Thursday, February 29, 2024

That’s a helluva dunk!

The Indiana governor’s office is about to be vacated vis term limits and the junior Hoosier senator is campaigning for it on a platform of being an “outsider”, because that’s a buzzword that plays well with the low-info GOP voter.

Bobbi is not impressed…
[S]top tryin' to buffalo me, buster -- if a Senator is on the outside, there's no inside left.

She’s got him dead to rights on that bit of goofery.


Burst Mode

One of the problems with early DSLRs, especially when shooting in RAW, was the time it took to record image files to the storage device.

Back in 2001, the Nikon high-res D1X pro body would shoot at 3 frames per second, but it filled the buffer with only six RAW (or NEF, in Nikon-speak) frames. A couple years later, the consumer-grade Canon EOS Digital Rebel could nearly equal that frame rate at 2.5 FPS, although it filled its buffer in only four shots and then required a full "five Mississippi" count until the buffer was cleared.

The big revolutionary breakthrough was the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. Released in 2007, it came with a pair of Canon's DIGIC III image processing chips (as opposed to the lone chip found on lesser Canons) and these worked in parallel to allow not only a blistering 10 frames per second max speed, but it took a full thirty RAW files before the buffer finally tapped out and needed time to catch up. If you just wanted to shoot JPEGs, you could hold the shutter button down for a full eleven seconds before the buffer needed a breather. This was a 20% increase in frame rate and a 50% increase in buffer capacity relative to the 1D Mark II it replaced.

The sound of a mirror and shutter working at ten frames a second is noticeable...

Secondhand Lessons

The use of commercially-obtainable data has had a profound impact on the war in Ukraine, and the U.S. military has been paying attention.
"52nd Infantry Division policy at NTC forbids the use of personal cell phones in the division area of operations but we know that soldiers depend heavily on these devices for all manner of personal needs and parting with them is often socially difficult and inadequately enforced. Recently, NTC has begun purchasing the same advertising technology data used by commercial advertisers to track device locations over time. While individual identities remain masked, simple aggregated operational security analysis can quickly reveal which company or battalion is where throughout the area of operations by correlating clusters of devices with unit headquarters locations back at home station. As a recent example, data purchased by NTC showed a cell phone taking a circuitous path across the desert in excess of 120 miles per hour. Analysis of this device correlated it with an attack aviation battalion headquarters at home station. We were then able to determine the exact route an Apache took to evade OPFOR air defense systems because one of the pilots presumably carried an active cell phone in the cockpit."
Click through and read the whole thing. It's fascinating.


Automotif CDLXX...

Here's an '89-'93 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabrio. Back in the early '00s I was idly hoping to maybe get an early 964 Carrera 2 or 4 when they'd depreciated sufficiently, but the bottom of their depreciation curve lasted a mere eyeblink because the water-cooled 996 generation triggered massive nostalgia for the old air-cooled sixes.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #251...

The Walther PD380 isn't exactly a new model. In the auto industry, this is what would be called a "mid-cycle refresh" of the PK380. Not that there's anything wrong with that; Glock's been doing in for something like forty years now.


"Incompetent trust fund failsons"

I've known some bush-league versions of the type of dudes he's referencing...
"As usual, you have to go over to independent media outlets like Defector to find something vaguely resembling the truth: that Vice was run into the ground by a rotating crop of utterly incompetent trust fund failsons who created unrealistic, hype-fueled company valuations, hoovered up exorbitant salaries, implemented numerous incoherent strategy pivots, and set giant piles of money on fire on a rotating crop of increasingly stupid ideas..."
It's a specific GenX/Millennial digital age variety of the Jack Welch-flavored idiocy that has gutted numerous American businesses.



In retrospect, it was probably a rumble of thunder that woke me.

All I know is I was laying awake in bed and the curtains over the window flashed white. I thought that someone must have been in the yard, playing the beam of a flashlight across the house. As I sat up and pulled the curtain aside to peek out, the tornado sirens started going off.

I decided to go wake Bobbi, who turned on the TV, and sure enough we were about to get smacked by a hella strong front, barreling straight for Indy at 55 miles per hour.

The house rattled with hail, like someone was throwing handfuls of pebbles against the walls and windows. Bobbi was like "Okay, if we head for the basement, you grab Holden and I'll get Huck," and for a hot minute that seemed like a possibility, but then the first wave was past us and the weather settled down to a normal, albeit heavy, rain. At least it would have been easy to grab the cats, because when it started blowing outside, they both jumped up on Bobbi's bed, looking for some soothing.

There were at least two more lines that passed over us behind that first one, but neither was anywhere near as dramatic.

Still, I didn't get a lot of sleep between two and five AM...


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Shotgun Rocks

I thought this photo was interesting.

Rifled Foster-type slugs from a semiauto 12ga with some sort of inexpensive folding backup irons, either Magpuls or a knockoff, mounted atop it. Notice the smoke from the muzzle brake and the not-yet-ejected spent shell still traveling rearward visible in the ejection port.

Between the brake, the gas operation, and the inline nature of the stock, the recoil is driving the gun straight to the rear with virtually zero muzzle climb. However, the inertia is also causing the rear folding BUIS to flop rearwards.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Differently Triggered

We live and we learn... Well, hopefully we do. I know people who haven't changed an opinion in years, or even decades. In my most recent column at Shooting Illustrated, I talk about triggers...
"This is going to be another in an intermittent series of columns examining the various topics on which I’ve changed my mind over the last 20 years or so as a result of being hip-deep in the defensive-pistol world.

This particular column is going to be all about triggering people by discussing what I’ve learned about triggers over that time—and why what I thought I knew about triggers before then was wrong, possibly even counterproductive...
I really wish I'd gotten the Model 19-5 onto Denny Reichard's bench before he passed. I suppose I can just swap factory springs back in myself, but it ain't the same.

Casualty Vampires

A writer on the death of Vice:
"I feel like running the very famous and cool brand Vice – especially with how little they paid people – would be a slam dunk self sustaining business if only 45 people at the top doing nothing weren’t making like $19 million a year.

The death of Vice is the same story as the death of every other company in this country. It's a story of extraction of wealth at all costs for the few with malign indifference for the workers who actually gave the thing its (vastly overinflated) value in the first place.
It happens in all kinds of industries now. Buy a thing, slash costs to boost profits, extract as much value as you can, sell off any parts of the organization you think you can make a buck off of & outsource and/or offshore their functions, and if you can't find a buyer for the husk, just toss it. We've seen it happen with everything from Remington to Sports Illustrated. It's happening in slow motion with Boeing right in front of our eyes.


The digital sewers will overflow...

Folks who moderate the comment sections on their blogs should brace for nuisance lawsuits if SCOTUS upholds this.

It'll be lulzy.

Remember, kids, it's either put up with jannies or be hip-deep in literal Nazis.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Currently Reading...

Professor Yamane sent me an advance copy of his forthcoming book, Gun Curious, which will be shipping in June.

I'm enjoying it rather a lot, as he's not only a smart and thoughtful dude, but also a pretty decent writer. I've known more than one PhD who couldn't write their way out of a paper bag when it came to crafting engaging prose, and this book ain't like that.

Anyway, it's available for preorder at BezosMart. Publishers really like pre-orders. You should do that if you want to help him get the word out.

Why you need a quarter (to call someone who cares.)

Ubiquitous (adj.) : existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered : WIDESPREAD
Sam Waterston just appeared on his final episode of Law & Order last Thursday night. Do you know how long he'd been playing the character of Jack McCoy? Well, when he first appeared on the show in the mid-Nineties, detectives Briscoe and Logan still had to pull over and use pay phones to call the precinct.

Pay phones were everywhere, just a part of the landscape. There were banks of them at the airport, and you'd use them to call home to let them know your flight had arrived and you needed a ride. If you were broke and had a bit of larceny in your heart, you'd place a person-to-person collect call to "Homer" and they'd know you were ready to be picked up, saving you that crucial twenty-five cents.

The neighborhood weed dealer would be loitering by the pay phone out in front of the Majik Market waiting for calls from customers so he wouldn't have to talk about that stuff on his own phone line.

Once, when out for a late night walk with a friend, we were drawn to one whose kiosk was glowing hypnotically blue in the muggy Georgia summer night. On jiggling the coin return handle experimentally, it disgorged several bucks worth of silver like a slot machine that had just come up jackpot. We bought sodas and Slim Jims with our windfall and continued our stroll.

Nowadays? They're practically gone. It's an oddity to see a free-standing payphone these days. It's probably safe to say that the majority of Americans under thirty have never used one. I can't remember the last time I did, but it was almost certainly before I finally gave in and got my first cell phone in '03.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Wrong Lens

I almost threw the big 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR lens on the Nikon D3 when I headed out the door for lunch yesterday, but opted to stick with the old 80-200mm f/2.8D push-pull zoom instead.

The latter doesn't have as much reach, but it's lighter and less bulky, and the fast aperture makes it a pretty fair jackleg portrait lens.

So of course I no sooner round the corner at the end of the block than I encounter three squirrels chasing each other all over a tall-ass oak tree.

A 200mm lens on a full-frame camera is long, but not wildlife-photography-long.


Tab Clearing...

  • Basically, nowadays Twitter is just 4chan but with a constant barrage of ads for crypto schemes and janky Chinese consumer goods, except 4chan doesn't keep pestering you to give them eight bucks a month.

  • Flaco the owl's glorious year of freedom has come to a sad ending.

  • Some men just want to watch the world burn.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Muck Raker

I've seen a lot of things in the canal up in Broad Ripple Village proper since I first moved here years ago: bicycles, lawn furniture, a picnic table, ducks, electric scooters, drunk fratbros, Indianapolis Colts punters (but I repeat myself), but this was a first...

The big tracked excavator in the background, the one atop the pile of rock, was scooping up loads of rock and dumping it into this tracked dump truck. (Googling around says this is technically a "crawler carrier" with a "dump chute", I guess?)

The dump truck would then trundle its load along the canal to the other tracked excavator, which would scoop it out and use it to reline the banks. It'd drop a couple scoops and then use its bucket to... WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! ...smoosh the rocks it had just dropped into the bank of the canal.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Automotif CDLXIX...

1956 Ford Thunderbird in what I think is called "Mandarin Orange", a sort of metallic shade lighter and redder than root beer. Alas, I was standing on the Red Line platform as he approached yesterday and this was the best shot I got.


Good plan, GOP.

I was trying to think of something that would poll worse among the general population than "hating Taylor Swift and football", and here comes the Heritage Foundation with "ending recreational sex".

On the Left, their Extremely Online weirdos may have taken over the faculty lounges, but over on the Right, the "Needs to Turn Off Their Computer and Touch Some Frickin' Grass" demographic has hijacked the think tanks and is about to finish conquering the party machinery.

I got news for the Heritage Foundation: The guy who wanted to ban dancing was not the hero of Footloose. It's like these guys are running around finding every 80/20 issue they can and jumping on the 20% side of it with both feet. The problem with segregating yourself into little social media agreeing bubbles is that you end up thinking that the percentage of the voting public made up of Terminally Online dorks with Roman statue profile pics is a lot bigger than it really is.

It's one thing to accidentally step on the occasional rake. It's another thing to go to the store, buy a bunch of rakes, scatter them across your lawn, and run around stomping on them on purpose.

Man, I remember when I took the Heritage Foundation seriously...


"Special Hand-Selected Test Guns..."

Feast your eyes on this front sight installation on an Avidity Arms PD10 and remember this picture the next time someone tells you that reviewers get sent special samples with extra attention paid to QC.

Anyway, the entirety of the text of my review of the PD10 from issue number 37 of RECOIL: Concealment is up on the web right now. It doesn't have all the photos and captions, though. If you want those you gotta go to the newsstand like the good ol' days.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Jog Around the Blogs


Spies Like Us

Russian intel services on the rebound:
"Russian intelligence, though bruised, is firmly back on its feet after its recent humiliations. In recent weeks the Insider, a Riga-based investigative website, has published a series of stories documenting Russian espionage and influence across Europe. They include details of how a GRU officer in Brussels continues to provide European equipment to Russian arms-makers, and the revelation that a top aide in the Bundestag and a Latvian member of the European Parliament were both Russian agents, the latter for perhaps more than 20 years.

“It’s not as bad for them as we think it is,” says Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist, who reckons that the Russian services are “back with a vengeance” and increasingly inventive. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, and once a (mediocre) KGB officer, is “trying to restore the glory of Stalin’s formidable secret service”, explains Mr Soldatov. He points to a case in April 2023 when Artem Uss, a Russian businessman arrested in Milan on suspicion of smuggling American military technology to Russia, was spirited back to Russia with the help of a Serbian criminal gang—a common intermediary for the Russian services.

In the past, says Mr Soldatov, the FSB, SVR and GRU had a clearer division of labour. No longer. All three agencies have been particularly active in recruiting among the flood of exiles who left Russia after the war. It is easy to hide agents in a large group and simple to threaten those with family still in Russia. Germany is of particular concern, given that the many Russians who have moved there could make up a recruiting pool for Russian spy bodies. The flood of new arrivals is thanks in part to Baltic countries having grown more hostile to Russian emigres.
Meanwhile, U.S.-made components are finding their way, via third-party buyers, into North Korean ballistic missiles.

Unseasonably Balmy

We got a brief cold snap with that snow over the weekend, but things here in Indiana have returned now to our previously-scheduled weather, namely one of the warmest Hoosier Februaries on record.

Today's predicted high of 64°F will be a few degrees shy of the record for the day, which was 69°F back in 2018, but I'll take it.

I could use a good, long walk under sunny skies. Maybe touch some grass while I'm out there.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Meme Dump

("Actually, unless it comes from the Tank region of France, it's just a sparkling armored fighting vehicle.")

"Four out of five dentists agree. The fifth is on Joe Rogan warning us about the conspiracy behind Big Floss." 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Generation Gap

Sitting next to me at the bar yesterday was a dude out with his parents celebrating his 21st birthday.

Guy was a student at IU in Bloomington... twenty-one years old would be, what? Junior year of undergrad? ...and was mentioning to his parents how he'd recently found not having a driver's license to be inconvenient a few times.

My mind was blown.

I knew the trend of getting driver's licenses later had started with the younger end of the Millennial Generation, but Zoomers are taking it to extremes that seem unimaginable to this GenX'er. My social life was positively stunted by my folks holding off on letting me get my driver's license until early in my senior year of high school, bare months shy of me turning 18 and presenting them with a fait accompli by getting it on my own stick. By the time I was twenty-one I'd owned probably five cars...and two motorcycles.


Halfway Back to the Future

On newsstands right now is RECOIL Concealment issue no. 37, which contains my review of Springfield Armory's Emissary pistol.

I liked it, but that's not much of a surprise. I think Springfield Armory is still, on average, your best value for the money in an off-the-shelf 1911 maker if you're not going to spend Dan Wesson or Wilson Combat money.

One thing I did find puzzling about the Emissary though was that, despite the very Current Year machining and modern touches like the slim G10 grips, light rail, and bull barrel, they didn't ship it with an optics cut. If I scrape up the dough to buy the test gun, which I'm trying to figure out how to do, I'm going to have it cut to take a Trijicon RMRcc.

If you're gonna go all future-y, go all the way future-y.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Social Media Wisdom

Before you take someone's opinions seriously enough to have an internet argument with them, research their online corpus to ensure they're worth taking seriously in the first place.


/me looks out window at snow on ground

/me goes back to bed

Friday, February 16, 2024

"I'm not lost, I live here."

The bartender at Fat Dan's Chicago Style Deli, photographed with the Samsung TL500. I was shooting in Program mode with the ISO set to Auto, and the camera picked ISO 200 and 1/30th at f/2.3, thereby illustrating the advantages of the lovely, fast Schneider-Kreuznach glass (most pocket cameras will only open up to f/2.8 or so at their widest; the TL500 will go all the way to f/1.8 if necessary) and Samsung's optical image stabilization.

His shirt touts Rocky Ripple, an eclectic little urban village nearby. Nestled behind levees on a floodplain island between the White River and the canal, Rocky Ripple is only accessible by two road bridges over the canal and its denizens often sport bumper stickers on their cars that read "I'm not lost, I live here."


Who didn't see this one coming?

"Aleksei A. Navalny, the most outspoken domestic critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, has died in prison, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said on Friday.

It said that Mr. Navalny, 47, had lost consciousness after taking a walk in the Arctic prison where he was moved late last year.
I'm guessing that, due to the lack of ninth floor windows in the gulag, they decided to just novichok his breakfast gruel.


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Gray Man Fail

"There’s a saying that “all costumes fall apart at the shoes,” and it’s largely true. Next Halloween or costume party, give it a try for yourself: cowboys with Converse and pilgrims with Pumas. Footwear, sunglasses, watches, and other daily wear rarely changes on a whim. Fit can be very personal, and people tend to stick to what they like.

And even if you don’t know much about shoes, many out there do. Salespeople, in particular, are more class-conscious, using watches and shoes to determine if someone is a “good fit” (more or less likely to purchase a product). There are endless Facebook groups and forums that obsess over every aspect of personal items, taking the time to identify and psychoanalyze the choices of others in some form of fashion phrenology.
Those 5.11 ATACs match a Hawaiian shirt about as well as white sidewalls and Oakleys go with tie-dye, Joe Friday.

"Nobody knows I'm armed!"
Photo by Oleg Volk

People Pics

Although it's not marketed that way, Canon's EF 24-105mm f/4L IS zoom lens is not terrible for portraits.

Especially on the older pro bodies with the APS-H sensors, the 1.3X crop factor means your effective focal length range of 31-136mm encloses the trinity of standard portrait focal lengths: 85mm, 105mm, and 135mm. (Here's me lamenting again that Canon abandoned the APS-H sensor size with the launch of the EOS-1D X.)

While f/4 isn't a screamingly fast aperture, it's big enough to get a reasonable amount of subject separation from the background. You're not going to blow the surroundings out in a creamy blur of bokeh, but at the same time you won't be worrying as much about not having enough depth of field to get both eyes in focus, either, so there's that.

Half everyone's dumber than average.

Via the NYT, we hear of this Monmouth University poll:
"Just under 1 in 5 Americans believe the singer Taylor Swift is part of a covert effort to help President Joe Biden win the 2024 election.


Just under half (46%) of the American public has heard something about Swift being part of a supposed covert government effort to help Biden win the 2024 presidential election. Just under 1 in 5 Americans (18%) believe such a conspiracy involving Swift exists.
"Wow," you say, "That's crazy!" Except it's not really that out of line with overall numbers in a land where better than one in ten agreed with the statement "The moon landings were faked" and less than six in ten agreed with "Humans evolved".

I mean, the New York Times is wringing its hands about one in five people believing in this moronic TaySway conspiracy only a few thin sheets of newsprint away from where it prints the frickin' horoscope!

We are a fundamentally unserious people, and one in five of your neighbors, at minimum, is a credulous moron.


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Automotif CDLXVIII...

Dating this Azure Blue Firemist Cadillac Coupe DeVille (EDIT: Looking more closely at the trim, this appears to actually be a ritzier Fleetwood Brougham Coupe) is made easy by the fender badge, which denotes that it had Caddy's V-4-6-8 engine.

While cylinder deactivation isn't especially uncommon now, it was pretty radical back in the days when really powerful computers still had their memory measured in kilobytes.

The 1980 Caddies had been using the 368 cubic inch L61 V-8, which was the older 425 cube motor with the bore reduced to 3.8 inches. The stroke was left at 4.06", which made for an undersquare tractor motor that got better gas mileage. It was fuel-injected on the front wheel drive Eldos and Sevilles, but the RWD bodies still used Rochester Quadrajet carbs.

For 1981, Cadillac added a complicated cylinder deactivation system that would use solenoids to lock the rocker arms on the deactivated cylinders, creating the 140bhp L62 V4-6-8. Now using throttle body injection on all models, it would theoretically use all eight cylinders for accelerating, six for normal around-town driving, and only fire on four cylinders for interstate cruising.

It was a public relations nightmare, received thirteen programming upgrades in its sole model year of retail sales, and would probably be remembered as the crappiest artifact of the Malaise Era if it weren't for the fact that Oldsmobile's 350 Rocket Diesel hadn't been an even bigger disaster.

Fortunately, the whole system could be disabled by disconnecting a single wire, which this one has almost certainly had done since the driver does not appear to be shedding tears of impotent rage.


Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #250...

At the range the other day getting red dots dialed in. That 509 Edge longboi shoots like a laser, and if you went back to 1996 and showed me that FN Reflex with the enclosed emitter Holosun EPS Carry and a tiny five hundred lumen Streamlight TLR 7 Sub, and then popped out the magazine with eleven witness holes, I'd have thought it was some kind of sci-fi space magic.


Well... bye.

Back in Atlanta, when I'd hear someone going on about how much better things were back in whatever city they'd moved there from... and Atlanta is a veritable city of transplants standard response was that old airline advertising slogan: "Delta is ready when you are."

In that spirit...

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

u mad bro?

Apparently that whole "boycotting the NFL" thing isn't working very well.
"This year's Super Bowl was watched by an average of 123.4 million people in the US, making it the most watched broadcast since the 1969 Moon landing.

Preliminary US TV ratings put Sunday's game just behind Apollo 11's historic landing, which was seen by an estimated 125 to 150 million people.

Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime.
Alas, however, the claims that a Chiefs victory would spare us having to watch the increasingly pathetic spiraling career flameout of Tucker Carlson seem to have been entirely bogus and based on a post from a satire account on the ex-Birdsite.


Monday, February 12, 2024

Legit LOL'ed...

Ken White was on fire last night...

Dust Bowl

In 1936, The Atlantic published a series of letters from a woman in Oklahoma to her friend who had given up on farming out west and had decamped for her home turf in Delmarva.
"Since I wrote to you, we have had several bad days of wind and dust. On the worst one recently, old sheets stretched over door and window openings, and sprayed with kerosene, quickly became black and helped a little to keep down the irritating dust in our living rooms. Nothing that you see or hear or read will be likely to exaggerate the physical discomfort or material losses due to these storms. Less emphasis is usually given to the mental effect, the confusion of mind resulting from the overthrow of all plans for improvement or normal farm work, and the difficulty of making other plans, even in a tentative way. To give just one specific example: the paint has been literally scoured from our buildings by the storms of this and previous years; we should by all means try to 'save the surface'; but who knows when we might safely undertake such a project? The pleasantest morning may be a prelude to an afternoon when the 'dust devils' all unite in one hideous onslaught. The combination of fresh paint with a real dust storm is not pleasing to contemplate.

The prospects for a wheat crop in 1936 still remain extremely doubtful. There has been no moisture of any kind since the light snow of early January...
Now I have a hankering to re-read The Worst Hard Time, which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Automotif CDLXVII...

Hyundai's made several runs at producing an inexpensive sporty coupe. The first one, back in the early Nineties, was the Excel-based Scoupe. The Scoupe (or S-Coupe) was an attempt at making their dull entry-level econobox more appealing to youthful buyers by giving it a sportier roofline. It's largely forgotten today and for good reason, as it was an utterly forgettable car.

Next up came the Tiburon, which is Spanish for "shark". The first generation debuted in the '97 model year and had a unique, swoopy body and your choice of 1.8L or 2.0L four-cylinder engines.

The second generation of the Tiburon, like the one in the photo, launched as a 2003 model and came either as a base 2.0L coupe, or in GT form with a 172bhp 2.7L V-6.

Given a mid-cycle styling refresh in 2007, the car fizzled out only a couple years later. After a couple year hiatus, Hyundai tried again in the early 'Teens with the Veloster, but that's a tale for a different day.


Friday, February 09, 2024

A Jog Around the Blogs


Snap Softener

The ostensible purpose of yesterday's range trip was to get the Trijicon optics dialed in on the FN 509's, but on the way out the door I tossed the Smith & Wesson Model 639 into the case as well, since I hadn't fired it yet.

I'd forgotten how much 9mm recoil a two-and-a-quarter pound all-stainless pistol soaks up. This is a very soft-shooting handgun. I'd also forgotten how the stainless front sight, machined integrally with the slide, disappears against light-colored targets.

I let my friend Michael pop off a few mags, too, and managed to get at least one decent action photo!

Less-Than-Special Sauce

The .44 Special cartridge debuted with the large frame Hand Ejector revolvers at the start of the previous century.

It was a hot-rodded version of the existing .44 Russian cartridge, and used a longer cartridge case so to avoid being chambered in the old top-break No.3 Smiths, in much the same way that .32 S&W Long had been stretched so as not to be used in older .32 top-breaks.

The natural home for the new round was a big N-frame with a 6.5" barrel, like the one at the top in the photo above. In those hoglegs, it lobbed a fairly heavy 246gr lead round-nosed projectile at velocities on the north side of 750 feet per second.

With the coming of the .44 Magnum, though, the old Special largely fell out of favor and is now mostly found in one of two settings. The first is cowboy action shooters who just gotta be different from the .45 Colt majority and are perfectly happy shooting 246gr LRN bullets in their single action sixguns.

The other setting is big-bore snubbies on medium frames, a fad that started with the Charter Arms Bulldog, but has since been riffed on by Rossi, Taurus, and Smith & Wesson.

Shooting heavy, unjacketed projectiles in these smaller pieces tends to turn them into kinetic bullet pullers, especially the lightweight models. In fact, the aluminum-framed and titanium-cylindered Smith & Wesson Model 296Ti, bottom center in the above photo, goes so far as to mark "MAX. BULLET 200 GRAIN" right there on the side of the barrel.

There are a few 200gr loads I'd carry without much in the way of worry: Speer's 200gr Gold Dot would be my first choice, but I wouldn't lose sleep if all I had was 200gr Federal LSWC-HP or 200gr Winchester Silvertips.

I dunno about the Hornady Critical Defense, though. It uses a 165gr version of their FTX Flex-Tip hollow point, and clocks over 900fps out of my Model 296. Thing is, Hornady's own ad copy says it'll only penetrate ten inches of ordnance gel after defeating 4LD. And against bare gel? Well, it expands beautifully but bleeds off a lot of penetration in the process, barely making it eight inches into the gel block. That's pretty underwhelming performance for a big-bore revolver cartridge.

Remember, bullet placement is three dimensional!


Thursday, February 08, 2024

And so it goes...

Mojo Nixon is with the King now.

...until it is.

So on the Bookface the other day, several of the self-identified "Old Timers" got ahold of the phrase "It's bullet placement" as though it were some ideal rebuttal to everything from the importance of projectile design to the necessity of fast and accurate shooting.

I really hate the way that aphorisms replace thinking when it comes to personal protection. It's like the term "combat mindset". I've heard dudes at the local range talking about how they'll be fine should they ever have to yank out a handgun because they have some special mindset, when I know for a fact that they couldn't hit a barn from the inside with the door closed if you gave them all day to do it because I've seen them shoot. 

Just saying "it's bullet placement" doesn't actually, you know, place the bullet.

Further, using statements like "it's bullet placement" when used to pooh-pooh thoughtfulness in ammunition selection completely ignores the fact that bullet placement is three-dimensional. To take it to the reductio ad absurdum, it doesn't do you any good to place a bullet right in the dude's snotbox if it only penetrates a half inch.

John Hearne explaining that bullet placement is three dimensional

Marty Hayes, a well-known retired firearms trainer, mentioned that he had hosted the famous Jim Cirillo, victor of numerous gunfights, and that Cirillo's mantra was "use of cover and shot placement". That is true, as far as it goes! Yet in Cirillo's own book, Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights, he spent twenty-five pages... roughly a quarter of the book ...nerding out over bullet design and the various projectiles he'd helped develop to reduce the likelihood of round-nosed lead and FMJ bullets skidding off the curved bone structure of ribs and skulls.

Resist the urge to think about this stuff like it came out of a Chinese fortune cookie, that there's one magic concept, such as "combat mindset", "bullet placement", a "fast draw", or whatever, that's going to save the day.

No single aspect of this stuff is important by itself... until it is.

I love .44 Special... unless it's a 165gr FTX hollow point that only penetrates 8" or so.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

People in My Neighborhood

My Fujifilm kit has been missing a dedicated portrait lens. I fixed that.

Fuji X-T2 & XF 50mm f/2 R WR

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Meme Dump

Glamour Pigeon

I'm no ornithologist, but I think this is a mourning dove, which is essentially a shyer, more tastefully-dressed pigeon with a good diet and better public relations.

Snapped with an Olympus E-5 wearing a Panasonic Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm f/3.5-5.6, which is a great all-purpose walking around lens on the Oly Four Thirds DSLR bodies. Alas, the lens hoods for these long-discontinued superzooms remain unobtainum.


Way Too Much Information

Didn't we kill an awful lot of redcoats specifically to ensure that I wouldn't have to endure television newspeople telling me the condition of the king of England's junk before the breakfast hour?

I realize that RAF Typhoons are doing yeoman's work helping us bomb Houthi launch sites further back into the stone age right now, but if splashing a couple of them in an egregious blue-on-blue incident would get the talk of the royal package off my morning TV news, I'd be at least moderately in favor of it.


Monday, February 05, 2024


I was today years old when I learned the source of the term "jerkwater town".

Original steam locomotives could only go a fairly short distance before needing to replenish their water supply. The solution was to add a "tender car" behind the locomotive that carried additional fuel and water (there was a water tank under the wood or coal you see piled in the car behind the locomotive in old western movies.)

Even so, that only stretched the range to maybe a hundred and fifty miles or so between top-ups. Out in the west, this might not be far enough to get you to the next station, so the railroads built fuel and water stops at regular intervals along their routes where the locomotive could top up its tender. You've seen those water towers with the long spout that the engineer could jerk out over the tender to dump water into its tank, right?

Little hamlets would often spring up around these fuel & water stops, even though they didn't have an actual train station...


Trail's End

Here are the keepers from my last stroll with the Nikon D1X, wearing the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED AF-S zoom lens...

This was shot at ISO 800 indoors, available light with the 17-55/2.8 wide open.

Always a Student

Yesterday afternoon Bobbi had to run an errand, so I rode along and while we were out, her car swung into the parking lot of Half Price Books as though on autopilot. 

While I'm not what you'd call a professional photographer, I have been paid for a picture or two at this point, and I've learned along the way. Mostly what I've learned is how much more there is to learn. That's the flip side of Dunning-Kruger: once you fall off the other side of Mount Stupid, you have an endlessly long slog up the Slope of Knowledge out of the Valley of Despair.

That goes for any skill. Greg Ellifritz is a widely respected trainer in the world of firearms and personal protection, and he writes:
"I think it is the job of a professional instructor to remain up to date in their fields of endeavor. I won’t stop taking classes as long as I am teaching these skill sets. I vow to never become one of those instructors whose peak instructional training is a weekend NRA class.

I think I owe it to my students to show them that I am continuing to do the work.
One of the meta-instructive things at a group event like TacCon or the old Paul-E-Palooza was you got to see which instructors were out there taking classes from other presenters in their free time. When someone decides they're too cool to learn anything new, it makes me question the value of their teaching.