Saturday, February 08, 2003

I was reading last month's issue of Field and Stream when I saw that they had a very good article about surviving in the cold. Since the temperature tonight will fall to about 6 degree F where I am I thought I'd share some of it with you.

Rule #1: DON'T PANIC! If you're lost and the light's fading then it's time to stop walking and get ready to spend the night outside. Running around will only get you more lost and wear you out.

If you're going to go out to the woods you should carry some emergency supplies in a fanny pack. The pack should have a good folding knife, some waterproof matches or a butane lighter, some parachute cord for tying stuff down, one (or more) emergency space blankets and a steel camping cup for melting snow.

They also suggest carrying a few candy bars and something you can use for tinder while starting a fire, but I'm not sure that I agree with that. Instead of tinder I'd suggest solid camp stove fuel, and instead of candy bars I'd suggest one or two margarine bars (sure it's disgusting, but it's the most concentrated form of calories that's easily carried and we're talking about needing plenty of calories to survive a below-zero night in the open).

Another thing I'd suggest would be a carefully folded square of aluminum foil. If you can't find a spot bare of snow to build your fire on you can build a small one on top of the unfolded foil and it will keep the snow from melting around it and putting it out.

Of course, if you're really serious about surviving in the cold you should have a backpack with some more serious supplies in it. Stuff like a hatchet, a plastic tarp for construcing a shelter, and a parka with a hood and an outer waterproof/windproof layer. If you live in a state with cold winters you should have this stuff in the trunk of your car, anyway.

I've just detailed what you should have with you. If you want to know what to do with the stuff to keep alive then you should buy a copy of the magazine and read the article.

Friday, February 07, 2003

So I'm over at Good Shit, looking at all the nekkid pictures, when I come across this link. It takes awhile to get to the good stuff, but I think it's pretty kewl.

I suppose you have to like techno music, though. It should appeal to Jack Burton if no one else.

VOTE! has a pretty funny contest going on. It's interesting to both chess people AND computer enthusiasts.

So I'm over at The Third Hand and I see a link to a post on Dr. Horsefeathers. The good doctor relates a tale of where he and his wife met a Haitian immigrant who bought his own cab. In New York. Where the cab licenses go for $220,000 per.

Great story of how a new American worked hard and made good. But why don't we ever hear about a guy who was born here, who decided to devote his life to serving his country. A guy who realizes how good he has it. Maybe, if we search far and wide, we might even find a consitently cheerful fellow who only has good thing to say about anyone.

Yeah, right! In our dreams! Everyone knows that Americans are lard-butted, self-absorbed creeps that wail and gnash their teeth about everything under the sun even though they're literally living better than kings.

Heck, as long as I'm trying to find the Impossible American I might as well try to find one who not only is nice, cheerful and dedicated to serving his country but one who's chosen a career in saving lives AND someone who likes Montana weather in winter!

Next wish for the genie out of the bottle: a CCW license that's recognized and honored the world over.

Let's crack open the gun safe and see what kind of autoloading rifles I have in there that I bought on the surplus market.

The rifle on the left is a Swedish autoloader from WWII called the Ag 42. It is chambered for the 6.5X55mm round. It's a small, swift bullet that strikes tha target with about the same energy as an 8mm Mauser. If you read the post below I mention that deals come and go in the surplus gun market. These Ag 42's were selling at very reasonable prices 20 years ago, but now one of them in Excellent condition would set you back about $700.00 (that's the condition of the one pictured). This is one of the reasons you should subscribe to a firearms trade periodical so you won't miss a good deal.

The other two are both Chinese copies of the Russian SKS rifle, and they're both chambered for the 7.62X39mm cartridge. These rifles sell for about $120.00 USD per in Excellent condition, and when I bought these two they both looked like this, with crappy oil-soaked stocks. They look different because I bought new stocks for $75.00 per and mounted the guts on 'em. Took me maybe 5 minutes per rifle to do this, and all of a sudden I have what looks to be two completely different rifles.

Just a trick of the surplus gun trade. Don't tell anyone, though, or else they'll all want to get in on it.

Keep in mind that main reason I own so many guns is to introduce the new shooter to the sport. The Ag 42 is a very accurate rifle with a moderate recoil, just the thing for someone who wants to explore long-range rifle shooting. The two SKS rifles are perfect for stepping up to a moderate power rifle after the student has mastered the .22 long rifle cartridge. I've found that the funky-lookin' rifle in the middle helps younger students to focus, since they can pretend that they're firing an actual military rifle.

And it looks kewl, which is why I bought the stock in the first place.
Handguns are lotsa fun but the source of most of the surplus guns on the market are governments who originally bought the weapons to equip their military. Rifles are what they bought, and when they bought them they did so in million-gun chunks. Most of those lovely rifles eventually find their way to the surplus market, and they're the best bang for your buck.

Russia is the country with the largest cache of old guns, and they're not above selling these engines of war to the guys that originally were supposed to be in front of the muzzle. Good news for us.

Most surplus guns are chambered for one of three cartridges. The least powerful is the 7.62X39mm (also called the ".30 caliber Russian"). It's the same round that the AK-47 assault rifle uses.

The second most powerful round that these guns use is the 8mm Mauser, otherwise known as the "8X57mm". Although not as powerful as some other rounds on the market, it's certainly capable of harvesting most North American big game if you place the bullet in the right spot.

The most powerful round that these ol' Russian guns are chambered for is the 7.62X54R (the "R" stands for "Rimmed"). It's a robust round that is comparable to America's .30-06 cartridge. Although there are more potent cartridges out there, in all seriousness I wouldn't feel unprotected if I had to go up against the most dangerous of game animals with one of these in my hands.

Deals in the surplus market come and go as large lots are sold off. Right now the best deals to be found are on Russian M44 carbines. Most of them are selling for around $50.00 USD, and they're in Excellent condition. Since these rifles are also classified as Curios and Relics by the US gov, you can really save money if you hold a C&R FFL. Think of the Christmas gifts! And you can tell them that the gov classifies them as "Relics" without bothering to tell them that there's nothing special about a "Relic" calssification. Sure it's a bit dishonest, but what they know won't hurt them.

Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have suggested that bit about Christmas gifts. Looks like I'll have some explaining to do.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Reader Troy Loney has alerted me to this article in the Philadelphia Daily. Columnist John Baer states that manned space flights should stop, and he does so in no uncertain terms.

I think that Mr. Baer is wrong and that manned space flights should continue. I sincerely believe that we might not be able to live in the Star Trek universe, but we're going to have to get out in to space. To collect all that energy and all those mineral resources, if nothing else.

I Emailed Mr. Baer and stated my opinion. He very politely replied to my message. If you should decide to communicate with Mr. Baer then please be civil even if you don't agree with his views.

For some unfathomable reason people wander on by every so often and read this blog. That's very flattering.

Every so often someone actually links to this blog in their blogroll. That's even more flattering.

Unfortunately, like most of us my time is limited and I don't have enough time to read all of the blogs that are worth reading. If you do link to me, then please send me an Email me at james_43202 @ and let me know. I'd love to drop by and see what you have to say.

I had a teacher back in 3rd grade that was a little off the wall politically. He once had the Libertarian Party of Ohio's canidate for Governor show up to give a little talk to the class. This guy (don't remember his name) explained that the Libertarian Party firmly believed that all government should be abolished except for the military. Now, this was the very early 70's. Some bozo in another country's military was always taking over some mudhole out in the ass end of nowhere. Seemed to me that this was obviously a recipe for disaster.

So, during the Q&A, I raised my hand and asked him about that. He said "Oh, I see what you're saying but I don't think it would happen here." Then he refused to call on me or even make eye contact for the rest of his talk. His entire political philosopy called into question by a simple question from a 9 year old and he couldn't even engage me in a debate.

Sure, that was 30 years ago and things have probably changed. But that's the impression that I have of Libertarians, just one step up from Anarchists and just as unrealistic.

Lots and lots of people who have blogs call themselves "Libertarians". In fact, many bloggers who I profoundly respect insist that they're Libertarians. Almost all of them subscribe to the idea that some government is necessary, just that there should be as little as possible and it has to be constantly watched to make sure that it doesn't grow into an unstoppable monster. I agree with that sentiment.

The trigger that set off this spate of bloviation was this post, where Fusilier Pundit details his grudging realization that we need government. One might even say that we need a big, strong, healthy sort of government. If we have a sickly, weak, toothless ol' gov that can't enforce it's policies then there'll be nothing but posturing and waste with no positive results.

"Posturing and waste with no positive results." Hmmm. What does that remind me of?

Of course, one also has to guard against a gov that's too powerful, too intrusive, and isolated from the will of the governed. That would be just as bad.

It seems that the Volokh Conspiracy has a message to all of those lil' Nazi's at StormWatch (no, I'm not going to link to those guys). An excerpt...

"...please go away. This is the Internet, and you're technically free to keep reading our page, but since your goal is to find ways to better spread your "pro-white and anti-Jew message," would my being a Jew help persuade you to just close the window? That's right, Jew. In fact, of the nonanonymous bloggers on this site, the great majority are Jews, and the others -- well, they're only worse, because they're Aryans who seem to like Jews, no?"

Look at my name and you'll see which category I fall into.

Hmmm. Kosher food. I wish Columbus had a kosher deli. Nothing like a New York style deli, preferably one that was open 24 hours for us 3rd shift workers.

UPDATE Jane Galt has something to say about StormWatch and the source of all economic wisdom.

Monday, February 03, 2003

One of the things that most of my students ask me is "Can a surplus gun be used for self-defense?"

The short answer is "Sure!" Remember that these firearms were once cutting-edge, and the reason that they were purchased by their original owner was due to the fact that someone, somewhere, somewhen was expecting that these guns might just be used by the police or military.

Having said that I have to warn everyone that they might have been cutting edge way back when, but time and technology has marched on. The most effective self-defense ammunition today is loaded with more powder than the cartridges that were around when these old warhorses were made. The higher pressures might just wear them out or damage them, so be careful to use only standard loads.

Another thing to keep in mind when buying old autoloaders is bullet shape. The only bullets available when the guns were designed were Full Metal Jacket (FMJ). Many old autoloaders will choke on hollowpoint ammunition and jam just when you need it the most. A good example of this is 1911 style pistols, which traditionally have a problem with the more modern bullet shapes unless expensive gunsmithing is performed. This doesn't mean that they won't work with FMJ ammo, or that you can't effectively defend yourself with same, but it does mean that it's not the best solution available.

Surplus revolvers don't have a problem with bullet shape. You can load and fire any shape of bullet desired. But care must still be made to use only standard pressure loads.

Let's take a look at the surplus handguns that I currently own.

That big fellow at the top is a Star Super B, which was a 1911 style pistol that is chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. It's big, heavy, robust and very accurate. The weight and looong barrel mean that it's both very accurate and the perceived recoil is very light. Just the thing to introduce new students who're nervous about recoil to a full power cartridge. He cost me $100.00 USD PLUS the $100.00 that I had to pay for S&H, the fee the gun shop charged, and the fee the gunsmith charged to check him out before I fired my first round. I lucked out with him since he doesn't mind hollow point ammo.

The elegant gentleman in the middle is a Walther P-38, another 9mm autoloader. He has an alloy frame, which means that he was made in the 1950's for sale to weird Americans who wanted Nazi souvenirs. He cost me $230.00 USD plus the usual $100.00 extra. I presented him as a gift to a friend who admires the way the German u-boat service conducted itself during WWII.

That brash and shiny fellow on the bottom is a Smith and Wesson Model 469 (another 9mm), and he also cost $230.00. But I was in the right place at the right time to get such an amazing price. I had found a gunstore where I felt comfortable so I threw them all of my business. I bought all of my supplies there, and I always had a kind word for the owner whenever I went in so he'd think kindly towards me. When he made a deal with a local police department that wanted to upgrade their guns he offered me the pick of the trade ins. Since he was a gunsmith and had already checked the gun over I didn't need to pay someone for that, and there weren't those annoying shipping costs. Just a word to the wise for someone who wants to get into the hobby in a serious way.

Keep in mind that this is just what I have at the moment. I've owned other surplus handguns, even some revolvers, and I've never had anything to complain about. But also keep in mind that I wasn't asking them to do more than they could handle, either.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

I'm over at GoodShit, ignoring the articles and looking at all the nekkid pictures, when I notice this item. Seems a University of Cincinnati scholar was in Cyprus when she heard a local legend about a lost tomb. She tracked it down and discovered an undisturbed Bronze Age site!

Advantage Ohio archeologists!

DefenseTech has this post up about the Columbia tragedy. I was most interested in the items at the end of the post, where some people are suggesting that NASA should be abolished and that spaceflight isn't worth a single human life.

Well, gawdammit, aren't all of the crew volunteers? Didn't they want to be there?

Cripes, if it bothers them so much I'll go! Sure, I don't have any skills or education to warrant the expense of sending me up. I'm also one of the faceless grey people, so they won't be able to whip up public support through a media campaign. But it wouldn't be that big of a deal if I didn't make it back, either.

I wonder if they'd let me take one of my guns along? I doubt I'd need to storm the alien mothership and kill the queen before she can launch the invasion, but it's better to have it and not need it....

I'm reading Prof. reynold's blog when I see that he's linked to this Australian news item that reports on the defection of one of Saddam's bodyguards! Not only that, but this guy spilled the beans and knows where some of Saddam's top-secret WMD production plants are.

Consider that this wouldn't have happened if Iraq wasn't ready to crack. And Iraq wouldn't be near collapse if the US hadn't decided to ratchet up the pressure.

This proves that the "No more war!" and "Bush is a terrorist!" crowd is obviously wrong. One would think that it will shut them up. But one would be wrong.

When you look through the ads in a trade publication you'll notice that some of the guns for sale are labelled as being Curios and Relics, or just C&R. These are guns that the government has decided have special interest to collectors. A C&R FFL will allow you to buy these guns directly from the surplus gun dealers, without paying the $50.00 USD that your local gun shop will charge. It will only cost you $30.00 to get your own license, and the license will be good for 3 years. Sounds like a sweet deal, doesn't it?

There are some problems. For one thing the license is for people who want to collect guns, not buy and sell them. Sure, you can sell two or three a year to your friends and no one will care. Any more than that and the BATF will be wondering what's going on. So if you're thinking of starting a business or even making a profit you should look into getting a dealer's license.

The real drawback is that you have to submit to scrutiny by the Federal government. If a BATF agent decides that he wants to come in your house and look around for illegal guns, then you have to let him. You also have to submit a form to the BATF every time you purchase a gun, so they know what you have.

If you're going to buy one or two guns a year then I wouldn't bother. If you're looking to become a serious collector of inexpensive but functional guns then it's well worth it. You can find a page where a satisfied C&R collector talks about his purchases here.

I mentioned in the post below that buying from an individual can afford the best price. It can, but I wouldn't do it. If there's something wrong with the gun you buy, if the gun they ship you obviously isn't in the condition advertised, then a reputable dealer will allow you to make an exchange for another one. When it comes to an individual sale, particularly when the seller lives in another state, your options are limited if you get saddled with a lemon.

If you see an ad for a gun the you just HAVE TO OWN then you're going to have to follow some of the steps outlined below. Contact the seller and send him payment for the gun. Since guns can only be shipped to people with FFL's, the seller will probably give the gun to his local gun shop. Then they'll ship it to your local gun shop. Then you can go pick up your new gun and see if you've been taken.

Keep in mind that the two gun shops involved will want $50.00 USD each for all of this shipping to and fro. Make sure that you work out the details with the gun seller before you send him your money.

As you can probably tell right off, I've always felt uneasy with the lack of accountability that buying from an individual brings. Still, to be fair I have to point out that thousands of people buy and sell their individual firearms this way every month with no problems at all.

There are gun dealers who concentrate on buying and selling surplus guns exclusively. They usually don't have a store somewhere that's open to the public, so how do you find them and see what they have to offer? To do that you have to buy a trade publication.

Trade publications look like little newspapers and they're available at any well equipped newstand. The best of the lot is probably The Shotgun News (Don't let the name fool you. Shotguns are the type of guns that they talk about the least). The publication is chock-full of ads for guns, some placed by individual people trying to sell a few guns to dealers that have warehouses full of antique rifles. I'll talk about buying from a private individual in another post, but right now I'd like to concentrate on buying from a dealer.

The first step is to buy the trade publication and leaf through it to find what you want. There's always something different available (and prices fluctuate) as lots are sold off and broken up. If you're thinking of doing this in a serious way then it would be worth it to subscribe and look through each issue for about four months to get an idea of what's going on and what the prices are. When you do see something that you're interested in make careful note of the condition of the gun to make sure that it can be fired. This is important because many non-working guns are sold to collectors who want to fill that last spot in their display case.

One thing to keep in mind is that the price listed in the ad is about $100.00 USD less than the price you're going to pay. These dealers can only sell to someone with a federal Firearms License, which means that you're going to have to ask your local gun shop to help you out. Most of them will do it for a $50.00 USD fee (If they charge more go to another shop. If they charge less give them all of your business).

Okay, an extra fifty bucks for the gun dealer. Then there's shipping and handling, which varies according to how fast you want the gun (say $15.00). Then there's something called a "hand pick" for $15.00 USD. This means that the surplus dealer will, before shipping the firearm, open the package and make sure that everything you're buying is in there and there's no surprises. This is worth the money since it avoids many of the little headaches that these deals are prone to.

When you finally get your gun you should have an experienced gunsmith examine it and make sure that it's safe to fire. It's very important that you do this. The price varies widely depending on how many gunsmiths there are in your area. Most gunshops have a gunsmith on the payroll that will do it for you for another small fee, but get the Yellow Pages out and call around. There's nothing wrong with trying to get the best price.

I know that this sounds complicated but it's pretty simple in practice. Just get a trade publication and find what you're looking for in the ads. Then take the ad with you to your local gun store and ask the clerk for his help. He'll walk you through the entire process. After you do it once or twice you'll start thinking of getting your own FFL so you can save that $50.00 USD that the gun shop charges.

There's two places to get surplus guns: your local gun shop and through gun dealers specializing in the surplus trade. I'll discuss buying from specialized dealers in another post, but first I'd like to talk about buying from your local gun store.

Most gun stores have a few used guns for sale. If you're unsure as to the condition of the gun then simply ask the dealer to rate it for you (my post explaining the rating system can be found here). As long as it's condition Good or above you shouldn't have any problems.

Buying from the gun store saves you many potential headaches. If the gun doesn't function correctly then you can simply return it and ask for another like it, or for your moeny back. It's very important that you take the gun to the range right away and put it through it's paces. Shoot at least 100 rounds through it, and make sure that it's the type of ammo you're planning to use most often (or your favorite defensive ammo, if you're thinking of using it for defense). If you're not satisfied then take it back immediately. Most dealers only have a 30 day refund/return policy. If you delay for any length of time then you'll lose your window.

Buying from the store won't save you the most money but it's easy and quick. Be wary of "Police Trades", though. Every so often a police agency will trade their guns to a dealer as part of the deal when they upgrade their firearms. Knowing that most people will assume that the cops took better care of them, the dealers will set the price higher than the condition of the gun warrants. Police Trades are useful for getting guns only a few years old, but considering that there's plenty of discontinued models out there that will do the job for a better price I can't recommend it.

The main problem that many people have when buying surplus guns is that the condition of the gun is a mystery. Unless you know the rating system used by the gun dealers you might pay for something that you think is going to be the perfect little shooter only to find that you've spent your hard earned on a pile of rust. The rating system is detailed below.

Before I start I'd like to point out that I'm only interested in guns that go bang. There's a whole community of people who collect guns for the resale value, some of them even doing it as an investment. These posts are specifically geared towards people who want to buy something to shoot at the range, use in hunting or for self-defense. Buying a gun with an eye towards resale value simply isn't on my radar. If collecting is your thing then I strongly urge you to attend gun shows and auctions and talk to the people who are involved in that aspect of the shooting sports.

I also talk about "blueing" below. That's the black finish that guns are coated with to keep the rust off. The paint that's bonded to the metal starts off as being a bright cheery blue color, hence the name. The black finish will eventually rub off after awhile, reducing the value of the gun but not it's ability to shoot.

Firearm Rating System
New- Factory fresh. Older guns in this condition are attractive to collectors, so they usually are more expensive than more recent models.

Mint- This is also referred to as "Perfect Condition". It's a gun that's been fired before but there's no visible wear.

Excellent- Tiny amounts of wear are visible on the blueing. The gun is in almost new condition so far as being mechanically sound. This offers one of the best deals for the buyer of surplus firearms because the guns in this condition aren't of much interest to collectors, yet they shoot just fine and dandy.

Very Good- In perfectly good working condition but it has worn blueing and some scratches or other imperfections. This is the condition that affords you the maximum savings with the least amount of headaches. Almost all of the surplus guns I bought were in this condition.

Good- In perfectly good working condition with worn blueing and some scratches and scrapes, but it also has a few patches of rust or corrosion. This corrosion isn't supposed to interfere with normal function. I've bought a few guns in this condition with no problems at all, but let the buyer beware.

Fair- It's supposed to be in safe working condition, but some of the parts might need replacement and some other work might be needed. Only for those experienced shooters who've educated themselves in the gunsmith's art.

Poor- Crap. Rusty, worn out crap. Don't even think about firing a round through these guns. They can be very helpful in filling out a collection of display-only guns, though.

Gunsmith's Special- Just some parts in a box, really. This isn't an official rating but I've been seeing it more and more often lately.

So there you have it. Follow the rating system and you'll have a very good idea of what you're in for long before you ever hand any money over.