Thursday, September 25, 2008

My 10/22

I have embraced many difficult tasks during my time on this planet... I won't go into a lot of detail, there, but one thing I have generally excelled at is acquiring vices. The oldest of which was my habit of chain smoking, an activity that I acquired some 16-17 years ago and have fought to kick for the last 10. I finally did back in June, as a birthday gift to myself, and an effort to get more years ont he planet than I might have had otherwise. However, not smoking resulted in some manic personality crises and ultimately in boredom. I opted to fill my time partaking in an activity that had always enthralled me to some degree, recreational shooting. In a fit of boredom and anxiety, I found myself in Big 5 and saw a sale on the Ruger 10/22. I had done some research on rimfire weapons, and had decided that Ruger's prolific weapon was the correct choice for me, since you can customize it up the yang and pretty much make it yours and only yours. I made the purchase...

Mine looked like this upon tearing the box open, and I spent the majority of the following week doing research on the weapon, on different types of .22LR ammunition, as well as optic choices, and also looking for a place to shoot it. I settled on a nice Bushnell rimfire scope picked up on special at Joe's Sports for around 40 bones and bought a set of Weaver rings with which to mount the thing on the included optical rail that came along with the rifle. It was a handsome package, and Aaron and I took it out to the range the following week. My first time out we put well over 500 rounds through the thing an dit performed amazingly. Accuracy wasn't terrific, since we hadn't really taken the time to sight the weapon in. Most importantly it was tremendous fun to shoot.

The following months have seen me habitually adding more and more to this gun, to the point of it being unrecognizable from the original weapon. Primarily, I didn't like the OEM hardwood stock that the 10/22 shipped with, so I upgraded to a synthetic glass filled nylon stock made by ATI, who put out great aftermarket products not just for the 10/22, but for AK's, AR's, the SKS, Mosins, Mossbergs, and a plethora of other weapons manufacturers. All of ATI's products are great from my experience, and I am especially fond of the stock I picked up, a Dragunov styled skeleton stock with vented fore-end and integrated cheekrest for better viewing of the optics mounted on the weapon's receiver. It is comfortable and lightweight, and most notably makes an already pleasurable shooting gun and even greater joy to shoot.

While the factory Ruger magazine is arguably the best loading system available for the rifle, it offers no aesthetic value, and while it's really not teribly important, I am very big on appearances. On a whim during another trip to Joe's, I bought a 10 round Butler Creek banana clip for the weapon with polymer lips for feeding the rounds into the rifles receiver. Constructed of a clear hard plastic material, the magazine looks good, and conveniently allows for the attachment of two additional magazines identical to it. The only real issue I've had with it is that it is nowhere near as reliable as the factory rotary mag, and will fail to feed certain brands of ammunition, namely the choosier more expensive type that I have become used to shooting as of late.

At this point, I decided to fulfill my need for at least one high capacity magazine and purchased a Shooter's Ridge 25 round banana clip for the 10/22. This magazine is also a clear plastic, though noticeably better built than the Butler Creek magazine. It's feed lips are also a tough polymer, but the feed ramp itself is much more akin to the original rotary magazine, making it nearly as reliable as the factory clip. While the range I shoot at doesn't allow more than 10 rounds loaded in a magazine at a time, it is still a great accessory for those occasions when I can get it out to the woods to squeeze off some rounds into dirt piles and fallen trees. All things considered, the Shooter's Ridge magazine wins here, not just for reliability, but again for aesthetic purposes as well.

A fairly recent trip to the wholesale sporting goods store Outdoor Emporium in Seattle saw me finding and purchasing another Shooter's Ridge product, their 6-9 inch bipod. This contraption attaches easily to the sling swivel on my rifle stock and tightens down super secure and easy. It's a bit on the heavy side, but that helps keep the barrel down when firing, and balances the rifle effortlessly on the shooting table, eliminating the need for sandbags when I'm at the range. I mainly got it for the price, as Shooter's Ridge MSRP for it is well over $60, but Outdoor Emporium let it out the door for $20 less than that. For someone focusing on accuracy such as myself, it's a no-brainer anyway, but at the same time, being somewhat miserly I never would have bought it if not for the severe discount I got.

I recently ended up swapping out the scope as well, in favor of an NcSTAR 3-9x42 tactical scope. It's more compact than the Bushnell and has a larger objective lens, with a military style reticle for range finding, distance, and windage accountability. It was somewhat of a bitch to mount, since the Weaver rings I already had were too large for the space available on the scope itself, so I had to purchase a nice set of Burris rings to compensate for that. It took a measly 5 shots to get it sighted, after which I was completely sold. The thing's a champ, and I could already see improvement in my groups using it. My next scope will be another NcSTAR, as they are affordable, great looking, durable, and exceptionally tacticool.

The final add-on came in the mail this week from MidwayUSA... a muzzle brake for my Ruger's barrel. Unfortunately, with a factory contoured barrel, brakes are fairly limited and come in two varieties: the first being a large dual purpose brake that also acts as a flash hider, the second (the one I purchased) a simple AR15 styled brake that is intended to reduce muzzle rise while firing. Initially skeptical of the concept, since a .22 really has no recoil in the first place, I have found that it's actually dependent on the ammo that you're shooting. Take the Remington Vipers I took out a few weeks back. For a .22LR round, those had severe recoil and flash, and as a result were hitting high, or hitting low if I attempted to compensate for the kick they provided the rifle. I plan to pick up a box of those guys to test the functionality of the brake this weekend, as well as a box of Remington's Yellow Jackets. If nothing else, though, the brake looks cool as hell and helps to mask that fact that what I'm shooting is a .22 at all.

Ruger 10/22 $220
ATI skeletonized synthetic stock $50
NcSTAR tactical scope $50
Burris scope rings $25
Shooter's Ridge 6-9 inch bipod $40
Shooter's Ridge 25 round magazine $20
Butler Creek 10 round magazine (not pictured) $15
10/22 Muzzle Brake $20

This gun has no doubt been a money pit, and I know that I've subjected you readers to talk of it previously, but never really gone into a lot of actual detail about my Ruger. The one thing that I'm missing which many people are quick to point out at the range is a target quality barrel, but with everything else I've added to this guy, I'm outshooting other folks who do have one configured. Plus, I can't justify the money a Volquartsen match grade barrel would run me, and I'm leery of most other brands out there when it comes to barrels. At any rate, there you have it, my Ruger 10/22, there are many out there, but this one is mine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Range Report, Better Late Than Never...

After a full day of hiking my favorite local spot from way back when and nearly killing myself to do it, this past Sunday (as is typical) was spent at the Issaquah Sportsman's Club. I've been having a blast shooting my 10/22, so brought that out again, forsaking my larger caliber rifles and accompanying the Ruger with only my Hi-Point C9. But having Aaron out, my primary focus was on the 10/22. I'll run a brief discourse on each ammo type that I took along, and also review a few add-ons for the Ruger as well.

Wolf is renowned for making dirt cheap steel cased ammo in most calibers, primarily larger assault type rounds like 7.62x39 and 5.56 Nato, as well as rounds for most common handguns. Dirty but generally reliable though loathed by those running indoor ranges everywhere, Wolf ammo may be consistent, but as far from a marksman's round as you could hope to get. Not so with their .22LR ammunition. A rimfire round that isn't even manufactured by Wolf, and simply bears their name and logo. At $8 for a box of 50, I was hoping to be in awe, and in retrospect I can say that I have not fired a better round through my 10/22. Deadly accurate and consistent to boot, it's wonder this stuff is so sought after. I won't buy it often, due to the price, but it's fantastic to know that my local gunshop sells it regularly for those times when I do want to shoot it. My only complaint is that each round is coated in a very slick film, which makes loading the magazine somewhat of a pain in the ass, but that's a minor gripe, and like I said, the only one I have.

I have always been skeptical of the Federal brand, as well, since my only real exposure to their .22LR ammo is their bargain boxes of 500+ which are no better than the bottom of the barrel Remington hollow point junk typically on sale at Big 5 or Walmart. I picked up a box of Federal's Premium Match and was duly impressed. Shooting groups ranging from .5 to 1.5 inches, the rounds are consistent overall, though occasionally guilty of 1 or 2 completely wild and off-center shots. The grouping in the picture below should detail that for those of you curious to see. For the price, though, the Federal Premium is excellent ammo, and I was impressed enough to pick up a 500 round box of Federal's American Eagle to have as a comparison.

After my horrible experience with Winchester's Xpert .22 Hollow Point shit ammo, I was extremely cautious about trying any other type of Winchester ammunition, but against my hesitation bought a box of Winchester Super X. My groups were all over the place with this stuff, though consistently inside the target. Not terribly impressive outside of the fact that other than 2 rounds which were bad out of the box, I didn't have a single failure with those particular rounds. I won't be buying more anytime soon, but I also won't continue in my silent boycott of Winchester's products, either, since apparently every manufacturer has a crap brand for those too miserly to splurge on the good stuff.

And finally, I had to give Remington's Viper line a try, based simply on the fact that there's a totally badass snake on the package label, and due to how much fun I had shooting their high velocity rounds the week before. I'll go ahead and state for the record that I have never fired a louder .22LR round. They shoot with a loud crack and are also the first rounds through my 10/22 that provide any noticeable or affecting kickback. They are a high velocity round themselves, and with the flathead conical design of the round, most likely intended for some longer range varmint killin' which is an activity I won't be engaged in anytime soon myself, so altogether with this last weeks experience, I'm not fully sold on these little guys. Their groups were a bit more concentrated than the Winchester rounds fired, but I think they'd be most effective from at least 50 yards, more likely a distance of about 100 yards would suit them best. I may pick up a box of Remington's Yellow Jackets for this Sunday's day on the range, to run a comparison, but will probably not be making the Vipers a regular buy.

Another thing I love about my Ruger 10/22, is the insane amount of aftermarket items available for the 10/22, or just common, shooting enthusiast. I've already swapped the OEM wood stock out for a skeletonized synthetic stock that shaves quite a bit of weight from the rifle. Picked up a Butler Creek 10 round banana clip, and added a decent Bushnell rimfire scope to the gun, and there's still a good deal more modifications that I'm intending to make.

I recently opted to add a bipod, made by Shooter's Ridge. The unit is exceptionally sturdy and has no problem bearing the small weight from the rifle, and should prove a great asset in the long run in terms of improving my shooting overall, since using it the rifle always reverts back to it's original firing position. Not to mention that it looks slick as hell and I got it at a nice discount from Outdoor Emporium out in Seattle. Something I'm definitely glad to have picked up, and will be doubly glad once (if) I upgrade to a target bull barrel for my rifle.

I also picked up a Shooter's Ridge 25 round banana clip, and WOW... what an item. The guy at the store tried selling me on the Butler Creek, but I don't like the look of those as much, and the Magazine of their's that I do have has some problems with certain ammo brands. Not so with the Shooter's Ridge clip. It proved every bit as reliable as the factory Ruger rotary magazine, and looks awesome to boot. More than likely the reliability of the magazine is a direct result of the feed ramp in comparison to the feed ramp on the factory mag:
Left to Right: Factory Mag, Shooter's Ridge, Butler Creek

Again, since I like to reiterate things, I am exceptionally impressed with this magazine, and the Shooter's Ridge brand in general at this point, between the bipod I purchased and this, I expect to be giving them more of my moolah for other nick-nacks and add-ons well into the future.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another nice shot of Ross Lake, N.Cascades, WA

I felt like posting another nice picture of Ross Lake. This was taken by me with a cheap Canon Powershot A550. It was early afternoon on August 16th, 2008. We came back with some really nice fish, I think there's a shot of them in my inaugural post from shortly after the trip. I don't know why I always come home from the yearly expedition a little bit bummed. Probably because I know I have to return to the real world, which can never be as peaceful as the waters of Ross. I don't even really go up there to fish at his point, not that the fishing hasn't been great the last few years. I go to see what you see in the photo. We saw plenty of osprey and a mother bear swimming with a pair of cubs too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Birthday blades!

All I can say is "OWWW! Hell-YEAH!" I made it to see my 31st year, provided I don't perish this evening from a freak accident or wolfing down undercooked meat. I checked myself into the ER at a hospital up North [they have all my records] on Friday morning. I was having symptoms which reminded me of when I came very close to the edge last summer. Turns out I'm fine, I did pass out and experience a heart stoppage in the ER though, while I had surly, coffee deprived, vein-digging nurses on either side of me trying their damnedest to find a suitable vein for an iv. Anyway, I had the opportunity to pick out a birthday present last week from Ma and Pa on a recent jaunt down to the local Cabela's. I've had my eye on Timberline/Gatco's Lightfoot Zambezi fixed blade. I've been price-watching the thing for over 5 years and decided it was time. It's an awesome hunk of combo-edge steel in olive drab and black with a *VERY* impressive sheath/carry system. More details later, but it's one of the few production knives I've seen that indeed has a full carry system, not just a sheath. Dad kind of balked at my choice, thinking I'd select a folder that could be carried daily. I explained to him I'd just procured 2 Benchmades in a month's time, and had been liking the Zambezi since I'd first seen it years ago. "What are ya gonna do with it? Polish it, look at it, touch up the edge, clean it?" I nodded in the affirmative and paraphrased S, B & T's very own Aeric, explaining to my old man that it'd be a fine tool if the shit ever hit the fan. He smiled, both of us knowing realistically, that I'll probably get way more use out of the Cabela's jacket he also paid for alongside the beast-knife. But, the Zambezi is a great blade and probably as close as I'll ever be able to come to owning a Greg Lightfoot designed knife. Sharp presents make me happy.

This morning saw me meeting up with the talented and tight-shooting Aeric for breakfast before a day at the sportsman's club. Upon seating himself, he presented me with a small blue box which indeed, was a Smith&Wesson HRT folder, made by Taylor Cutlery. Said box also contained 3 hand-tied lanyards. Aeric's lanyards are every bit as good, and probably better, than many sold on knife websites. I'm also the recipient of the first 'monkeyfist'/'slungshot' impact device Aeric made, [see the post from a week or so ago.] The HRT has a magnesium handle, a sturdy clip and an integral guard that doubles as a 'flipper' to deploy the blade with an index finger. The blade is plain, which I really love for ease of touch-up, and coated in black teflon, or something very similar to it. I adorned it with the black and green lanyard, and put the "rattlesnake" style one on a Cold Steel Pro-Lite bowie that I have clipped to the visor of my car. The slimmest and stiffest lanyard, of waxed cotton cord, went on my new Benchmade Rift, again for more info, see previous posts.

Aside from self hospitalization, the days leading up to my birthday have been quite good. We had a good time at the range, firing mostly .22 from our respective Rugers. I have a pair of nice new knives to add to the collection. The fixed blade is awesome to look at, and just plain reassuring, even though I own functionally redundant knives. The folder opens very nicely with a smooth yet crisp snap, needless to say it'll be my EDC in the coming weeks. On a note of superstition, legend has it that when a knife is given as a gift, the recipient must give the giver a penny. It's been said to be bad luck, and this way, the reciever technically "paid" for the knife. In the appropriately titled Anthony Hopkins/Alec Baldwin film The Edge, Hopkins' character explains that the penny prevents the 'cutting' of the friendship. The movie knife, from 'The Edge' incidentally is a very classy Brian Lyttle folder.Brian Lyttle's Edge knife is here
I don't buy into superstitions, at least not this one. If neglect for this custom resulted in true bad luck, I'd be in the negative friend-wise, and life would be hell for anyone who knew me. I've given and recieved literally dozens of knives and bladed tools as gifts. It's a cute custom, but a knife is a knife is a knife.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Benchmade's Contribution to Breast Cancer Research

Benchmade Knives promotes breast health

I stumbled across this very charitable program on Benchmade's site. Very cool! Benchmade's Pink Griptilian, which I had seen on knife retail sites, is a Sharp and Tactical Pink Ribbon of sorts. Benchmade is a visionary company that has set new standards in the factory-made knife industry over the past several decades. From their humble balisong-beginnings as Pacific Cutlery, to their groundbreaking and trendsetting partnerships with custom knifemakers, to this very good cause; Benchmade is always pushing envelopes. The following is from their website copy: "This knife is the right tool for the right cause," said Benchmade co-founder Roberta de Asis. "From research to patient care to professional education, the OHSU Cancer Institute is doing some great things to fight breast cancer, and we are proud to be their partner in the effort to promote breast health education." Benchmade has raised in excess of $10,000 USD with sales of the pink knife. To learn more, visit Benchmade's site or click here for Benchmade's press release

Monday, September 8, 2008

Range Report 09.07.2008

After dispensing with some banter between myself and the range master yesterday, I proceeded to unload just under 100 rounds from the Saiga and several mags were put through the Hi-Point as well, as I hadn't shot that thing in a good long while. Really I just wanted to shoot my 10/22. I still had over 200 rounds of that shit Winchester stuff, and then I had some higher end stuff that it was my intention to test out and compare.

CCI's Mini Mags are a good enough place to start, as they provide a round I'm quite familiar with. This has been my quality round of choice for some time now, and with good reason. CCI has put together a quality standard high velocity round, at over 1300 feet per second, these babies fly downrange... you'll hear their impact just about as soon as you pull the trigger, and for the most part will hit at whatever your crosshairs were imposed over at the time you dispensed the round. My only real complaints with this ammo are minor, but worth noting: occasionally you will get a package of rounds that are completely encased in wax. I've only had it happen once, but from some research is not horribly uncommon. It doesn't affect the shooting much, but is a bit nasty when handling the ammunition. The other complaint I have is that you are more or less guaranteed one or two completely errant rounds per magazine... just wild shots that end up totally outside of whatever group you were shooting. But when said groups are 1" tight, this complaint, again, is exceptionally minor.

I moved on to PMC Moderator subsonic rounds next. First of all, this stuff is quiet as hell. Cameron, a buddy that went along, didn't even realize I'd taken any shots with this stuff by the time I finished the first magazine. Everything cycled just fine using the Ruger rotary mag, but as soon as I filled my Butler Creek 10 round 'nana clip and started shooting, problems arose. First of all, the velocity on these guys is rather low... under 1000 feet per second low, in fact probably closer to about 800-850 feet per second. That means that the charge which expels the round is a great deal smaller, which needs to be the case anyway, since the rounds are subsonic. Which in an aftermarket magazine can cause issues with feeding properly. Other than that gripe, they are good rounds overall, granted now that I'm through with the box, I won't be buying these guys anytime soon again. They have an odd smell that is far from pleasant, and I want a round versatile enough to work consistently in both of my magazines, and any future mags I might invest in.

The next brand I chose to test is an old box of Remington High Velocity rounds I found at Joe's a couple of weeks back. So old in fact, that the SKU was no longer active in their system and they had to refer to an old catalog to find the price. Boasting a velocity of 1600 feet per second, and hollow points to boot, these rounds are some of the all around best that I've fired. They are versatile enough to work flawlessly in both magazines that I use, the factory 10 round rotary mag and the aftermarket Butler Creek banana clip. Where you point, they go and they go there quick. For those .22LR addicts out there, these would make a phenomenal home defense round, though beware they will pass through just about anything tender at close range as their max range is two miles, and are accurate up to almost 300 yards from the reading that I've done. The furthest I bothered to take them out to was 50 yards, and they are right on the money there as I have my Bushnell sighted for a 50 yard ideal distance. I love these little guys and am loathe to shoot them, as I haven't seen them on offer anywhere else.

The last round that I tried yesterday, was a round that I was actually a bit afraid to try as I had read some horror stories of putting these guys through a 10/22. Aguila SSS Sniper Subsonic .22LR. They caught my eye because the round itself is huge. The case on the ammunition is half the length as it is on a normal round in order to compensate for the gigantic bullet, which was exclaimed as "sexy as hell" by the range master. Heavy too, and not terribly smooth feeding into the rotary mag. My fear was that one of these guys would lodge itself in my barrel, leaving me to try shoving it out with a cleaning rod, because of my skepticism to just how much charge they can actually fit in a casing that small, as well as many stories of tumbling right after the firing pin hits the case. I love my 10/22 and I pretty much baby the hell out of it, so I get paranoid when I hear stories of this, but when you compare the Aguila round to a normal .22LR round, you'll see exactly why I feared the worst:
I went ahead and circled the actual round to give you a better visual, but as you can see, the Aguila is twice as large as the pictured CCI round. I started out with a single round fed from the rotary mag, and snapped the trigger. This round was quieter than the PMC stuff, no louder than a cap gun actually and as I watched through my scope, it nailed exactly where I focused the center of the scope reticle. The case was ejected properly and all was good, so then I loaded 2 rounds into the rotary mag, and no problem, fed just fine. So I loaded another two rounds, firing one at the paper, which again was dead on where I pointed, and shooting the other round at the board the target was fixed to so as to examine the effect. 25 yards is what I would consider failry close range with rifle shooting, and that round caused a hole as big as a 12 gauge slug through that weak wood. Color me impressed. Once a cease-fire was called, I placed a new target and focused on my accuracy with a rotary mag full of the Aguila rounds:Except for three errant shots there, caused by my own grip on the rifle, I managed to punch out a group less than an inch. This is some of the best shooting that I've done with this rifle, and I have no trepidation now when it comes to thought of putting these rounds through my rifle. Devastating when they hit something of substance and accurate as hell at least up to 25 yards, these bad boys are a varmint shooter's dream, and would make an ideal home defense round to boot. I can only imagine how well the perform in a .22LR revolver. I never did get around to trying them out of the Butler Creek mag, and probably won't, and really have no complaints about these guys. They're expensive, which could be a strike against them, and they smell seriously foul after firing. Aside from those two minor gripes, I will continue to invest in these guys as they are exceptionally fun rounds to fire overall.

For the day, the winner for affordable and great overall ammo would actually be a tie between the Remington and the CCI Mini Mags. Both are great versatile plinking rounds, with the CCI's proving consistent reliability and the Remingtons proving a great high velocity round for both plinking and defensive uses. The PMC rounds were the losers for the day, as they proved problematic in a semi-auto rifle, though if fired from a bolt action rifle or revolver would no doubt be ideal. The Aguilas were the surprise. Fun to shoot, accurate, and devastating on a solid target, they will be a repeat buy for sure, and the Winchester still holds the crown for the shittiest ammo ever made... end of story.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mini-Vacation and Over-Zealous Packing

So one of the many things I tend to do is to get over-eager when it comes to preparing for things. Whether it be starting a new job, getting acquainted with a new hobby, or packing for trips... specifically packing for trips that involve me being outdoors for any duration longer than it generally takes to get from my front door to my car. But I have some time off from work coming up this week, which will see me embarking on my first hiking trip since being back in the Seattle area. My time in Vegas saw me spending a fairly good amount of time around the Red Rock Canyon park, and hiking those short trails, short being the operative word. So when the promise of a hike with a fairly severe elevation gain in a 5 mile distance becomes a foreseeable reality, I get pack happy.

The first thing I did after we finally cemented our plans (we being Aaron, crime.wav and myself) was to rush out and find a survival kit that was fairly priced. I also acquired a decent and low-cost first aid kit, and threw in several other essentials for what I consider one of the better wilderness survival kits that I've put together. All together I spent $12 on the survival kit and $7 on the first aid kit. Everything else I was already in possession of: Brinkman LED flashlight with colored lens covers, CRKT Zilla Jr multitool, needle and thread, matches, CRKT Crawford/Kasper folding blade, half roll of duct tape, 20 ibuprofen, and 25 feet of para cord. The survival kit itself was packaged neatly in the water bottle in the picture and housed: rain poncho, emergency blanket, compass/whistle/flint/dry storage container, ziplock bag, and an additional throwaway flashlight (not pictured) and batteries. Of course I took everything out of the water bottle and stuffed it all into a much better and smaller container, so as to a) take up less room in the pack, and b) allow me to actually use the water bottle that was originally used as storage.

On the top are the contents of what I call the tactical half, on the bottom are the contents of what I refer to as the practical half. I'm pretty impressed with myself so far, though of course, as is usual when undertaking a project like this, I have this nagging feeling that there are items missing, so should anyone catch what those may be, please give me a holler.

And what hike would be complete without a suitable daypack for the excursion? I honestly didn't want to really worry about taking the water bottle along, since it's rather large and I don't want to bogart potential extra room in the pack itself, as I was looking for something specifically low-profile anyway... making a "camel pack" something of a requirement. I, however, am far to frugal about things, especially between paychecks, so balked at the higher priced Northface, Dakine, Camel Pack, and Jansport brand backpacks. But being something of a rummager, I found this at Joe's earlier this evening:It's an NTG, which is an unknown pack to me, but with a price of $30 I decided I couldn't go wrong. It's high density polyester and ripstop so it should prove fairly durable, though I don't plan to throw it down a mountain to test it. Two large main compartments and an adjustable stuff pouch in the front. The shoulder straps are exceptionally comfortable and apparently the back of the pack offers moisture wicking. The zippers are waterproof which I could see being exceptionally handy, and the whole pack cinches down really easily, to minimize the apparent cargo load quite a bit. The real selling point of the pack, though, was the 1.5 liter bladder and tube straw (with a bite valve, I might add, for even more convenience) that stores comfortably in the larger compartment, out of the way of any other equipment stowed there. We'll see if I get what I paid for with this one, but I'm being an optimist as first impressions are indeed positive.

At any rate, I haven't been real excited for much other than my weekly shooting the last month or two, so this is something I am really looking forward. Being outdoors with cool people and taking in sights I haven't had a chance to in years. The Pacific Northwest really is a gorgeous spot on the North American map, and this hike, the Denny Creek hike up to Melakwa Lake is my favorite hike west of Snoqualmie Pass. I may try a bit of trailblazing if my comrades are up to it, though the legitimate hike itself is well worth it once you get to the top. I will indeed have my cheap Sony camera on hand to capture what I see when I'm up there, to share with any readers here, and preserve for posterity and nostalgia WTSHTF.

Friday, September 5, 2008

5 Nickels and two Bootlaces

So here's what the bits mentioned in the title will get you:

This little bastard took me several hours of trial and error to concoct, and while it's uses are exceptionally limited, it's a cool device to have handy. The main knot is a monkey fist, only because of the nickels in the knot, I had to add several more loops to the overall product in order to hide the change from sight. The handle is made with a simple cobra stitch with a basic loop at the end.

It looks deceivingly harmless but it packs a pretty good wallop, as the main knot is pulled as tight as I could get it and five nickels are exceptionally heavy when surround by strands of what are intended to be workboot laces, both tough and durable. I was honestly a bit skeptical as to how the final product would hold up, but color me impressed.

The monkey fist, while traditionally used by ancient sailors, is a pretty formidable knot when packed with something of substance, and the 25 cents stuffed into this little guy are no exception. This is a light and easy to handle impact weapon, and if wielded with enough force will make any attacker think again before pursuing you as their quarry... believe me, it hurts.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lynwood, WA's SOG introduces broom-handle spear!?

Now available at KnifeCenter!

Okay, I haven't played with it yet and can't find it anywhere in 'real world' retail. SOG, like nearly every reputable American based factory knife company has started an inexpensive line of all-foreign made products. The newest news from the SOG Fusion product line is the Fusion Spirit, a hollow-handled, dual-edged fixed blade. Here's the cool can be attached to a round pole or length of wood with a screw, much like the Cold Steel Bushman series, to fashion a spear. Impromptu wild-boar hunters now have an option when they leave their preferred gear at home! Yay! seriously though, this looks like a very cool design and an MSRP of $50 USD even, means that this can probably be found online or at better discount stores for less than $40. Tests will tell if this would be a good option for an under-the-bed emergency survival kit. I'm tempted to think production may have been delayed on this knife, as the SOG site says release was 7/2008, and I've not seen hide nor hair of this wacky new device. If anybody has connections at SOG, let us know, like, if you're pals with Spencer Frazer, drop us a line.

UPDATE: night of 9/1/08: I forgot to mention it in the original post, but this thing is actually designed to fit on a broom handle, that's why I titled the post that way. Evidently it's a thrower too. Here's SOG's website copy:::"The Spirit looks like a futuristic tribal spear taking off from “Area 51”. Sleek and aerodynamic, it hides a secret... Unscrew the handle and use a broom handle* to complete the spear! In a survival situation, use a branch to make the spear shaft and tighten it with a nail or the provided setscrew. With the provided handle the Spirit can be thrown or used as a cutting tool. Do you have the spirit?"

*The Spirit will fit on most common broom handles.

SOG Fusion Spirit

New Duds for the Cooler Seasons

As is normal when the summer months begin to come to a close, I venture out to find the best options for long pants wear and other clothes. New jacket in the fall, and warmer socks eventually down the line as well. However, generally the end of August signifies new pants specifically, this time around being no exception.

I have plenty of jeans, but I wear through jeans exceptionally quick, maybe getting the full use out of them for the duration of a couple seasons, until they become close to threadbare in the crotch and knees. An odd scenario considering what I do for a living requires next to no consistent physical activity. My single pair of traditional Dickie's workpants with double knee and cellphone pocket are currently my longest lived trousers, and I whole heartedly stand by the Dickie's name. Made specifically for people who really work for a living, Dickie's provide durability for frugal consumers. I liken them to Carhartt (more later) but for spenders on a tighter budget.

As much as I loathe contributing money to the Walton family business, a recent trip to Walmart saw me discovering a pair of rinsed black Dickie's cargo pants. Made from the same material as their standard workpants, these trousers are burly as hell. I love cargo styled pants, and am generally inclined to make the most use out of the additional pockets the style affords, though standard tactical wear found at your local surplus store are generally never durable enough. Dickie's takes the cargo platform and using their heavy duty cloth and then starching the hell out of it, make a pant that I have no fear of lasting me the next year or two. And at less than $20 from Walmart, I'm not one to complain about the price tag, either.

So far they have proven themselves well in regard to casual wear, and I will admit to being a bit hard on them initially, to really see how they would stand up right off the rack. Even with the cotton washed twill and starchiness common to a new pair of Dickie's, they offer amazing mobility and a tell-tale sturdiness that no wearer would question. These are my new favorite cargos that I own. I do plan to invest in the Dickie's EMT cargo pants in black as well, since a) they look completely badass, and b) if these standard cargos are any proof, will hold up amazingly as well.

Anyone who has known me over the years, knows that even more than my love for Dickie's affordable (and I say that from the perspective of folks not so easily convinced to drop more than $30 on apair of trousers) workpants, I have a huge fetish for all things Carhartt. This lurid compulsion started back in my crusty punk rock days of my late teens and early 20's and ingers still today past my 30 year mark. You will be hard pressed to find a pant more suitable to an active and rugged lifestyle than Carhartt's double-front work dungaree.

I call these "end of the world pants" because they will last through just about any abuse or mistreatment that you can dole out. I personally haven't owned a pair in years, but while clothes shopping within the last week, found an unbeatable deal so plunked down the cash for a new pair. They are stiff and rigid right off the hanger, but once they're on, they're on. They are surprisingly mobile for a pant comprised of tough ring-spun cotton duck, and comfortable to boot. The chap-style double knee is a must, and provides much needed stability and durability at the same time.

I liken the Carhartts to a tactical must, even though the additional pockets won't hold much in the way of extras like a cargo pant would, they perform well under fire. From my experience, an average pair of these bad boys will last well over a year through hard and abusive use, and still manage to offer a functional trouser even once their durability has worn thin. When the shit hits the fan, these will be my pants of choice, along with the aforementioned Dickie's cargo pants, I believe I am at least prepared for a fall and winter of being outdoors as much as I can afford, whether on the range or in the national parks, or prepping my log cabin in the middle of nowhere.

My only complaint about these trousers is the lack of ass and crotch support. I wear my pants baggy, though I don't low-ride my shit, I prefer the extra mobility afforded by a size bigger than I would normally wear, especially when it comes to clothes tailored for the working class. Typically when a pair of these finally does wear out, it's due to a blowout in the crotch area from the chafe of the chaps with no additional support between. A small complaint, as they will still live a good year plus before this occurs with proper washing and maintenance, but one worth mentioning.

I'm not usually so excited about outerwear, but when it comes to plugging Dickie's and Carhartt for their usefulness, comfort, and insane durability, I can't help but get up on my invisible soapbox and preach.

AARON'S 9/11/08 ADD-ON:
Eric got me thinking about colder-weather clothing. On a recent trip to Cabela's, my dad told me to pick out some birthday stuff. Needless to say, I can't go in there without looking at knives, and an article on my birthday selection is coming soon. I actually spent time looking at clothes there, a first. I was surprised at how reasonable their prices are on Carhartt and their Cabela's store brand. I picked up their 16 penny carpenter jacket, normally around $50, pops paid $55, because I inherited his height, and mom's dad's weight and shoulder-width. The 2XL tall fits me perfectly and I'm a fan of black, but I have lots of it, including a black Levi's jacket so I went with the darker sawdust color. It's much darker than the variant pictured on their site, but the thing is rife with pockets and will make a swell 2nd skin for shooting and hiking.

And, no, I'm not going to say anything about 9/11 because it'll only get me worked up and ranting about politics.

on board with this Motley Crue.

I finally got around to joining this merry band of cutters and shooters. I was afraid that any further delay would find me awakened late one night with a balaclava-shrouded figure hovering over me in bed, ready to haul me off for re-education.

My experiences with tactical gear are quite limited. I am a happy proponent of cheap, tough, sharp knives and having a good flashlight around at all times. When i get the opportunity to camp or hike, i tend to overpack with lots of little details like extra batteries, rolls of string, electrical/duct tape, etc. But really, a good knife or two, flashlight and walking stick, and some emergency shelter (garbage bags) are about all i need besides the food/water bit. It's hard to remember that as i stuff a framepack full of extras; i think it's just a way for me to get the most pre-hike excitement as possible from the moment. Especially since most of the trips i take are far from adventurous ones...

Having spent the Forth of July down at Aaron's parents house in Gig Harbor, on our return to Sea-town i was treated with a side-trip to Fife's amazing Costco-like outdoor gear store, Sportco. I went right for the knives, since i was down to one little Kershaw Onion folder that i use at work everyday. Sportco had some pretty good deals, and i found myself buying two CRKT knives. The M-16 13ZER folder sports safety orange grips which immediately caught my eye. I have previously owned two other M-16s, one lost to the Taylor River and the other to rat bastard SPD officers and i can only hope the lock failed on that fucker and cut deep and clean into the backs of his fingers one day. I digress.

CRKT has a line of Emergency Rescue knives with the aforementioned Zytel grips and general smartness designed in. A midsize folder, it features the Carson designed flipper knob on the back for speedy opening and tang protection as well as a dual-sided thumb stud which i tend to have trouble with. It also features CRKTs new AutoLAWKS safety on the right of the blade. This doubly assures the frame lock won't fail and I'm happy to see it, except it does hinder ones efforts of closing the blade with one hand... I took the combo blade with serrations as i find cutting fabrics/string/rope with them much quicker, and i do a fair amount of that on the job. Good knife, very happy, paid slightly more than half the MSRP. Stoked.

The other knife was CKRTs Bear Claw, a kerambit-type design with a Zytel sheath. I've always been curious about handling a kermabit and CRKTs 4-1/2 incher fits my dainty little hand very well. I haven't had much of an opportunity to use this knife yet, but it's fun to carry. And again, paid about half the MSRP. Sportco rocks.

I also bought a pen type diamond sharpener made by Smith's which comes in handy for all kinds of sharpening, even fishhooks, and Holly's sewing needles! It's a cool design which you can clip into a pocket like a pen. Cost about six bucks i seem to think.

I am in the market for a new flashlight. The Stinger i bought several years ago as a mechanic's light has passed it's zenith. A powerful, if not long-lived beam, tough casing, and handy recharable batteries. It was a good light, but not an ideal camper. I'll look into the Surefire that 1 Fed is so fond of.

Didn't get many chances to get out and camp this season. Between my getting all fucked up in a cycling accident and not having a car, getting out of town proved a little challenging. But Holly and i did get one awesome camp in at the Hoh River a few weeks back. Despite my lame leg, we managed to set up camp right on the riverbed. The Hoh Rainforest was pretty dry and the river emphasized it's midsummer drought with a modest, though beautiful flow.

More details to follow; I got other shit to do with this Labor Day than sit and type all afternoon!