Saturday, May 15, 2010

On Cognitive Bias.

Or, you aren't as rational as you think you are. Digging around on Schneier on Security (you'll note that he made the blogroll...), I found a depressing fascinating essay on perception of risk. Elsewhere on his site, he seems to be an outspoken critic of TSA-style Security Theater. Mostly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Laphroaig 10 Year.

It's like Lapsang Souchong - with alcohol!

Or: oh, so Scotch is awesome.

My first attempt at scotch (inspired by Art of Manliness) was a bottle of Glenfiddich 12-year. While certainly not distasteful (I did finish it, after all), it lacked the one thing that people mention whenever you say "scotch" - smokiness! If anything, it had an intense pear overtone that subsided as I worked my way through the bottle. Wharrgarbl, indeed. I suppose switching to Laphroaig would be like complaining about the lack of strong flavors in Trumer Pils and trying Arrogant Bastard instead.

Friday, April 30, 2010

That explains a lot.

One of my (many, many) takeaways from this year's Aim Fast, Hit Fast was an explanation for why I never seem to bungle the slidelock manipulation on an emergency reload. (The whole getting-the-mag-in-the-gun bit is another can of worms entirely.)

It turns out that proper procedure (assuming the gun is configured in a manner that allows it) is to ride the thumb on the slidelock lever during the reload. When you slam a new magazine home, the gun will bump upwards into your thumb, depressing the lever at exactly the right time, every time. Satisfaction!

Actually, it hung me up worse at first to find out what was going on, as I accidentally manipulated the lever several times trying to consciously reproduce the effect. But damn if it doesn't work extremely well. Unfortunately the 1911 jockeys are SOL (unless you've desecrated your gun with an extended slide release, in which case I can't help your immortal soul).

On Simple Pleasures.

Recipe for contentment:

5.11 XPRT Patrol boots, Black (1 pair)*
1 can, Kiwi Black
1 Old dishrag
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on Netflix Instant Watch**
Guide to polishing boots (this one is the best I've run into so far)

GitS is damn good - both movies, and both seasons of Stand Alone Complex. Both from an aesthetic standpoint - I suppose the best way to describe SAC would be "post-Blade Runner" - and from a thematic one, GitS stays engaging. The movies do bog down in philosophizing a bit, but usually by the time you process what they're saying a crateful of Seburo firearms show up.

I realize that I spoke ill of the English voicework in GitS:SAC, and I was quite premature. That said, the characterization does seem to change subtly in each dub - the Japanese one is more meditative and subdued, while the English version is a good deal more forthright at times. (For instance, watch the Laughing Man's final scene with Kusanagi back to back with either one.)

Furthermore, GitS:SAC nails the 2D/3D hybrid style that a lot of Anime seems to be going to. Occasionally you'll see a flat 2D frame pivoting in a 3D space (think Doom, or better Doomsday) but generally the use of a high detail cel-shaded style for the 3D blends perfectly. Actually, between this and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie it seems that the good studios have got this covered. (The series had some egregious O HAY SHINY STUFFS moments.)

Speaking of Cowboy Bebop, GitS features a spectacular Yoko Kanno soundtrack.




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* This consitutes an unpaid endorsement. LA Police Gear had 'em on sale, and instead of another pair of ATACs I got the top-of-the-line model for the same price. If there's a level of comfort in footwear that qualifies as obscene, this is a good starting point.
** Though as of 5/1, as Inspector Clouseau would say, "not anymore."

Friday, April 23, 2010

On The Böker Sublaw.

Ever since I read the Mercop review, I wanted a Subclaw. Actually, that's not entirely true. After reading that review, I wanted a grab n' stab sort of backup blade, and a fixed blade in a sheath on the belt line (a la clinch pick) seemed just the ticket. California's surprisingly reasonable* knife laws require fixed blades to be carried openly, however, and that ruled out the La Griffe or Ka-Bar's attractive TDI line (which, incidentally, includes a training variant).

I ordered the knife, rather painlessly, from KnivesPlus, at the entirely acceptable price point of $25.97. (The usual absurd knife manufacturer markup of 70% or more seems to be intact.)

Cold Steel Ti-Lite (4" Blade); Böker Sublaw (1 7/8" Blade)

She's actually a bit bigger than I anticipated. While being wispy thin, the blade and grip are quite tall, which makes for a surprisingly comfortable grip. The beefy clip is held in place by a trio of Torx screws and is reversible. Unlike the Ti-Lite, it didn't loosen noticeably within the first week of carry. A lanyard hole is included. Also unlike the Ti-Lite, the thumb stud is duplicated on both sides and doesn't seem screwed in. The Ti-Lite's Torx screw also loosened up after about a year and a half; loctiting the screw to the stud produced a usable stud that seemed to stay put while rotating in place, which is unnerving. Hopefully the Subclaw's stud is a bit more durable.

Fox Labs 2oz Cop-Top, SIG P226/.40, Cold Steel Ti-Lite, Böker Sublaw, Surefire 6P LED, Tactical Polymer Coffee Ring Mitigation System (5.5" model)

Unlike other openers, I've yet to find a way to snap the 'claw open rapidly; riding the stud out to full lock seems to be the only way to run it. (Of course, it took me a year to figure out how to snap the Ti-Lite's thumb stud, so...) The clip seems to hold on tightly. Clipped to the inside of a waistband at 1 o'clock, it'll stay put all day. Deployment, after some practice, is smooth, but not nearly as fast as a strongside pocket clip. I guess some more practice is in order.

The blade, in AUS8, shipped in "disturbingly sharp" condition, and I'm all too happy about that. Actually, it's sharp enough that I'm hesitant to use the knife, lest I fail to return it to factory condition. On the Ti-Lite, AUS8 seems to produce a shaving sharp edge that will last a few days under moderate use. (I just found out that stropping the hell out of the blade with the rough backing of a leather belt does wonders for edge quality.)

So far, I'm impressed, as well as lacerated - that hawkbill blade is nasty! The combination of an aggressive point and a shaving-sharp edge with some bite really cuts deep. For the price point, the Subclaw seems to be a worthwhile investment.

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* Despite most, if not all, of California weapon laws being utter bunk - at least we know the legislature wants to protect the people from air gauge knives and shobi-zues, whatever the hell those are - all folders, other than switchblades, can be carried anywhere not otherwise prohibited. Fixed blades must be carried openly, which doesn't entirely make sense, but there's not length limit, either. Sticking a cavalry saber down your pants leg is bad juju, while wearing one on a Sam Browne belt is a-ok.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Observation.

So I was ruminating about Avatar at work the other day (I suspect Red Letter Media is to blame) and I had a bit of a revelation.

Of course early peoples* were in perfect harmony with nature. If you aren't in perfect harmony with nature, you starve to death (or get eaten, or poisoned, or whatever). The only way your bodily functions can continue working while you are not in perfect harmony is a societal support structure. Early agriculture-based societies could be slightly less in harmony with nature, because they maintained a reserve of food, and had a bit more protection from the elements. Today, we're not in tune with nature because, except for major natural disasters, it bloody well isn't necessary for daily life. The dirty hippies tend to ignore the fact that they can willingly choose to be 'more in harmony with nature' because of societal supports.

Combine this with a very interesting study about interpersonal violence, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau can officially suck it.

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* I was tempted to use "First Peoples," if only to needle Evergreen State College's "First Victims Club." On further consideration, that takes things down the long, dark road of unfortunate implications.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Toys vs. Money.

Among the various detritus useful tools in my range bag is the Amazing $35 Screwdriver, which is the proper size not only for SIG grip screws but also the Ruger 10/22 takedown screw and Mosin Nagant stock screws.

Poking through Oleg Volk's archives, I find the same thing, only keychain sized.  It's awesome and redundant, yet redundant.  I could buy three boxes of ammo or three bricks of .22 for that.

I also see that JG Sales got a truckload of police surplus S&W revolvers in .38spl, which I also don't need, strictly speaking, but are mighty appealing at the listed prices, especially since a decent revolver* has been on the wish list for a while.

I dumped a box through a Mod. 66 today, and can report a few salient points:

 - Shooting a S&W DA revolver quickly and accurately is a snap.  In fact, I seem to be able to better at speed with one.  Them triggers is smooth.  Furthermore, target sights with a red front sight insert work quite well.

- While I had no training cross-over issues with a Springfield Government model or a Glock 17, A DA Smith seems to lock up the trigger when not fully reset.  Given that my go-to gun is a DA/SA P226, muscle memory was not working in my favor.  Gnashing of teeth and cursing (under a time limit, no less) followed. 

- Compared with modern Pachmayr or Uncle Mike's grips, Magnas are prettier, but frickin' cramped when shooting modern isoceles.  They feel a lot more natural when shooting one handed.

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* Made after the 19th century, in a caliber I can buy at Big 5, and can run hard without feeling guilty and still get parts for when something breaks.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Urban Camouflage.

So apparently there's all sorts of weapons floating around in plain sight. Here's a handy field guide.

(Apparently it's possible to laugh so hard your lower back starts hurting. You learn something every day.)

h/t Robb.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On the Ruger Money Pit.

Err, 10/22.

I'm sure y'all know Volquartsen makes a lot of very shiny drop-in parts for the 10/22, many of which individually cost more than a brand-new 10/22 on special. Three that don't cost an arm and a leg are the target hammer, the auto bolt release, and the precision edge extractor, which together cost less than $60 at Midway.

The target hammer claims to reduce the trigger pull weight down to 2 1/2 lbs. I don't have any way of confirming that number, but this one drop-in part takes the trigger from serviceable straight to scary light - best one in the safe. Hell, I'd be inclined to put a pound back in the pull weight - you know the trigger is light when you're used to prepping the hell out of it and it goes off way too early.* The only problem is that the amount of creep remains the same, so I might be dropping the scratch for one of those triggers with the overtravel screw. Herein lies the money pit.

The auto bolt release...works as advertised. Nothing much to report, except that it's a hair more convenient than the usual manual set-up. And since Midway was temporarily out of the black, I got the stainless, which actually sets off nicely from the plastic polymer trigger pack Ruger now puts on these things.

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* That's how I realized I was prepping on my P226, actually. I traded a few mags on the 226 for a few mags on his customized 5" XD, with a 2lb trigger. When shooting plates at 20 yards, I'd get in the general area of the target, then start refining my sight pict- *bang* fucking hell!

Monday, February 1, 2010

On Earworms, Part N.

I watched District B13 the other day, and as long as you don't make the mistake of bringing your higher reasoning functions along, it delivers - David Belle and Cyril Rafaelli do their own stunts (and holy crap are they impressive), stuff gets shot and occasionally explodes, and generally a good time is had.

The most dangerous part of the package is the theme that goes over the opening crawl. It could be the worst earworm ever. Bone-dry filtered industrial hip-hop beats are catchy, but you can't even hum them. It's like an itch you can't scratch.

Edit: Oh, and it gets worse.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On Dawson Front Sights.

I finally knocked the Big Dots out of the 226 and replaced them with the factory rear (blacked out - with a dry erase marker, because I'm terrified of commitment and all) and a Dawson Precision front sight, .130 wide, with the red fiber optic insert.

40 50* bucks and a slightly terrifying fitting session later, I can give these sights the thumbs-up. It's not so much that I get more precision out of them - rather, I feel like I'm working a lot less to get the hits. With the Big Dots, I was trying to hit the target, but there was a fucking golf ball in the way that I kept trying to see around. With the Dawson, there's a neatly-defined post with an attention-whoring red dot in the middle, and plenty of airspace on either side to reference with (this sight being about a third skinnier than stock). It's a big indicator which positively screams "boolits go here!" This is precisely the goddamned point. The only problem is that they're not night dots. YMMV, but if you can't see the sights, you probably have a flashlight out, and using the FBI method conveniently illuminates the suckers.

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* Nothing like realizing that your sight needs to be fitted with a dovetail file. On one hand, that's another week waiting for it to arrive from Missouri, but on the other hand I now have an awesome new file to butcher sights with! Time to install that funky Mojo front sight...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Pilsner Urquell.

Somewhere along the way my taste buds stopped being stupid. Consider that it's been a good six months at least since my last PU, a problem since rectified (Lucky's tends to have excellent deals on excellent beer - Lagunitas IPA for $1.17 a hit, anyone?). And damn if it isn't a bright, crisp, surprisingly full-bodied lager. When yellow beer fills the "post-gun cleaning movie and snack" slot, it must be pretty solid.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On Crappy Ammo.

Note to self: if it looks like it was hammered together by a Hungarian goat farmer, it will probably perform accordingly.

Where to begin? How about three outright duds out of 40, and about as many hangfires (being able to hear the striker drop independently of the muzzle either means you're perceiving the world at 20,000 frames per second, or your ammo really, really sucks). On the other hand, it makes calling your trigger press easier.

At least I have some Polish light ball, which is really fine stuff, and actually looks like something a proper ammunition factory would turn out.

Which leaves me sitting on two boxes of Hotshot-brand 7.62x54r JSP noisemaker cartridges. Ah, well, time to burn some powder. Just wish I had an empty field and some watermelons or something, since they're worthless on a square range.

On Sky Captain.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is the kind of movie that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. We need more movies like this. You don't go expecting high drama, deep characterization, or even nail-biting suspense (though the latter is a nice bonus) - you go to see a style exercise that ramps up the absurdity with each passing scene. In fact, Gwynneth Paltrow's character lampshades this subtly with her camera. The CGI is noticeable at times - a bit too shiny, or a character is 'threatened' by barely believable greenscreen peril - but there's enough hot, buttered dieselpunk awesome layered on to make you forgive it. Anything's forgiveable with a .38 Webley, a Q-Branchified P-40 Warhawk, and a flying aircraft carrier. And a bubble ray gun.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Caseless Ammunition.

I saw that the M249 was a featured article. This got me thinking, and nothing good can come of that.

A SAW would be a perfect application for caseless ammunition. Think about it -
  • From an open bolt, cook-off is a non-issue.
  • One of the main advantages of caseless ammo is weight, which translates to more rounds the pound. Given that a SAW is used for suppressive fire, this is a big bonus.
  • If desired, positively loopy rates of fire can be achieved.
Disadvantages:
  • If the cook-off issue cannot be conclusively resolved (according to the folks at HKPRO, who are entirely unbiased when it comes to Heckler & Koch's R&D projects, it was), chambering a rifle in the same caliber becomes less attractive, as it would have to be open-bolt.
  • If the rather small caliber (4.73x33) of the G11 was due to a technical limitation of caseless ammo, muzzle energy would be on the anemic side.
  • Ammunition is more fragile - unless it's kept in 'ammo cassettes' or somesuch and sealed until loading, you'd have bits of propellant getting shaved off whenever it's handled.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Star Wars.

I had a sudden urge to re-watch the original trilogy a few weeks ago. I'm sure MattG is responsible, or at least brought it to the surface.

George Lucas can, or at least could, assemble a rollicking good adventure. Plus, it's rare to see a sci-fi world that at least feels* coherent and lived-in, something that Star Trek only sometimes succeeded at. The world was a great deal more interesting than the main plot arc, to my mind. Han Solo's galaxy, with the smugglers, crime lords, and general scum and villainy, beat the pants off the usual science-fantasy trappings. (Perhaps the unusually high gun porn quotient** helps mask issues.) In fact, David Brin lays the smack down on Star Wars in an epic sort of way over at Salon (of all places). At the same time, he compares Trek favorably, which is worth some consideration.

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* Read: Please ignore the fridge logic.
** A goodly number of prop-converted firearms were actual live (or at least blank-firing) weapons. Blanks are visible in several scenes if you look hard enough - the detention block break-out has a few, and you can see a few 7.62x25 Mauser cases flying when Han engages Darth Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back. Supposedly, this was done so the art guys knew where to insert blaster effects, though they insert plenty elsewhere.

It's Funny.

Those $229 rifles turn into $500 projects.

Or: Some part of the Mosin-Ammo-Shooter loop isn't working well enough for me to be comfortable with that setup at Appleseed. I'm pretty sure which one it is, but removing the blast and recoil will confirm my suspicions.*

Or: I finally got a 10/22. Since I have to wait another nine days for delivery, I guess I'll have to commit suicide or go on a rampage with one I already have. (Seriously, the waiting period only makes sense with first-time buyers. So could I present evidence of firearms ownership and get around it?)

Or: Time to stockpile .22. The dude at Big5 warned that I would probably blow an entire brick the first day I got it. In nine days, a fatwa's going out on index cards.

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* That said, I endorse the hell out of Limbsaver slip-on pads. The 'small' size fits an M38 stock perfectly, and turns the rather exuberant jolt of 7.62x54r into a pleasant push. Even if the squishy rubber makes the whole assembly look like a round air scrubber duct-taped onto a square one.