Saturday, November 23, 2019

Making Some Beef Jerky Today

Making some beef jerky this weekend. Weis had a 2-fer special on London Broil, so that's what I bought. It came out to a bit more than three pounds of meat. This is half.

The knife is a Terävä Jääkäripuukko 110 carbon steel model from Varusteleka. It came EXTREMELY sharp. I'll do a follow up post on the knife after I get the chance to use it some more.

I put the meat in the freezer for about a half hour before slicing, which made it firm, which in turn helped in cutting uniform slices about 1/8" thick. The puukko went through it like a hot knife through butter.

After slicing the meat I added the Nesco cure and spices, and now it's marinating in the fridge until tomorrow morning.

It should take about 10 - 12 hours in my Nesco dehydrator tomorrow. Gonna be good.

My plan is to freeze about half the jerky to bring with us when we go upstate for deer hunting in a few weeks. The rest will be for snacks until then.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Friday, October 04, 2019

Wheelguns and Cast Bullets

Most preppers nowadays favor semiautomatic pistols. However, medium frame revolvers in .38 or .357 remain excellent choices for home defense, concealed carry, or use as a general utility gun.

A friend of mine who is by necessity something of a prepper recently picked up a used Smith & Wesson Model 64-3. The Model 64 is the stainless version of the old police standard .38 Special blued steel Model 10, AKA the Military and Police. The M&P has been in continuous production since 1899. This is his first centerfire revolver and he immediately fell in love with it for the ease of use and accuracy.

At the same my friend was buying his Model 64 I picked up another revolver, this time a used fixed-sight Ruger GP100 chambered for .38 Special. Both our guns are security company trade-ins.

Ruger designed the GP100 in the 1980s to take advantage of more modern manufacturing methods including investment casting. They also designed it to be more user-serviceable. Disassembly is a lot easier than the Smith & Wessons (not to mention Colt double actions) and the "peg" to which the grip attaches allows a wider variety of shapes to be used.

The GP100  a very robust gun designed to handle shooting an unlimited number of full-power .357 Magnums.

The shop where we bought them also had a few nickel-plated Model 10s, and for someone on a really tight budget, two or three Taurus Model 82s.

I chose the Ruger this time since I already have a passel of Smith & Wessons and also because it came with the compact rubber grip, AKA the "short butt." This is probably the revolver grip that fits my hands best and also does an excellent job of absorbing recoil.

Aside from easy availability of ammunition, .38 Special and .357 Magnum are straightforward to reload. Revolvers are not dependent upon magazines and can function with any bullet shape. They are ideally suited for use with cast bullets.

Guns chambered in .357 Magnum can safely shoot .38 Special but the reverse is not true (the .357 case is 1/10th of an inch longer but otherwise the same). If i could have only one handgun it would be a medium frame .357 Magnum.

For example, I recently received an order from Matt's Bullets:

The small box is one hundred 250 grain .452 bullets that I'll use in .45 Colt cowboy loads for my Pietta Remington New Model Army fitted with a Kirst Konverter. Factory .45 Colt ammo is rather expensive but now that I have a few hundred pieces of empty Starline brass, it makes sense to roll my own.

The large box is five hundred 178 grain Keith-style bullets to be loaded in .38 Special and .357 Magnum. I tried 100 of them last year and they shot really well in my S&W Model 28 and Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk, loaded on top of 5.0 grains of Alliant Unique.

I'm looking at loading up some hotter rounds for use in the GP100. The 178 grain Keith bullets loaded to around 1000 to 1100 FPS will handle anything on two or four legs that needs shooting in Pennsylvania. They should perform similarly to the .38/44 round developed by Smith & Wesson in the late 1920s to improve the performance of the .38 Special against car bodies, and chambered in N-Frame "Heavy Duty" and "Outdoorsman" revolvers. They won't stress the GP100.

As I've mentioned in the past, the ability to cast your own is important for self reliance but I'll admit that buying them already made is a lot easier. That said, I need to get a Keith-style mold from Tom at Accurate Molds.

One of my favorite gun writers is Ed Harris (sometimes known as C.E. Harris). I recently discovered a web page with a collection of his articles, here. One in particular makes for good reading for preppers who might be interested in reloading for .38 Special and .357 Magnum in revolvers and lever actions, here. Another good piece of Ed's is Revisiting the Full Charge Wadcutter, hosted on Grant Cunningham's blog.

A lever action in .357 Magnum is an excellent companion to a .38 or .357 revolver that offers a lot of utility while not being on the immediate radar of gun banners. I got the chance to handle a new production Rossi 92 last weekend. The fit and finish looked good although the action was a bit stiff. That will improve as the gun is shot.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Lithium Batteries

If you have many electronics or flashlights around the house and have been using alkaline batteries in them, you no doubt have experienced leaks. If you catch the leak soon enough you can generally clean out the device and restore it to service, but if the leaks goes undiscovered for too long there's a good chance your device will get ruined.

In my experience, Energizer alkaline are somewhat better than Duracell when it comes to leaking. However, other folks report the opposite. You pays your money and you makes your choice.

This is one reason I keep a spare can of CRC Quick Dry Electrical Contact Cleaner around the house.

However, you can prevent having to deal with the leaks by switching to a different battery chemistry, namely either NiMH rechargeable or lithium cells. In the past week I've changed out the batteries in several important flashlights, headlamps, and my Garmin 62stc GPS with Energizer lithium AA and AAA cells. I've bought some from Amazon and some from Battery Junction.

These devices don't see heavy use but when I need them, I need them. The lithium cells have a long shelf life -- advertised as up to 20 years, and don't leak. They also handle low temperatures better, which makes them a good choice for flashlights or headlamps that are kept in vehicles.

I've also decided to replace the Ziploc bags I've been using to carry my spare batteries with these plastic containers. They should protect the batteries better against impacts and short circuits.

From what I've read Panasonic Eneloops seem to be the gold standard in rechargeable AAs and AAAs. However, I haven't tried them out yet. I'd appreciate any feedback on them.

Bumblebee Canned Smoked Trout

I tried a tin of Bumblebee smoked boneless, skinless trout today for lunch.

More of these cans will be getting added to my larder. It'll make a good addition to my daypack or for overnighters. It was good right out of the can. I bet this would be really good on the FDF rye bread crisps from Varusteleka, but I like that it can be consumed with no preparation.

I'd picked this up at my local supermarket a few weeks ago. If you can't find it locally it -- along with other brands -- can be bought from Amazon. I'd like to find some packed in olive oil rather than canola but this will do for now.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

A Few Things to Improve My Get Home Bag

Since I took an internal transfer about two years ago, I now work in the 'burbs rather than commuting into center city Philadelphia. My office is about 25 miles away via vehicle but if I ever need to hoof it home, it would probably be longer. I therefore keep a get home bag in my truck.

I'll do a full post sometime, but in the interim thought I'd share a few things I've added recently:

First is a 1"x 10 yard roll of Gorilla tape. I keep a full size roll of duct tape in my truck's tool bag, but this will give more a more portable roll. Duct tape is useful in general for everything from repairs to a bandage cover to a fire starter, and Gorilla tape is the toughest.

Second is a travel sized bottle of Gold Bond Original Strength Body Powder. It weighs next to nothing but can add a great deal of comfort, whether it's for your feet or your dangly bits after you've been in the field for a day or two. As far as I can recall, I don't think I've ever seen some kind of body or foot powder mentioned in a get home bag.

A 25 oz. DZO brand stainless steel camping cup with lid. I keep a 40 oz. Kleen Canteen stainless steel water bottle in the bag but wanted a vessel for cooking in and a second vessel for boiling water. The DZO cup is well made with a nice fitting lid, and the price was reasonable.

A Sawyer Mini water filter.

An extra pair of socks, specifically these Särmä merino wool hiking socks from Varusteleka. I took advantage of their July 4th free DHL shipping promotion and bought two more pairs along with some other stuff. The socks are stored inside a Ziplock bag in my pack and a pre-loaded with some Gold Bond powder.

The get home bag itself is a Särmä Large Assault Pack from Varusteleka, in olive green. It's Maxpedition knock-off but seems well-made for the price. For something that's going to ride in the back of my truck 99+% of the time it will do fine. Before I decided on the Särmä pack, I used a German Alpine rucksack. The Särmä has much better shoulder straps and is a little larger, which gives me room to add more insulation in colder weather.

For what it's worth, I'm not worried about the pack's tactical appearance drawing unwanted attention. After 18 years of the never-ending Global War on Terror, seeing MOLLE even in urban areas isn't unusual. Heck, I've seen frumpy women in their 60s carrying similar packs in downtown Philly.

I'm going to be adding a USGI-style poncho that I've had to the GHB tomorrow. I decided to seam seal it before doing so, so that it doesn't leak whether I'm wearing it or using it as a shelter. For that I used Silnet Silicone sealant. Most ponchos, especially cheaper ones, will benefit from seam sealing.

Today I made up a quick-deploy ridgeline for use with the poncho or the USGI casualty blanket I keep in the bag. I used about 30 feet of OD 550 cord and three #36 bankline Prussik loops, as demonstrated in this video by Corporal's Corner:

I wound up using twisted bankline from a spool I ordered by mistake. I prefer the braided, which while not quite as strong doesn't fray as easily when you cut it.  The twisted stuff will be fine for this application.

One last thing that I have on order is a bottle Sawyer picaridin-based insect repellent. I'm not generally averse to DEET which IMHO is the gold standard for bug repellent, but picaridin has the advantage of not eating plastic. Like DEET, it repels mosquitoes and ticks, both of which would be a concern in a bugout or bug home scenario (if not during, afterwards if you catch Lyme disease or West Nile virus). I recently bought a bottle of this stuff and tried it out while sitting on my back patio after dark. It worked to keep the skeeters away. Otherwise I would have been eaten alive.

I'm planning to do a video on my get home bag, perhaps an overnighter with it.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The Surprisingly Solid Mathematical Case of the Tin Foil Hat Gun Prepper

This piece from last year is well worth reading.

As gun policy discussions unfold in the wake of mass shooter incidents, they routinely end in three buckets. There’s the “tyranny can never happen here” bucket, which the left has mostly abdicated in the wake of Trump winning after they called (and still call) him a tyrant. There’s the “you can’t fight the army with small arms” bucket, which is increasingly unsound given our ongoing decade-and-a-half war with Afghani tribal goat herders. And there’s the “what the hell do you need an AR-15 for anyway?” bucket, which, by its very language, eschews a fundamental lack of understanding of what those people are thinking. I am not a prepper. But I know a few. Some of the ones I do know are smart. They may not be doing as deep an analysis as I present here, on a mathematical level, but the smart ones are definitely doing it at a subconscious level. If you want to understand the perspectives of others, as everyone in my opinion should strive to do, then you would do well to read to the end of this article. To get where we’re going, we will need to discuss the general framework of disaster mathematics.


If we look at raw dialectic alone, we reach dismal conclusions. “Do you think the United States will exist forever and until the end of time?” Clearly any reasonable answer must be “no.” So at that point, we’re not talking “if,” but “when.” If you don’t believe my presumed probability, cook up your own, based on whatever givens and data pool you’d like, and plug it in. The equations are right up there. Steelman my argument in whatever way you like, and the answer will still probably scare you.


Read the whole thing.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Beretta Cx4 Storm and Holosun RDS Range Report

 Last week I bought a Holosun HS515C red dot sight to replace the Bushnell TRS-25 that I used to have on my Beretta Cx4 Storm 9mm carbine. The Bushnell is a good budget optic  Today I zeroed it.

Out of the box the sight was very close to being on at 50 yards, with elevation right on and the mean POI about 3 - 4" to the right with 115 grain CCI Blazer Brass 9mm.

A neat touch with the sight is that the turret caps are actually adjustment tools. The little ridge on them is sized the same as the screwdriver slots on the actual adjustment knobs. This is a brilliant idea, IMO.

Top of the sight showing the screwdriver built into the caps, and the solar cell:

Accuracy at 50 yards was OK but nothing to crow about. Here's a 10 shot target fired from the bench. As you can see I yanked one low. The Storm's trigger is worse than I'd remembered. I am definitely going to try doing a trigger job on it.

I also shot a bit offhand but the target definitely isn't worth sharing. ;) The gun is so light with a neutral balance that offhand shooting is a challenge.

I put a total of 100 rounds through the gun today and as expected, it ran perfectly. However, when I went to clean the gun after I was finished I noticed that the rail was a bit loose. It'll be Loctited and then I'll recheck the zero.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Running Ball

(In this post, I used the word "balls" a lot. Huh, huh.)

This past weekend I'd planned to shoot my Rogers & Spencer percussion revolver but couldn't. When getting my shooting gear together, I found that I had only two .454 balls left. I wound up shooting my Pedersoli Brown Bess and Polymer 80 Not-A-Glock, which I'll write up in a separate post.

Something I've preached about on my blogs has been bullet casting for self sufficiency, resistance to government guns bans, and panics induced by fear of them. I recently picked up Lee molds for .454 and .490 balls, and a Lyman cast iron lead pot. This weekend I ordered a Lee .690 ball mold for use in the Brown Bess and my Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun.

I took a long weekend to decompress from bullshit at work, so with today's weather being decent I setup one of my Coleman stoves out in my shop to run some .454 balls.

Here I have the mold warming while the lead pot comes up to temp. The foil trays are for me to dump the sprues and dross when I flux.

It took awhile for the pot to come up to temperature. I'm finding that keeping a good constant casting temp is an acquired skill that I've yet to master. My balls were coming out either wrinkled or frosted. Wrinkly balls mean that the cast was too cold while frosty balls are a sign that it's too hot. I put the wrinkliest balls back into the pot but I'm keeping some that aren't too bad. These will be fired at a maximum of 25 yards at targets the size of a paper plate or larger, so minor imperfections won't be an issue.

I haven't counted yet, but I should have at least 50 shooters here. I called it quits when I ran out of gas in the stove.

Aside from the Rogers & Spencer, these will also work in my 1858 Remingtons. One could load them into .45 Colt cartridges, as well.

It is possible to keep even percussion guns going without buying factory supplies. Aside from casting your own bullets, it's possible to make black powder and even percussion caps at home. The latter especially is potentially extremely dangerous, so proceed with caution. My plan to deal with future shortages is to stock up ahead of time.

Edit: I wound up with 97 shootable balls from my first batch. After the stove cooled and I was able to refuel it, I ran another batch and came out with another 126 usable balls. That's a decent run and will last me awhile.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Tap and Die Sets

In my quest for self reliance, one category of things I've tried to acquire has been a variety of tools. On the top end are my mini-mill and mini-lathe. Tonight I used something a little further down the scale, a set of taps and dies. I have this inexpensive SAE and Metric set from Harbor Freight.

Yesterday when I shot my Pedersoli Brown Bess carbine for the first time, I wanted to use the ramrod for cleaning. One end has male M8-0.5 threads. However, I found that although I was able to thread on my worm, I could not thread on the adapter (part number SA-10-BESS) that allows me to use regular 10-32 rod tips, like a cleaning jag. So, I had to bring a separate range rod.

After work tonight I gathered up the ramrod, worm, and adapter and went out to my workshop. I first chased the threads in the coupler with an M5-0.8 tap and tried to thread it on the rod. No dice. Then I chased the threads on the rod itself with a die. That fixed the problem.

The total elapsed time was about ten minutes.

Think about how many threaded fasteners and parts you have in your life. A tap and die set may not get used frequently, but when threads on something get damaged, having such a set can allow you to fix it quickly.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Original Real Man's Coffee Cup

It is a USGI canteen cup made by Ingersoll Products sometime in the early 1970s. I got in around 1985 after I joined Civil Air Patrol. The outside is black from heating many meals in campfires.

American servicemen have been using canteen cups since the introduction of the M-1910 over a century ago. It's one of the best pieces of gear ever. The main thing it really needs is some kind of a lid. I have an older Heavy Cover brand stainless steel lid that I modified a bit to make it lighter, but for a couple decades I just relied on a piece of aluminum foil.

Newer USGI canteen cups have folding butterfly-style wire handles. I prefer the older L-style cups like this one. It's one feature of the Keith Titanium set that I would change. (OTH, the Keith sets come with a nice lid for the cup, so there's that.)

The horizontal slot in the handle is to allow you to put a fork from the M-1926 fork into it as an extension for when you're cooking on a fire. The vertical slot is to allow it to be slipped over the handle of the mess kit (AKA "meat can") so the whole ensemble can be dunked in boiling water for field sterilization.

Survival Resources has a nice article on useful mods to this style cup, including how to make a lid, adding D-rings to the handle so you can use a stick for an extension, and adding a bail. Check it out. (Incidentally, I recently ordered a few things from Survival Resources including a haversack. I plan to do a post and/or video on that as soon as I can get to it. No problems at all with my order and I got it quickly.)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Townsends: Fire Starting: No Matches, No Lighter (Video)

This is a very good video on fire starting with flint and steel, including the use of a flintlock, from Jas. Townsend's & Son's YouTube channel:

Aside from a flint and steel, they demonstrate how you can do it with a flintlock gun.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

My First Fire with Flint and Steel

I bought this steel years ago at Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop but today was the first time I made fire with it. It was made from an old file.

I cheated a bit and used char cloth bought from an eBay vendor, but now I'm ready to make my own. The char cloth is in the Altoids tin underneath the steel, while the flint shard is laying on some unraveled jute twine from Lowe's.

I held the char cloth on top of the flint and struck it a few times with the flint. The ember took hold quickly and I quickly moved it to the bird's nest. After a little gently blowing it exploded into flame, and I hurriedly dropped it into my fire pit.

You can see where I dispose of my cigar butts and the long matches I use to light my gas grill. ;)

Now I need to make up some of my own char cloth and find some punky wood to char.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Sling and New Front Sight on Cabela's Hawken

One rifle I've been shooting lately is my Cabela's Hawken, made in Italy by Investarms. At some point I'd like to take it hunting, which IMNSHO requires a sling. Being a more modern design than, say, my long rifle, I didn't mind mounting modern quick detach swivels.

I found this set by GroveTec at MidwayUSA which fit. I paired it with this Hunter carry strap. Installing the rear swivel required drilling a hole in the stock. The front swivel clamps around the lower ramrod pipe. Before installing it, I Loc-Tited the screw securing the pipe since I noticed it was loose already. I also Loc-Tited the Chicago screw holding the strap to the rear swivel. In my experience, thread locker prevents a lot of problems. I even put some on the inside of the part of the front swivel where it clamps over the ramrod pipe.

The other addition I made was to replace the Williams fiber optic front sight with a Lyman 37ML white bead from October Country. The dovetail for the front sight is .360" instead of 3/8" (.375"), which is more common in the US. The Williams sight never fit the dovetail that well and wasn't as secure as I'd like.

The Lyman front sight wasn't as good a fit as I wanted, either. I wound up dimpling the bottom of the dovetail recess to raise some metal and shimming it with a small piece of 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. After the sight was in I staked the dovetail as well.

The new sight is a little shorter than the Williams it replaced, so I'll have to rezero the rifle. No biggie.

October Country Universal Sling

Earlier this week, I ordered a Universal Sling from October Country, who caters to black powder shooters. I wanted a sling for my Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle that would be more secure than the Leatherman sling I used when I hunted with the rifle last month. (The Leatherman sling is extremely well made but the butt cuff doesn't fit the 1873 snugly and the only way to tighten it is with a cord or rubber band. I'll reserve it for my flintlock.)

OC's sling can be ordered for left or right handed shooters with the difference being which side of the butt stock the lacing is on. As a southpaw, I ordered a lefty sling.

It's primarily intended for muzzleloaders but as you can see below, it fits lever actions just fine.

It wraps around the barrel as shown below. There are two holes pre-punched in the strap so you can adjust it. I moved the lacing to tighten it up on my rifle.

The butt cuff has a slot for the strap in lieu of a swivel. Again, there are two pre-punched holes in the strap down below, allowing you some length adjustment without making modifications.

They also offer a two-tone version but I prefer the looks of the all-brown one.

I'm very impressed with the quality. All parts are made from good, thick leather, including the laces. This will make the rifle very nice to carry afield. For $28 and change it's a great deal. I'm tempted to order one for my 1860 Henry because the rear sling swivel popped off it again. On the Henry, I'd use the lacing to attach it to the front sling loop so that it doesn't interfere with the magazine follower.

Aside from the sling, I also ordered a couple French amber flints to try in my long rifle, a primitive forged turn screw to keep in my shooting pouch, and a Lyman 37ML front sight to put on my Cabela's Hawken.

I was also very pleased with October Country's service. A few minutes after I ordered I got a phone call from them asking if I'd changed my address. Apparently, there's another Dave Markowitz who had ordered from them. (I explained that was the evil one. ;) ) My ordered was placed Wednesday and it arrived here via USPS 2-day Priority Mail on Friday.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Twelve Apostles of Musketry

In the pre-flintlock era, before the invention of paper cartridges, it became common for musketeers to carry pre-measured powder charges in wooden bottles hanging from a bandoleer. They have come to be known as the "12 apostles," after the Apostles of Jesus. (In my quick research, the term may actually be more modern and not in use in the 17th Century. Regardless, it's in use today.)

Regardless, many modern muzzleloading shooters like to pre-measure their powder charges before heading afield or to the shooting range. There are numerous "quick loaders" available from the usual black powder shooting suppliers, but I found a cheaper alternative:

The modern apostles in the picture are 10ml centrifuge sample tubes with snap caps. Each has 70 grains of Goex FFg black powder in them, which occupies about 5.5ml. So, there is plenty of space in them for hunting loads in my rifles, which will be under 100 grains. I bought a bag of 50 of the tubes from Amazon for $10.39 on Prime. 15ml tubes should handle hunting loads for almost any muzzleloader.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Stolen Winchester 1892

(Post has been edited for clarification.)

Please be on the lookout for a stolen Winchester 1892 Sporting Rifle, serial number 100156, caliber .38 WCF.

I shipped the rifle on 12/21/18 via UPS Ground insured, from Plymouth Meeting, PA to Taylor Machine in Puyallup, WA for gunsmithing work.

On 1/3/19 John Taylor called to inform that all he received was an empty box with some bubble wrap in it. UPS confirmed delivery of the package.

I do not suspect Mr. Taylor. He has an excellent reputation.

Full details of the rifle:

Type: Lever action rifle
Make: Winchester
Model: 1892
Serial number: 100156
Barrel length: 24 inches
Caliber: .38 WCF AKA 38-40 Win
Finish: Metal has turned brown. Buttstock and forend are brown walnut wood.

The rifle is an antique manufactured in 1898 per the factory letter that I got from the Buffalo Bill Center of the Wild West.

Any help in recovery will be appreciated.

Pictures of the stolen rifle (click for full sized):

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Zeroed the Hawken

Today I took advantage of unusually warm weather for January 1st and got the Cabela's Hawken out to the range and got it zeroed with its new sights.

It was shooting about 18" low and a little left at 50 yards with my initial load of 60 grains of 2Fg Goex, a .490 round ball, a 0.018" ticking patch lubed with Track of the Wolf's mink oil tallow, and a CCI No.11 cap.

Grouping with the 60 grain load was 3 to 4" from the bench. IOW, not very good. So, I increased the charge to 70 grains and the rifle started grouping nicely. My last three shot group is below. It's the one hole in the center.

That's 2 in the X-ring and one just outside it in the 10. I can certainly live with that. (The target is full of .22 holes from taking my daughter to the range.)

I still want to experiment with different charges, patch thicknesses, and ball size.