rate (not just the absolute number) of violent crimes using guns is higher on their doorstep than it is on mine despite those laws. Tell me again, how does having our rights infringed make us safer from those who, by definition, ignore the law?

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 3

4" S&W 625-3 and damascus Kim Breed knife with mother-of-pearl scales.

Politics: Men in skirts... on camels?

According to the BBC, a super-secret 30-year-old report indicates that if the Scots Gaelic-speaking equivalent of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had their way back in the Age of Disco, Scotsmen would be riding around on camels and wearing Rolexes.

One has to wonder: If they were serious about independence, why didn't they push harder? Heck, since the end of WWII, England has been almost pathetically eager to kick ducklings out of the nest. As long as you didn't have an Ulster return address on the envelope, sovereignty was yours for the asking with naught but a politely-worded request to Downing Street. I even thought about requesting independence from the UK for my apartment, just because the presumed affirmative form-letter I'd get in response would look cool framed on my wall, what with all the gold leaf and royal seals.

Note to Scots: If you shoot at them enough and get the Frogs on your side, they'll leave. At least, that's the way it worked for us. Just thank heaven that it isn't Yankees you're trying to rid yourself of...

In other news from those little islands, Jesus Folds.
The moral? No matter who your dad is, don't draw to an inside straight, kids.

Politics: Yankee, go home!

Why didn't they just break out the Stop Sticks?

Boomsticks: The NASCARification of guns.

I'm noticing an interesting phenomenon in the custom AR bits market these days: more and more manufacturers are getting fairly bold about labeling their parts with their name in a contrasting color. Just looking at my latest project gun as a f'rinstance, Vltor, Hogue, and SureFire are content with a molded or raised logo in the same color, and Yankee Hill settles for the traditional rollmark, so why do others, like GG&G and Daniel Defense, go for white paint?

Come to think of it, why do all these AR parts makers feel the need for the branding? Is there a subconscious desire among AR owners to own carbines that resemble, in their logo-festooned splendour, the back window of a gray primered '73 Chevelle at Sonic on a Saturday night? What's next, little sponsorship decals? It doesn't extend to all gun parts, or all parts makers; you can build, say, a custom 1911 without it looking like a riced-out Civic.

Thank gawd it seems confined to the AR market for the nonce. I'm afraid the old guys at the range would laugh at my Timney-Boyds-Lilja-Savage-sponsored Mauser...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Politics: The weekly Bias Check is up... Alphecca. Click here.

My favorite bit this week? It's from this letter from trembling hand-wringer Helle Berry of Racine, who is driven into writhing despair at the prospect of legalizing "hidden guns" in her beloved state. (How ever does she muster the courage to peek out from underneath the covers in the morning?)

"There are so many angry people in our world these days," she frets hysterically "Let’s not make it even easier to cause grievous bodily harm."

Honey, if it was just about being angry, explain to me how I've worked twelve years in retail with a loaded gun on my hip and have yet to cap even one rude patron?

Blatant Capitalism: Can an inanimate object have a blog?

Apparently so.

Coal Creek Armory does, at least. It's going to be kept chock full of crunchy goodness relating to special sales, cool acquisitions, and daily doings around the shop.

Viral marketing, baby; it's the wave of the future...

Bikes: A damn fast pig...

"You can't make a racehorse out of a pig, but you can make a damn fast pig."

I may have a line on a VF1000R, which scores well on the "motor" and "good weather protection" fronts (although the reach to the bars is fairly long, if I'm rightly recalling my last ride on one...)

Not a nimble corner-carver by any stretch of the imagination, it's more the direct ancestor of the ZX-11 and Hayabusa school of sportbikes.

It was one of my dream bikes as a teenager; we'll see how well my opinions of 18 years ago hold up under the glaring light of today's sun...

Politics: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics...

If there's one thing that really grinds me to a halt, it's blatant misuse of statistics to sell a viewpoint. I find this particularly loathsome when it's being used by the agenda-driven hive-dwellers at either end of the political spectrum to justify the Dictatorship of The Common Good that they wish to corral me into. We have hand-wringing worriers over Gay Marriage. Is this something to get worked into a lather about? Look, all I'm concerned about when hearing of others' freaky bedroom activities is "Was the goat an adult, consenting goat?" This is nothing to, statistically, get worried over. Contrary to what every BrylCreem Prophet on the AM band wants you to believe, everybody in this country is not about to turn queer and invade local bridal shops if we extend legal recognition to same-sex couples. Then we have the "Partial Birth Abortion" thing, causing the well-intentioned NeoPuritan Crypto-Fascists on one side to wave the bloody shirt of the rarest of abortion procedures and allege that "they're all like that!", while clamoring to slap a chastity belt on every womb in America. Lastly, we have whatever drug is Devastating America today, justifying the further erosion of the Bill of Rights in the name of a continued 'war' against substances that were legal for the majority of this country's history without causing noticeable harm to the fabric of the Republic.

From the other side of the spectrum, the equally well-meaning Bubble-headed Idealists of the Dictatorship of Nice, we have (to use just two particularly egregious firearms-related examples) the oft-harped statistic of how many "children" are killed by firearms annually and the annual ATF study of "Crime Guns". If we pull the curtain aside to examine the little man working the levers, however, both these numbers are highly specious. "Children", depending on the source being quoted, includes everyone up to the age of either 18 or 21, and includes them no matter how they fell victim to a bullet. Of course, when Oprah or Paul Newman quotes the numbers imploringly into a camera, your average tapioca-headed sofa spud can be forgiven for assuming that they were all three-year-olds who found daddy's gun, and not nineteen-year-olds who got smoked for shorting a customer on a dime bag. The "Crime Guns" figure includes every gun seized during an arrest that is reported to the BATF. It doesn't matter whether the gun had anything to do with the crime or not; the Holland & Holland double pulled from a corporate embezzeler's gun safe is as much of a crime gun as the still-smoking stolen .32 lying on a DC sidewalk. No matter, it's now been reported to the Bureau and dutifully logged as a 'crime gun'.

"Oh, but how many murders are related to spousal violence?" Look, of all the friends I've had who had abusive boyfriends, only one or two (of the boyfriends, that is) had no criminal record whatsoever. The rest usually had minor litanies of DUI, possession, theft, assault, etc. Studies have repeatedly shown that it is a rare murderer who is first introduced to the police over a dead body. The vast majority have several fairly serious misdemeanors, and almost three-quarters of first-time murderers have at least one felony under their belt (and these studies assume that there are no skeletons lurking in sealed juvenile record closets, either...)

Boomsticks: Gratuitous Gun Pr0n No. 2