Monday, December 31, 2018

New Rear Sight for my Hawken Rifle

Several years ago I bought a Cabela's Traditional Hawken rifle in .50 caliber. It isn't a faithful copy of the real Hawken rifles of the 19th Century, but nevertheless, it's a well made and nice shooting gun. It's more or less a variant of the Lyman Trade Rifle, but fitted with a cap box on the stock and double set trigger. Also, unlike the Lyman, it was available with a left handed stock and lock. Both the Lyman and Cabela's rifles were made by Investarms in Italy.

One thing I did not like about the rifle was the sights. The rear sight, in particular, was a poor design. The adjustable rear notch was a wide open "V". IIRC, the Lymans's have rear sights that are dovetailed in, which makes replacement with a fixed but better sight easy. Unfortunately, the Cabela's rear sight was held on with two screws and nobody made a good replacement.

So, I decided to install a Lyman Model 66SML aperture sight, made for the Lyman Great Plains Rifle, Trade Rifle, sidelock Thompson-Centers, and similar rifles.

The Model 66SML is mounted on the tang with two screws. It uses the rear wood screw which goes through the tang into the stock, plus an 8-32 screw into the metal of the tang. The tang on my rifle wasn't drilled and tapped so I did that today.

Using a #29 drill on the tang:

Before drilling the hole, I located it by mounting the sight on the tang and marking the spot with a transfer punch. I then dismounted the tang from the rifle and used a pilot drill to ensure the #29 drill wouldn't skip. Only then did I put the twist bit in the chuck.

I then tapped the hole with 8-32 threads. I used #3 Morse taper lathe center held in the mill's head to guide the tap so it started off straight:

I used a little Tap Magic on the tap, but I could probably have done it dry with no problems. OTH, there's no reason not to use a lube and save a little wear on the tap.

A closeup of the newly mounted sight:

And finally, the whole rifle:

This rifle has a 1:48 twist, so it can shoot either patched round balls or conicals like a Hornady Great Plains Bullet or T/C Maxi balls. So far, I've just shot it with PRB and it did well.

Simple work like this is a main reason I bought a small lathe and mill back in 2013. It took me about 45 minutes to do this, which included digging out the rifle and rear sight, schlepping them out to my shop, and doing the work. In contrast, to have a gunsmith mount the sight it would require locating a 'smith locally or shipping the rifle, getting onto his wait list, and probably paying about $75 to $100. Since shooting is my hobby, I will eventually do enough jobs like this to largely offset the cost of the tools.

Of course, that doesn't even account for the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Friday, December 28, 2018

H&B Forge Medium Camp Hawk and a Neck Knife

Today I took a spin up to Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop and came home with these:

The tomahawk is an H&B Forge Medium Camp Hawk while the knife one made by a local 'smith from an old trap spring. There are usually several of them on the shelf at Dixon's.

The Medium Camp Hawk's head weighs about a pound and has a hardened hammer poll, which should be useful for hammering in tent stakes. The edge is about 3.5" wide and the handled measures 19" long. The handle is stained but doesn't appear to be sealed so I'll give it a coat or two of some oil.

It came with a usable edge but I'm going to sharpen it some more. I'm also planning to make a mask for it since it came without any cover.

The knife blade is about 3.75" long and measured 0.055" or 1.4mm thick with my calipers. It's stamped with the maker's initials, "JBG." The scales are curly maple, secured with four brass pins. Wood to metal fit is excellent.

The leather neck sheath reminds me a bit of a center seam moccasin and is nicely stitched. The thong doesn't have a quick release but if it got snagged on something I'd expect it to let go. The knife and sheath together weigh only a few ounces and hang comfortably.

They should make nice additions to my bushcraft kit.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

What Really Happens in a Gunfight

This post by Dave Spaulding is from 2010 but I only saw it recently. In my opinion it's worth reading.


Over the last 25 I have made it a point to talk with every gunfight survivor that I could find. Last count, I had spoken with almost 200 individuals. These people include men and women, military (including war veterans), law enforcement and legally armed citizens. These confrontations include battlefield situations, back alley struggles, attempted muggins, attempted rapes (and successful rapes) and the like.

Right after I started my law enforcement career, a local police officer was involved in a shooting incident. I had the opportunity to speak with him and found myself fascinated with his accounting of what transpired. Afterward, I thought that what had happened to him could happen to me and I needed to be better prepared than he had.


Link to full article.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jämä Blanket Shirt from Varusteleka

A clothing item you see on a lot of bushcraft-oriented sites is a blanket shirt. Basically, they are hoodies made from old wool blankets. They are favored for a few reasons: wool retains warmth even when wet, wool is safer around an open campfire than synthetic fabric, when hunting it's very quiet if it brushes up against something, and if in muted colors blends in with the woods well. And let's face it, blanket shirts fit the bushcraft aesthetic well.

Blanket shirts can be homemade or purchased. YouTube has numerous videos on making your own.

Perhaps the best known commercially available blanket shirt is the Boreal Shirt from Empire Canvas Works or Lester River Bushcraft. They are premium pieces of clothing and priced accordingly.

If your budget doesn't permit spending the money for a Boreal Shirt, or if you want to try out a less expensive factory-sewn option check out the Jämä Blanket Shirt from Varusteleka. They are sewn in Varusteleka's factory in Helsinki, Finland.

Varusteleka currently lists two variants, one made from H.R. Co. blankets, while the other is made from Finnish suplus wool cloth that was used for their M/65 uniforms.

A couple weeks ago I bought one in the Finnish wool, and I used it for the first time on my recent deer hunting trip while hanging out in our cold cabin. I wore it over a Hill People Gear long sleeve base layer, a flannel shirt, and an Orvis fleece and wool vest. I was warm in the cabin where the temps were in the low 30s. It wasn't very windy outside and the Jämä shirt kept me warm when I stepped outside for a few minutes to take a leak. If you're going to wear this in windy conditions, you're going to want a shell over top of it, however. A suitably sized windproof smock would be just the ticket.

For size reference, I am about 5'5" with an 18" neck, 32" sleeves, a 45" chest, 48" gut (ugh), and normally wear an XL or 2XL, depending on the item of clothing or a brand's sizing. The Jämä Blanket Shirt that I bought is a 3XL. (Pay attention to Varusteleka's sizing guidelines.) Since the garment does not stretch and you need to pull it on, it needs to be big, especially if you have any layers on.

The sleeves are 35" long, so they cover up my hands. I can roll them up if I am working.

Obviously, this is not something I'd wear about town. If I'm out in the woods I don't care if I look like a wannabe Jedi or I'm on my way to Mordor.

The hood is a bit floppy. In the picture I am wearing a ball cap under it, which keeps it out of my eyes. It's deep enough to provide protection against wind from the side and to help create a warm air bubble in front of your face.

As shown in the pictures, it has a kangaroo pocket, hood, and the back is longer than the front. I like the vertical placement of the front pocket, which is large enough to comfortably hold my keys, a pair of rag wool gloves, and my iPhone 7 Plus.

There is a smaller pocket inside the kangaroo pocket. You could put a folding knife in there but I don't see myself getting much use out of it. It's not large enough for the iPhone 7 Plus.

The stitching is good quality. There were no loose threads. The wool fabric is a bit nicer than an old military surplus blanket, which makes sense since it was actually intended for use in making clothing. It's about the same weight as the old USGI M-1951 wool field shirts but not as scratchy.

It's a good, basic hoodie. Compared with the Boreal Shirt it lacks some features. E.g., a draw cord on the hood, an adjustable collar, and snaps or straps to cinch down the wrists. However, the Jämä shirt also about 1/3 the cost. If you have moderate tailoring skills you could customize it.

Do I recommend the Jämä wool blanket shirt? Yes, if the sizing and feature set work for you. IMO it would be great for bow hunting with temps in the 30s or 40s.

Cold Weather Camping and Equipment Failure

Last weekend my daughter and I, along with a friend went up to Tioga County to catch the last two days of Pennsylvania's rifle deer hunting season. My friend's land is about 12 miles south of the New York line. Our plan was to go up Friday, get a couple hours of hunting in that afternoon, then hunt Saturday, and then come home Sunday. For shelter we'd be using my friend's primitive cabin.

The cabin has no utilities and the off-grid solar project is not yet complete. For heat, we planned to rely on my Dyna-Glo 23,000 BTU kerosene heater and my friend's propane-fired patio heater. We've used the latter in the past and it's worked well.

My previous use of the kerosene heater was at home for space heating and for that it worked great. We haven't used it in a few years so I made sure to replace the two C batteries that power the igniter before we left. After we got onsite I filled the tank and let it sit for about an hour for the wick to soak up some fuel. It fired right up on the first try. Note that the K-1 kerosene I had was a few years old but still in the original, sealed 4 gallon can. When stored properly, K-1 has a long shelf life.

Unfortunately, this time the propane heater was not working, due to a failed or clogged regulator. My friend is a mechanical engineer by profession and no matter how we tried to clean, defrost, or clear it, we could not get sufficient gas to flow to the burner element of the heater.

The cabin is 16' x 24' with an uninsulated metal roof with a ridge vent. The kerosene heater was able to take the edge off but inside it still hovered around freezing, even before dark.

Friday night the temp was forecast to get down to about 20F (-6.7C). We all had sleeping bags up to the task but being out and about in the shelter wasn't so great.

We borrowed a Big Buddy propane heater from a neighbor, which we used while sleeping.

Overnight, the temp inside the cabin got down to about 30F (-1C). I was warm enough in my Kelty Cosmic Down 20 bag, which was inside my Jerven Thermo Hunter, but I couldn't get a good night's sleep. I found the Kelty mummy bag too constraining.

The forecast for Saturday night was 15F (-9.4C). We decided to hunt Saturday morning but pack up and head home after lunch. These temps may seem mild to my more Northern readers, but when you live in Southeast PA and are not acclimated, they are draining when you can't get inside and warm up.

Lessons learned:

  • The kerosene heater was awesome, easy to use, and took off the edge. Unfortunately, it was not enough to make the cabin comfortable.
  • The regulator on the patio heater may have been clogged. It may have helped had it been wrapped in a plastic bag and taped shut to keep bugs out.
  • It would have been a good idea to test it the last time someone was upstate, in warmer weather.
  • We really need to get a wood stove installed. My friend has one but it's not there, it's still at his house downstate.
  • We need to work on sealing up some of the drafts in the cabin and maybe rigging a tarp across it inside, to keep warm air lower, instead of escaping through the ridge vent.
  • I need a different cold weather sleeping bag. The Kelty is warm enough but to constricting. My daughter used my USGI MSS and was happy as a clam with it. I may pick up another one but I am also considering something like a 0-degree down backpacking quilt from Enlightened Equipment. I could throw it on top of my Hill People Gear Mountain Serape or Wilderness Innovation Osni Cloak, either of which can be used as a quilt or rectangular bag. Reader input is welcome.

What's in Your Parka

Over at American Grouch, Cro has an interesting article on what he carries in his parka pockets when out and about in extremely cold weather (i.e., sub-zero Fahrenheit).

Check it out.

15 Uses for a Triangular Bandage

A nice article over at Primal Survivor about medical and non-medical uses for triangular bandages: