Thursday, December 31, 2020

Zoom Zoom

So, 'way back in early 1995, I traded a 1979 Datsun 280ZX 2+2 and a thousand bucks for a Guards Red 1987 Porsche 924S. I thought this seemed like a really sweet deal...until I noticed a funny clunking noise from the Porsche's gearbox after a couple days.

See, the clutch on the 924S/944 used elastomer rather than springs to damp the clutch, and they tended to disintegrate the rubber over time. My shiny new Porsche needed a clutch replacement. And because the 924/944 family have a rear-mounted transaxle, this is a more complicated evolution than normal.

I ended up taking the car to a local shop, JMC Racing, that did import street car repairs as a sideline to fund their main work in open-wheel racing.

When I went to go pick the car up, they asked if I wanted to test drive it first. I allowed as how I wasn't qualified to judge if the repair was any good or not, so John McCracken jumped in the driver's seat and gave me a drive around the nighttime back roads of Forsyth County that looked something like this:

I had no idea a 924S could haul ass like that...

Very Wary

This is only the third worst possible outcome. Second worst, of course, is that at midnight all our devices will automatically tick over to December 32nd.

The worst? Waking up to find the calendar reads "1/1/2020"...

I did not know that...

They're everywhere at this time of year, these bright red leafy flowers. Somehow I'd made it this far in life without noticing that they were spelled "poinsettia", since I'd always heard them pronounced "poyn-SET-uh", which is also apparently a correct pronunciation.

Another thing I didn't know was that the name isn't some derivation of their scientific binomial nomenclature or anything like that, but rather a reference to the man who introduced them to the U.S. from their native home to the south of us. That's right, the first US ambassador to the fledgling Mexican Republic was a former South Carolina Congressman and enthusiastic amateur botanist, one Joel Roberts Poinsett.

His career arc was fascinating, with visits to Moscow, a trip through the Khanate of Kuban all the way to Baku on the shores of the Caspian Sea, a bit of derring-do in South America during the War of 1812, and serving as Secretary of War during the Van Buren administration.


Clone Wars

At some point in my teenage years, I developed something of a crush on the Heckler & Kock MP5K. I mean, the regular MP5 was cool, and so was the integrally-suppressed SD variant, but it was the chopped-down kurz variant with its stubby foregrip that really lit my fuse. I have no idea why. Probably some combination of it looking very cool and being a diminutive fully-automatic machine pistol. Maybe it had good stats in a role-playing game I was into, or something? Anyway...

Owning anything like the real thing is onerous and kinda frivolous. Full-auto ones are stupid expensive and I still have flashbacks about trying to keep our knackered hangar queen of a rental MP5K-PDW running back in my days at Coal Creek Armory.

You can get an old HK SP89 pistol or its newer SP5K replacement, but to make it an authentic-looking MP5K or MP5K-PDW clone would require NFA paperwork. You'd either need to get a tax stamp to add the vertical foregrip, making it an AOW, or a stock and foregrip, making it an SBR. And then you still have a big, clunky semiautomatic 9mm pistol.

So the MP5K is one gun that I tend to be plenty happy with sticking an airsoft copy on the shelf and foregoing buying the real thing.

For that matter, an MP5K copy was my first experience with airsoft, back in the Eighties. At the time, airsoft wasn't really a thing in the US, so Daisy imported a handful of guns, most from Maruzen, and sold them under the "Daisy Softair" label. Their realistic appearance caused a bit of a stink, and so they were only sold for a couple years, '86-'87, before being discontinued, making them kind of collectible now.

The only one not made by Maruzen was the Model 15, an MP5K copy, that was made by Falcon Toy Corporation. Naturally it was my favorite, and I bought one from Service Merchandise back in the day, along with clones of the Intratec KG-9, Luger, and Smith Model 59. Recently I stumbled across one on eBay, and couldn't resist buying back a chunk of my misspent youth.

I'm not super-hip to airsoft terminology, but I believe these would be called spring-powered blowback shell ejectors? To operate them, you'd load the BBs into the plastic dummy shell cases and load those into the magazine. Chambering a round would cock the weapon, and when you fired, the slide or bolt would lock to the rear after ejecting the empty shell.

Modern AEG (airsoft electric gun) MP5K copies tend to have more faithful lines than the old manually-operated Daisy.

On the Model 15, this was done by cycling the vertical foregrip, and this meant there had to be space on the front of the receiver that the original MP5K did not have, giving the Daisy Model 15 a, distinctive appearance.

"Hey, that gun looks familiar..."

Produced for the US market, the Model 15 was careful to avoid any references to H&K, who are fiercely protective of their branding and trade dress. The Tokyo Marui AEG in the photo above was a gray market import from Hong Kong back in '02 or '03 and all HK markings are carefully covered up to avoid imperial entanglements. Nowadays, of course, you can get a licensed high-quality full auto electric MP5K clone straight from Amazon without having to worry that customs is going to jack up your transpacific shipment.


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Sometimes a picture is worth several thousand words

While writing to Slate's parenting advice column on the topic of practical firearms safety would seem to make about as much sense as writing to Soldier of Fortune for advice on potty-training or getting your toddler to eat broccoli, someone apparently has done just that.

Actually, they don't want gun safety advice, they just want some validation and asspats for ruining family gatherings with their anti-gun outbursts, and I guess Slate seemed like a good place to go for some of that.

"My brother and I both work in law enforcement and have service weapons. I lock mine up when I’m at home. My brother has taken to carrying his all the time, including around his small children in his home. I’ve had to refuse him entry to my home due to his unwillingness to come without it..."
The stock photo Slate used for the column was, um...illustrative of how much weight I'm going to give their advice.

A Springfield XD with a Hogue Handall (for bonus points, positioned too low, since it has to clear the grip safety, thereby forcing the shooter's pinkie into the worst possible place!) in a Serpa on a department store belt not designed to support a gun and improperly sized for the loops. It's like a layer cake of fail. A failcake, if you will.

"You wanna know how I know not to take anything you say seriously?"


I'll second that.

Bobbi just recommended watching Counterpart, and I have to second that. 

It's a little bit sci-fi, a little bit Cold War spy drama, a little bit police procedural, a little bit corporate machiavellian infighting, with enough shoot-em-up and gun fu sprinkled through here and there to keep it action-y. Lots of guns, lots of tradecraft.

And the acting, cinematography, and writing is superb. This is one of those shows that was too smart for its own good, literally.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Louis Awerbuck had an interesting "final exam" for his firearms classes, a time pressure enhanced shooting drill on a target he called his "South African Computer" (Louis was a vocally proud Luddite).

Louis dispensing wisdom, this time on mechanical offset.

Said target consisted of a clothed torso mannequin target, surrounded by several other clothed torso mannequin targets, all of which were on hinged, pivoting arms so that Louis could control their bobbing gyrations by tugging on lines. Students went through this in pairs and, at the "go" signal, there was a very limited amount of time for one student to step off at an angle and the other to stay on the start line, and one or the other to neutralize the moving "Bad Guy" in the middle of the bobbing, weaving crowd of "No Shoot" targets with a single shot.

During that first handgun class back in 2009, one of the students took their shot, the baseball cap on the "Bad Guy" went flying, and the range was called cold. On going downrange, the head of the "Bad Guy" target was unmarred, although when the baseball cap was picked up off the berm, there was a distinct divot in the bill of the cap from the student's .45ACP pistol bullet.

"Heeer's a cloo for you," said Louis in his broad accent, and proceeded to relate the tale of the same sort of a shotgun class...with a 12ga slug.

Yes, the brim of a ball cap can divert a 12ga slug or a .45ACP pistol bullet enough to turn a hit into a miss.

A twig...or a furring strip...can do the same with a rifle bullet.


One Night in Lexington

Bobbi was watching The Queen's Gambit last night and I remarked on how a particular scene seemed a subtle nod to Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" and it turned out she wasn't familiar with the tune...

Incidentally, the Wikipedia article for the musical Chess is practically an event horizon for any number of hours-long wikiwanders on topics ranging from chess to musical theater to Eighties pop rock to Cold War nuclear strategy. Click at your own risk.

More Thoughts on Securing Stuff in Cars

The one thing I didn't like about the Subie Forester was the lack of a trunk.

Not lack of storage space, mind you. It was a station wagon, for heaven's sake, it was all ate up with storage space. It's just that all of it was protected by nothing but a sheet of glass. You can get rollup privacy screens for most wagons and SUV's...Bobbi's RX350 has one...but that's not really security. It may deter the most casual of car tossers by not letting them see anything, but to a more determined auto burglar, it's just a signal that there's something in there the owner felt was worth shielding from prying eyes.

Even the trunk on the Mustang isn't really secure. Oh, it's a separate, lockable metal trunk, but any semi-pro car burglar will know there's A) a pass-through to the trunk in the back seat, and B) a remote trunk release in the glovebox that works even without a key in the ignition. Sure the glovebox is lockable, but those barely require tools to defeat.

The Z3 has a trunk that really works as a trunk. It's inaccessible from the passenger cabin and, when you lock it with a key, you have to unlock it again with a key. It doesn't automatically lock and unlock with the passenger doors. If I have to de-gun during the day with the Bimmer, I'll pull the holster off my belt in the car, put it in a nondescript-looking bag, and then lock the bag in the trunk. I won't do those trips in the Mustang because I haven't gotten around to bolting a lockbox into the trunk.

This is also why, if I'm parked at a hotel on a roadtrip, I'll chance leaving valuables locked in the trunk of the Z3, but the entire contents of the Mustang come into the hotel room with me. Which makes things kind of ironic in that I'll pack heavier in the car with less luggage space. I'll stuff the trunk and passenger compartment brim-lippin' full in the Zed Drei, but with the Mustang I try not to take more firearms & camera gear than I can drag in and out of a hotel room in one trip.


Monday, December 28, 2020

Security Details...

 BOLO for some stolen night vision...
I parked a Porsche 924S and then a Fiero SE on the streets in the ATL for years. Left absolutely nothing of value in the car, took the faceplate off the stereo, and left the doors unlocked. I can remember at least three times off the top of my head (meaning there were likely more) that I came out to find my car's door ajar and several neighbor's windows broken. 
Getting something valuable stolen is bad enough, but I'd feel downright idiotic having to replace a hunnert-'n'-fifty dollar window over a failed attempt to protect seventy three cents in loose change and a Depeche Mode cassette.

The slackest week of the year.

It's the last week of this dumpster fire of a year, and so I'm going to use some top five lists and retrospectives to generate some low-effort content as though I were a regular media outlet. 

For starters, according to Blogger's built-in stats package, here are the four posts that got the most eyeballs this year:

Ultimate Treehouse...

 When the tree removal company got the trees fully topped, leaving just a dozen feet or so of the main trunk, my inner child wanted to yell "Stop! What's left would be perfect for a treehouse!"

Especially the hackberry in the back yard. That main bole was a solid four or five feet across and would have supported a hell of a platform... Er, if it hadn't been so dead and rotten in the middle that we had to have it taken down in the first place, that is.

Wanting to build a treehouse or clubhouse or fort was a low-key obsession of mine for at least the first dozen years of my life, so this CNN story definitely piqued my interest:

That's some next-level treehouse game, right there. Admit it, a fishing hatch in the middle of your living room floor is super cool.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Unintended Consequences

There will come a day when our society will adjust to the fact that there's a permanent record of almost every dumb, unkind, and assholish thing people say and do*. 

When that happens, it will have two effects: People will stop saying and doing so many dumb, unkind, and assholish things, and more slack will be cut for the times when people do do those things, providing that there's a clear absence of malice. 

In the meantime, we're going to have ugly Gordian knots like this one.

*Whether there should be such a record or not is moot. The technological genie is out of the bottle, and wanting tiny cameras and storage too cheap to meter to go away is as unrealistic as wanting to ban semiautomatic weapons in the US.

"Owning the libs by letting them win!"

This is some real galaxy-brained stuff here.

Octopus Punch

It's not a drink, at least not one I'm aware of, nor is it (any longer) a statistically unlikely combination of words. It turns out that not only do some octopuses posse up and hunt cooperatively with fishes, but they'll also haul off and sucker punch fish. Sometimes for being too grabby with the chow, and sometimes for no readily apparent reason. Maybe just to keep them on, toes.

This is all according to a scientist who studied octopus fish-punching behavior, which must have been a fun grant to apply for.

Anyhow, it's been covered in quite a few places if you want to go read up on the topic of cephalopod fish-punching.


Overheard in the Office...

Having just finished processing the RAWs from young Mr. Holden's impromptu portrait sitting...
Me: "You know this Nikon D3 just hates its retirement career. 'I used to shoot the Olympics! The NFL, dammit!'"

RX: "Maybe it likes cats."

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Northern Floofloaf...

Holden enjoys climbing his scratching post, shinning up it like a boy climbing a tree and then pulling himself up on the top. I guess, even although he can easily leap that high, the landing platform is too small.

In winter, there's good light through the southern windows, even with the Roman blinds down. (You know how to make a Roman blind? You poke them in the eye. *ba-dum!*)

I had the D3 with the 24-120mm f/4 handy. These were wide open at ISO 1600 to minimize movement blur.

Time Capsule

While noodling around looking for something on the internet today, I stumbled across the American Derringer site. I hadn't checked on the company, but apparently they're still around and turning out guns*, albeit at a very low volume since they're essentially handmade by a very small operation**. 

Their website is kinda interesting from an internet history perspective, too, since it's largely unchanged since the first time I saw it twenty years ago. There's no shopping cart but you can submit an order by fax.

A derringer is an increasingly anachronistic choice for a carry gun in a world in which there are six and seven shot repeaters that are lighter, more concealable, and don't require being laboriously thumb-cocked for each shot. But people rarely buy their ballistic rabbit's feet based on cold rationality.

*At least, we'll call it...suggests they were still shipping guns in September of this year.

**Incidentally, this is why Bond Arms derringers are also as spendy as they are. There's a lot of touch-labor that goes into making those things.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Overheard in the Kitchen...

Bobbi has been reading Break It Up, which is the source of the initial quote...the conversation quickly veered off in a more Roseholme Cottage sort of direction, though...
RX: "John Calhoun said “We must conquer space” in 1816. I love that quote."

Me: "That’s pretty forward thinking. They were still decades away from the first aethernauts, right?"
RX: "Steam-powered rockets were still in their infancy. They’d been using human-powered rockets. Throw a cable to a magnetic line of force and haul yourself up. The process wasn’t really abolished until the northern states became horrified at the human cost of slave-powered rockets."
Me: "That’s why South Carolina attacked the federal launch base at Fort Sumter. They were afraid Eli Whitney’s new mechanical rockets would render their space economy uncompetitive."

 RX: "You realize we’ve just come up with a science fiction series. You should write it."

Technically correct, which is the best kind of correct.

The predicted snowfall for the front that passed through from Wednesday afternoon to Christmas Eve morning gradually ramped up from "maybe some wintry mix" to "three inches of sticking snow"...and then suddenly evaporated to nothing. 

Wednesday morning the nice meteorologist sounded sad when she informed us that there wouldn't be a white Christmas after all. All the moisture in the front would have passed through before the temperature dropped in the wake of its passage. Cold air, yes, but dry. No snow.

However late last night a localized flurry seems to have wandered past and deposited a dusting. Not a real snowfall. Not even really enough to take a broom to the walks (especially since it's, like, 11º fondly Fahrenheit out there right now,) but enough to look scenic on roofs and trees.

It's still not technically a white Christmas though. It turns out there's a definition for that, and it requires an inch of snow on the ground, which this ain't.


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all y'all who drop by to read! 

May your day be merry and bright, and for the bit about all your Christmases being white, stay tuned...


Thursday, December 24, 2020


Bobbi appears to be feeling a little better, but I spent the day in bed with whatever it was she had. I'm feeling a lot better than I was this morning, but I still don't feel like jogging around the block.

What a lame early Christmas present.


Fast Glass

The 7Artisans 35mm f/1.2 arrived yesterday. It's a hefty little thing. The aperture ring is clickless, which isn't my preference, but for the price, I'm not complaining. With the crop factor of the APS-C sensor, this is a 56mm equivalent; a pretty decent general-purpose focal length. 

Given the slightly retro lines of the M6, I'm braced for plenty of "Is that a film camera?" questions of the kind I don't get asked when using some actual film cameras, like the EOS-1N or F5.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


I was not displeased with the results at five yards. Five shots offhand went into a reasonably small cluster. Things were a lot more difficult at ten yards. The holes in the paper at first made me wonder if they might be keyholing at that distance, but the holes in the backer were circular.

Extracting the spent steel cases of the TulAmmo required the assistance of a tool. I used the small flathead blade on the Leatherman Rebar I keep in my range bag, and the bottom chamber was noticeably stickier than the top one.

I also couldn't help but note that at both distances, the point of impact was noticeably low. On the lower A-zone, I centered the front sight halfway down the vertical centerline of the gray triangle. On the upper A-zone, I put it on the bridge of target dude's nose, right between his running lights.


Caught myself off guard.

 I realized this morning that some CCI 9mm shot shells would be the perfect thing for a short article I'm doing right now. Surely I had accumulated some of those over the years, right? 

I went digging through the farthest recesses of my stash, past the 5.56 frangible, the 7.62 Tok MagSafe...past the 12ga rubber buckshot and the .38S&W blanks...I even uncovered some Remington .357 Magnum duplex loads...

Unfortunately there was not a 9mm shotshell to be found.



Monday, December 21, 2020

Le sigh.

Solstice Solace

Nikon FM2N, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Ilford HP5 Plus

Astronomically, we're putting this mess in the rear-view mirror, even if 2020 doesn't end by the calendar for another week and a half.

Maybe the sky will be clear enough here in Indy tonight to get a peek at the pending celestial magic...


Sunday, December 20, 2020

Automotif CXCVII...

We've seen this Austin-Healey Sprite Mk.II before, but he zipped past closer today. 

Also, I thought the similarly-hued Prius in the background made a nice juxtaposition to the little roadster. It was 41 or 42 degrees out, and dad & kid were bundled up. They smiled and waved and of course I gave a thumbs-up.


Blasph-M-ous Rumors

There are rumors now of prototype crop-sensor RF-mount Canons (supposedly called the R7) running about in the wild.

The nomenclature would seem to hearken to the classic 7D/7D Mark II, which were the tough, pro-grade crop-sensor bodies that were rough equivalents to the full-frame 5D series bodies.

This would indicate that the M-series APS-C mirrorless system's days are truly finally numbered. There are a couple of indicators that the M line will limp on for another year or two before finally getting the Old Yeller treatment.

The first is that nowhere in the current RF-mount library, nor in any roadmap that's known, is there a lens that's got a crop-sensor appropriate focal length. There's no RF 17-55mm f/2.8 nor 18-135mm travel zoom. Which makes sense for a camera like the hypothetical R7, which is going to be used by birdwatchers, sports photogs, and airshow geeks to give an effective focal length boost to their long L-series zooms while probably having a frame-rate advantage over its full-frame siblings.

The second is that it's unlikely Canon's willing to entirely abandon the entry-level market, the folks who buy a boxed set of camera and lens(es) at Best Buy or Wally World, and an $800-$1000 RF body with no cheap kit zooms doesn't cover that. 

EOS M6 with the 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM travel zoom

Canon's already discontinued the closest thing to an enthusiast/prosumer body in the M-mount lineup, the M5, and pretty much admitted that it won't have a successor. The M6 line is, on specs at least, a serious enthusiast camera, with its dual control wheels, and can certainly be used to do good work...but the single card slot, located inside the battery compartment on the bottom where it can't be accessed with the camera on a tripod...tells you that this camera is ultimately marketed toward users for whom that won't be a concern.

The M50 and M200 round out the bottom of the line, roughly equivalent to the Rebel T_i and Rebel SL_ slots in Canon's DSLR lineup. These are the cameras sold in boxed sets at Mart-Marts and make up the base of Canon's sales pyramid. Until and unless Canon comes up with a crop sensor RF body and matching lenses to fill this niche, they're going to have to soldier on.

The EF-M doomsayers point out that Canon's only introduced a single M lens in the last three years, and that was two years ago, as well as the paucity of enthusiast-grade EF-M lenses: There are only a couple of fast primes and no constant-aperture zooms in the M library. 

In response, I can only point out that Canon's treated APS-C cameras that way for years. Canon's only released a few EF-S lenses for their crop-sensor DSLRs that are worth getting excited about, and the most recent of those, the 24mm f/2.8 pancake, came out way back in the Obama administration, an eternity in digital camera marketing terms. The EF-M library already has all the lenses it needs to make 1- and 2-lens box sets to hawk at Best Buy.

Ultimately, though, having the future Canon mirrorless world irrevocably divided into non-interchangeable crop sensor EF-M and full frame RF mount would prevent Canon execs from being able to tell themselves lies about upgraders.

See, with the EF and EF-S lenses sharing the same mount, there was always the idea that the person buying the entry-level crop sensor Rebel would have an incentive to stay inside the Canon ecosystem if they got into photography as a hobby. The lenses they bought could ride along as they moved up to ever more sophisticated bodies (until they got traded out for better glass.)

It's questionable how often that actually happened and, with the current division of the Canon mirrorless world between crop-sensor EF-M and full-frame RF-mount, there is no upgrade path.

I think the guys who say the M's days are numbered are right, but either it's likely to limp along until there's a true entry-level RF replacement...or Canon is going to abandon the inexpensive entry level altogether. My money would be on the former, but I have no special insight, here.

Anyway, I like my little M6. It's a good travel body, and I went ahead and bought a good fast manual-focus prime lens for it as a Christmas present to myself. I'm also looking at maybe a TTArtisan 50mm f/1.2. This would give me an ultra-portable kit for the M6 of a travel zoom, fast primes in the equivalent of 35, 50, and 85mm focal lengths, and a twee little SpeedLite in case I need more juice or flexibility than the on-camera flash.

I like my little M6...but I don't think the M system is long for this world.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Driving Music...

 I really need to get the stereo in the Mustang sorted...

Friday, December 18, 2020


Right now, people are living at a time with no easy solutions, a moment with a lot of conflicting “facts” in a rapidly changing landscape. According to Nicole Ellison, who studies communication and social media at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, that means there's a “lot of demand on cognitive processing to make sense of this. There’s no overarching narrative that helps us.” That, she adds, only compounds the stress and anxiety they're already feeling. 

 For years people have questioned the net benefits of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and while some studies have found social media, when used responsibly, can have positive effects on mental health, it can also lead to anxiety and depression. Or, at the bare minimum, FOMO. And that’s just the result of looking at too many brunch photos or links to celebrity gossip. Add in a global pandemic and civil unrest—and the possibility that social media networks are incentivized to push trending topics into your feeds—and the problem intensifies. “In a situation like that, we engage in these more narrow, immediate survival-oriented behaviors. We’re in fight-or-flight mode,” Ellison says. “Combine that with the fact that, socially, many of us are not going into work and standing around the coffee maker engaging in collective sense-making, and the result is we don’t have a lot of those social resources available to us in the same way.”

...and this was written in late June, before the election added a whole new axis along which to freak out in the cortisol-soaked mess of 2020. People are basically soaking in fight-or-flight hormones for days and weeks on end. I wouldn't bet against a massive uptick in undiagnosed PTSD. 

Your brain can't tell the difference between swimming in a constant cortisol bath caused by being in a besieged city or the one caused by being stuck in your home, out of work, with your parents dead or dying in a nursing home, bills piling up, wondering if you caught the death flu on your last trip to the grocery store, all while you sit and constantly ingest news of how your city, state, country, and world are going in the shitter. 

There's no special "hero cortisol for first responders". Stress hormones are stress hormones, and extended exposure to them is detrimental, but most folks don't recognize this, which is why all this PTSD is going to go undiagnosed.

Serenity is hard to come by these days, and my demotivator from the earliest days of the blog feels just a bit too glib in 2020.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Lowered Expectations

The more things change...

 David Yamane has a bunch of great quotes from an older work discussing the history of guns and gun control in America.

Seeing how the arguments pro and con change so little over the years had me googling up H.L. Mencken's 1925 vintage classic in response to a proposed national ban on handguns, titled "The Uplifters Try It Again":

Apparently America in the 1920s faced a scourge of revolvers. Here are some of them.


Overheard in the Hallway...

Me: *whining, and apparently not enunciating well* "Ỡħ, Î ǥøⱦ ɐȵ ḙƴɛȴɑṧħ ƫūṝṋềƌ ïǹṧɨďĕ-ōůẗ!"

RX: "What?"

Me: "I said I got an eyelash turned inside-out."

RX: "Oh, I thought you said you got your eye turned inside out."

Me: "I think I would have sounded more distressed if that were the case."

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

*pours out a Zombie Dust for my homies*

"I had to get it on!"

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the release of my favorite movie that isn't Blade Runner.

There's a fantastic retrospective of Heat here

My friend Michael gave me a souvenir from the set of one of the coolest shootouts in movie history:

Click on this link and you can get a great 2020-themed Heat sticker like the one below!

"Spinning Buzzsaw of Death!"

The hype the Black Talon generated back in the day was completely disproportionate to its actual utility as a bullet. They were good for the time, one of the first modern designs of the post-Miami gunfight era, but people absolutely lost their minds over the black Lubaloy coating, the pointy jacket petals, and of course that bellicose name.

Of the original loadings, 147gr 9x19mm, 180gr .40S&W, and 230gr .45AARP, the .45 is the only one that still maintains some relevance. The 9 and .40 were almost immediately eclipsed by much better performing, more modern designs in their respective chamberings, but you could still do worse than a 230gr Talon in a full-size .45. (You can do a lot better, too.)

The way that both the hysterical media and devoted fanbois of the round latched onto the "spinning buzzsaw" thing was funny. I absolutely could not convince this one dude that the bullet would barely make one complete revolution in the target. He was totally hung up on the "revolutions per minute" number and didn't want to hear how far a bullet would travel in a minute (assuming you fired it in, like, outer space or something).

"It's spinning at nearly 40,000rpm!"

"Yeah, but your barrel has a 1:16" twist rate, and dude ain't sixteen inches thick." 


Monday, December 14, 2020

Unrealistic Expectations

Both sides have unrealistic expectations about how a Sec 230 repeal would hurt their foes while miraculously leaving them unscathed. 

This article predates the latest shouting match by a year, but it's no less true. 

I predict some of the first victims of a Sec. 230 repeal would be free blogging services. I mean, Blogspot is already Google's vermiform appendix and probably just kept running on pure inertia. If they gotta worry about getting sued for everything said by every crank with a blog, it'll be cheaper to just pull the plug on the whole shebang.

This Current Decade...

How it started:


How it's going:


Sunday, December 13, 2020


"A gunman opened fire from the steps of New York City’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine just after an outdoor choir performance there on Sunday, and was himself shot and wounded by police, according to police and a Reuters photographer at the scene."
This must be a mistaken report, because handguns are doubleplus illegal in NYC.

EDITED TO ADD: CNN says the shooter has croaked.

Literary Losses

This wretched year has taken John le Carre now. 

I guess I'll be doing some spy novel reading this week, as soon as I finish Flashman and the Redskins.

On a more positive note, it looks like all of the Flashman Papers are available on Kindle now, and that did not used to be the case.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Second Fiddle

In this era when .40S&W is tied with (or sometimes ahead of) regular ol' 9x19mm ammunition in the cost and availability sweepstakes, I feel like I should be looking into .40 loadings that offer adequate terminal ballistics while being both as controllable and easy on the gun itself as possible.

I don't need all the foot pounds, just adequate penetration and reliable expansion while being fairly barrier-blind. I want more ammo options...


Friday, December 11, 2020

Film Project...

The Twenty Tap Crew, Canon EOS-1N, EF 85mm f/1.8, Kodak 400TX

Thumbnail review...

...of Orders of Battle
Our protagonist gets put back in the saddle again. Lankies. SPACE KABLOOIE! Lankies. Spaceships. Big cliffhanger. The End? Argh.

Speed and Expansion

Four layers of denim is a challenging barrier for expansion, especially for slow projectiles and older hollow point designs. For a slow, older hollow point? Expansion actually becomes somewhat less than likely.

On the left, a 225gr .45 Colt Winchester Silvertip, and on the right is a 230gr .45ACP Remington Golden Saber. Both were fired out of a Blackhawk Convertible, one of the birdshead ones with a 4.6" tube.

The Silvertip peeled a petal back but the Golden Saber didn't deform noticeably at all. Both exited the block on the far side and were stopped by the cloth on the backside. Penetration was adequate without being excessive, but they didn't do anything a LRN projectile wouldn't have done.

A Silvertip from the same lot was fired into the block from a 16" lever-action carbine and performed rather differently...

Out of the levergun, the round had enough steam to expand violently, but still enough momentum to traverse the entire length of the block, coming to rest slightly protruding from the far side. Nearly ideal performance for a pistol bullet, it just needed to be launched from a long gun to attain it.

Incidentally, we also fired a .45 Colt Hornady Critical Defense load, using the 185gr FTX flex-tip projectile. It also expanded violently but, being on the light-for-caliber side of things, stalled out after around 12" of penetration.

This is marginal performance at best. On the upside, if fired out of a CCW revolver with a 4" or shorter barrel, it likely wouldn't have expanded at all and would have therefore penetrated just fine. Or you could have used a cheaper semiwadcutter.

Footnote from a discussion on the Bookface: 
"It's my experience that, as velocities go up, Clear Gel results get wonkier due to the difference in the shear characteristics of the two mediums, to the point that at rifle or near-rifle velocities there's no meaningful correlation to be even guessed at. I also try and avoid reading any tea leaves in Clear Gel from where or how quickly the projectile upsets. 

It's easy to draw unnecessary conclusions from the fact that duty handgun rounds that perform well in 10% ordnance gel also tend to perform well in Clear Gel."


Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Busy earlier, but back home.

Range trip this morning. Got the dot sighted in on SECRET REVIEW GUN and did some jello shots for a speculative article (I've never written an article on spec before, so this is untrodden ground for me.)

Also popped a few caps through that little Bond Arms 9x19mm derringer for yuks. More later.


Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Off the virtual shelf...

If you preordered Marko's latest Frontlines novel, it's just hit your Kindle. If you didn't preorder, Orders of Battle is available now.

Insomnia woke me up last night and I found both that and the latest issue of RECOIL on my iPad, which was pretty cool.


Monday, December 07, 2020

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #194...

I'm not going to lie, the Smith & Wesson 1066 just really rings my bells. I mean, it's basically a DA/SA Commander-sized pistol in that connoisseur's carry chambering, 10mm Auto. If those hammer-dropping safeties were converted to rebounding decockers, it'd be well-nigh irresistible.

In a world where I didn't have to worry about things like availability of spare parts & magazines, or being able to find holsters, and where ammo grew on trees, I'd be awfully tempted to holster up this blaster and just walk the earf in search of adventure.


Weekend Writing

Over the weekend I completed a fat, feature-length gun review, a shorter quickie review, and put big dents in a couple of columns, such that I should be able to knock them both out this afternoon without much effort.

That's over three thousand words written on Saturday and Sunday and, unlike fiction, I can't pad that stuff out with dialogue. On the upside, I don't have to think of a plotline, either; just describe yet another black plastic striker-fired pistol in a way that the reader can understand the various details that distinguish it from a hundred other extremely similar pistols.

I'm not an author, just a writer. A 1500+ word day leaves my skull feeling like it's been emptied with a shop vac, even if the actual time spent writing was only a few hours. The stresses of 2020 have not made that any easier.

Apocryphally, Stephen King puts out words at a 2k/day clip, while Hemingway did 500 to 1000. Hats off to that.


No Lie Detected

Sunday, December 06, 2020

LOL Calm Down

I'd be afraid this dude would accidentally strip the threads on cylinder head bolts while listening to talk radio.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The ammo crunch drags on...

It's funny 'cause it's true!

With the need to conserve my own stash of nine, plus needing to ration out 9mm ammo for testing guns for work, my personal .40S&W and .45ACP pistols are fixing to get the cobwebs dusted off for bowling pin games and such.


Douche Move

An old school 4473

I think I've explained the way the firearms tracing system works here in the U.S. before, but just in case you weren't here for that post, I'll do it again.

Say the po-po encounter a "crime gun", either discarded at the scene of the crime or in the possession of a criminal suspect. What they do is contact the National Tracing Center at the BATFE, and initiate a trace on the gun and that goes something like this:

At the scene of a messy and very ballistic turf dispute between some unlicensed pharmaceutical distributors, the cops find a Blastomatic 2000 in a dead guy's hand. They initiate a trace with the National Tracing Center on Blastomatic 2000, serial number 123XYZ.

The BATFE contacts Blastomatic and inquires as to the disposition of that particular serial number. Blastomatic checks their records and tells the feds that it had been shipped to Very Big Wholesale Co., Incorporated, out in Texas. The feds then contact VBWC Inc. and ask about the disposition of 123XYZ.

Very Big Wholesale informs the feds that they shipped the gun to The Gun Rack in McAllen, Texas. So next the feds call The Gun Rack, who checks their bound book and determines that the gun in question was sold to one Jorge Martinez a year ago.

Now the feds contact Mr. Martinez and ask him why the Blastomatic 2000, serial number 123XYZ, which he purchased from The Gun Rack in McAllen, Texas last year was found on the body of a dead gangster.

But Mr. Martinez is genuinely puzzled. He tells the BATFE that he's only ever bought two guns from The Gun Rack: a Mossberg for dove hunting several years ago, and a Smith & Wesson .38 for his wife last year. "Well," say the feds, "That's not the information we have..."

It turns out that the (former) manager of The Gun Rack was adding a few extra guns on the completed 4473's of legitimate customers and then selling those guns out the back door to unspecified criminal baddies. No guns would turn up missing on the books, and since he was the manager, presumably he had enough access to the financials to keep the ruse covered up for a while.

But how many ordinary people got jammed up as suspects before investigators compared notes and realized they were all telling the same story and the nexus was that jackass at The Gun Rack?

Very uncool, dude. Criming is bad enough, but casually framing innocent customers is a super douchetastic thing to do. There should be a heavy sentencing modifier just for that.


Friday, December 04, 2020


The gun reviewing gig ain't all Langdon Berettas and Wilson 1911s...

"So we were playing poker in the Gentleman Loser when some street samurai figured he didn't like the way I was dealing..."

It's silly and impractical and there are literally hundreds of better choices for personal protection, but a stubby little stainless derringer in 9x19mm has an oddball cyberpunk-esque appeal to it.

CineStill 50D

With the sun peeking around the edge of the overcast and the reasonably fast 17-35mm f/2.8L lens, the 50D had a kind of dreamy look to it.

The first picture is the south entrance of the Scottish Rite Cathedral, right where I parked and wrestled with the meter...


The sward in front of the cenotaph has this plaque set in the ground...

Lastly was this shot, walking back toward the cathedral and my car...

I actually like this look, but I still want to see what it looks like in full sun. Hopefully I'll get a chance to take some to Holliday Park on a sunny day.

Thursday, December 03, 2020


As an introvert, straight-up asking someone if I can take their photo is very, very hard. So I've decided that I'm going to cope with the simultaneous onset of my bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder...made doubly bad by 2020 being a 'year without a summer'...and the tail end of the Time of the 'Rona with a new photography project.

Neighbor. Canon EOS-1N, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS, Fujicolor Pro 400h

I'm going to ask people, specifically my neighbors and the people in my neighborhood I see on a regular basis, if they'd mind if I shot an impromptu portrait of them. The hook? I'm shooting film, and if the picture's good I'll print them a 5x7. (If the picture's bad, neither they nor anyone else will see it. If you want people to let you take their photo, always junk the obviously bad ones.)

The Fat Dan's Crew. Canon EOS-1N, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS, Fujicolor Pro 400h

The fact that it's on film makes for a good conversational opener!


Wednesday, December 02, 2020


Fickle Mother Nature

The plaza stretching south between the old Indianapolis public library building and the World War Memorial (built back when there was only the one) is awash in good photographic opportunities, and it's a short walk from Roberts, so I can usually justify a side trip whenever I'm down there.

The headquarters of the American Legion is on the north end of the World War Memorial Plaza, and there, across the street from the library is Cenotaph Square.

I saw that the cloud cover was supposed to be clearing and figured to roll down there for a quick moment and shoot some test exposures of the Memorial and Scottish Rite Cathedral, just to see what the CineStill 50D did.

It was just about the most miserable kind of cold: 33°F with a steady 20-30mph wind gusting through the city's artificial canyons, and 75% humidity to make sure it was a nice, damp, biting wind. I parked on the south side of the cathedral and engaged in a battle with the computerized parking meter long enough that my fingers went thoroughly numb and I was seriously considering the choice between vandalism or a parking ticket.

To put the cherry on the whipped cream of my bad mood sundae, no sooner had I gotten the meter to take my payment than the cloud line advanced back southward, casting the mall into shadow.

Originally intended to hold the remains of America's first combat death of the Great War, the cenotaph is dedicated to all the nation's dead in the '14-'18 War.

Well, dammit, I drove down there down to take some pictures and take pictures I was gonna do. I had a reasonably fast 17-35mm f/2.8L lens on the Elan II, so I gave it a whirl. If they don't turn out, they don't turn out, and I'll at least have learned something.

In the interim, this post has some digital images. I had my work camera along because I have a compact sling bag that I'm trying to optimize for around-town use.

Dulce et Decorum est

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Big Crunch

 Arecibo has fallen.

For scale, that geodesic dome structure you see under the central platform is two stories tall.

Misunderstanding the Job

Jeffrey Sachs is an extremely well-educated dude. Undergrad and grad school at Harvard, faculty gigs at Harvard and Columbia, lots of big-brain consulting work with NGO's and various foreign governments; he's obviously not dumb.

Which is what makes this recent opinion piece of his at CNN a head-scratcher:
Bro, the Supreme Court is not there to rule on whether a law or regulation is scientifically sound or not. It's there to rule on whether something is or is not constitutional. Surely this was covered somewhere in your storied scholastic career?

This is similar to the carping about gun stores and ranges here in Indiana being ruled essential businesses back during the early days of the 'rona. Some pundits were wondering how this could be, since one was no less likely to catch the 'rona at an indoor range than a bowling alley*, or at the corner gun store than they were at, say, Hobby Lobby. Those pundits tended to get all angry and foot-stompy when you pointed out that there was no specifically enumerated right to quilt or go bowling in either the state or federal constitutions.

The bar to infringe on enumerated rights is generally held to be higher than it is on things that aren't specifically mentioned right there in the ground rules. 

If you don't like me getting $200 every time I land on or pass over "GO", you need to write to Hasbro and get them to change the rules on the box top, not complain that the rules are scientifically illiterate.

*Actually, a good indoor range that's pumping in fresh outside air and blowing it downrange at hundreds or thousands of cubic feet per minute is probably one of the safer indoor environments when it comes to not catching other people's cooties.