Sunday, May 30, 2010

Give Thanks to a Soldier

Dedicated to SP4 Ryan Campbell and the Stryker Battalion stationed in Southern Afghanistan.
- Brigid

In times of great strife

war close and at hand
We prayed to our God
for soldiers guarding our land

In those long ago wars
enemy surrounding us all
We waved flags for our soldiers
as on our Lord we would call.

But when those wars were over
wrongs seemingly righted
Our God was forgotten
and the brave soldier slighted

The war's closer to home now

we've got freedom to save
So it's in God We Trust
as we honor the brave

- Brigid 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Short Story Before I Load Up to Drive Home

Some photos just call for a story.
The sun dips towards the trees, the water still, the insects not yet biting.

I've had my best success whitetail hunting right at dusk, often after being in a blind since before dawn, only venturing down for nature's call and a peanut butter sandwich during the time of the day that the deer are hunkering down.

It's a time not suited for the impatient. A small window of opportunity that might arise after a day of chattering squirrels and small deer too little to be disturbed in their growth. Minutes it seems, in which you sit upon a plank of coldness, waiting to stumble upon the chance of a shot, carefully calculating in the settling of the dark, the rapid and imminent shortening of the allotted span in which we find the treasures hidden in the woods.

Nothing good comes easily, or quickly. You learn it tending the land. Watching the seasons pop up like a wheel spring, corn rising like the tide, then being swept away in a tsunami of combines, leaving the land laid clean. Rain and drought come and go, as you are unable to do much more than sit against the fence rail and watch. Like much in our life, there are times we can only sit, knowing what we wanted to do, and couldn't and knowing what we could have done, but didn't, nature pressing on regardless of our choice.

Such things are reinforced in the blind,where you have been all day, hunting buried secrets, within yourself and there in your surroundings. Watching, inwardly and out for those minute changes in life that tell you when to sit quietly and watch and when to release the safety and act. Changes that most people miss, lost in the sound of a television set, a video game, the rush of traffic. Lost because they simply failed to look.
The wind shifts imperceptibly, the woods grow quiet as the sun sets down. Small creatures hop into grassy fields, risking a meeting with a predator for one last chance to put food in their belly before the darkness blankets them for the night. There along the tree line, a blur of soft movement, a whitetail buck. I hope he doesn't scent me, the smell of warm flesh, flame of hair and that odor of gunpowder and glory which seems to me to be the mark of the hunters garb.

He moves from behind a small ridge of earth, seemingly rising out of the earth itself as my Browning rises from my lap, a synchronization of fate. A 10 point buck, emboldened by the late hour as well, believing he has the woods to himself and a shy little doe, the rest of the hunters all having long retired to a television set and a cold beer. But I am still here, waiting. He moves on down a slope of earth that dips like a hard swallow, seeking. He stops, sniffing the air for the one that he seeks, leaving the familiarity of woods and bed, to wander after love, no sense of reason, walking willfully into hope and doom.

With the last drops of the sun leeching from the sky I have only this one hesitation, this moment, this one shot. As he moves away, quickly sensing perhaps a darkness that is final, I squeeze the trigger, a sound of profound meaning and fatal touch. The buck bounds up and forward, flinging the dirt as he darts away, quivering upright, in labored heave and surge of form. Dead, but not willing yet to quit the earth though in this moment his flesh has already been returned to it.

It was a fatal shot, one through the heart, and I found him yards away, down, the light having passed below the horizon of his iris, stare fixed into eternity. I take my hat off, and give thanks, for the day, for the bounty, for food for the table for a long winter. I mouth that prayer of thanks, as I look down on his still form. My breath assumes the air that his body had vacated, my eyes seeing the objects, fence and field and trees, that his eyes had lost, a glimpse of thanks for life and the ability to sustain it through the coming days.The light is all but gone as if the dark had slipped up behind me, my back exposed to the creep of time, so enmeshed by the sound of the rifle that I scarcely heard its whisper. The moon is out, the shadows diminishing to its curve, until even the shadows are drenched in black. For a moment, there was no movement, the deer's still form barely visible, its outline growing weightless and faint, the night itself mesmerizing me with it's own primal inertia. Too soon it will be my time to leave.

A light comes through the trees, a neighbor, hearing the shot, coming to help me bring in the game, for which I will share with his family."I'm over here", I shout, but my words are still, my small voice already lost in the woods infinitude. I can only stand still, my shadow long departed, running free somewhere with a whitetail buck, into the darkness, seeking the sun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mausers and Muffins, on the Road

There are sometimes little perks about being on the road for most of a month.

(1) I don't have to make my bed

(2) There is no bathroom scale actually IN the bathroom

(3) I don't have to worry about "accessorizing" as my entire travel wardrobe would only appeal to Joe Friday.
(4) I sometimes run across some of my friends who live away from the land of Corn.

This month had times such as these. I got to play with toys and eat supper with friend and Miles who was residing during a trip to the grandkids about 15 minutes from where my business . I got to check out his awesome Smith and Wesson Model 66 and in turn, I gave him a flying lesson.
And I got to explore a HUGE Cabelas.
I'd post a more scintillating shot but we female bloggers were recently taken to task by a young female blogger who said most of us only have readers because we use cleavage and skin shots to lure in traffic. So for my 2.6 million readers, here you have the secret to Mausers and Muffins. Captivating photography.
The Cabela's was really awesome. We don't have one in Indianapolis. I wish we did.
I was tempted by a thing or two in their large assortment of firearms, but I'm quite a ways from home.

Besides, it just didn't match my outfit.

I will be looking forward to going home next week. I miss my friends, I miss my home, but for every day like today, I realize, that at the Range or on the Road, I am truly blessed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Casting Spells

Werewolves are common in folklore, and part of many a childhood nightmare of my own. The source of the word is debated. One etymology derives the first part of the word from the Old English weri (to wear); the full form in this case would be wearer of wolf skin, lupine equivalents of the berserker, said to wear a bearskin in battle.

Other sources derive the word from warg-wolf, where warg (or later werg and wero) is cognate with Old Norse vargr, meaning "rogue," "outlaw," or, euphemistically, "wolf". A Vargulf was the kind of wolf that slaughtered many members of a flock or herd but ate little of the kill. Herders had to destroy the rogue wolf before it took out an entire block of lambs, using what means they had at their hands.

You do what you have to do. But it helps if you have the proper tools.

Look what the mailman brought me before I left! Time to learn something new.

But I was thinking, if the "casting lead" thing doesn't work out, I could always try Silver.
You know, just in case I run into one of those other bad guys that wander off the Moors into town.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Fan Fun

Hallmark has cards with these two cute little characters named Hoops and Yoyo. They're extremely popular, and you can even buy little plush versions. I'll admit, the goofy part of me gets a chuckle out of them and I happily own the plush versions too, a gift from a friend over at DIA.

Hoops and Yoyo fans have taken to sending pictures of their little Hoops and Yoyo toys on vacations, at home or doing all kinds of things to the Hallmark website and they encourage people to do so for "fan fun".

I couldn't resist.
It followed me home, can I keep it?

Friday, May 7, 2010

I BRAKE FOR AR-15's - The Wilson Combat Tactical

It's Saturday . Time for a range date with the Wilson Combat Tactical AR-15

There has been a lot of activity in AR-15 purchasing this last year. Although I've purchased other firearms of this type, including a nifty little Bushmaster Shorty, and have more than one AR15 in the house, this is by far my favorite.

From the manufacturer, it was a tight little weapon that was surprisingly nimble and light. Add in some extra features and I had a gun that was going to be with me for the long haul.Forged upper (flat top) and lower receivers
Premium Wilson Combat® Match-Grade Fluted Barrel 16.25
Wilson Combat® Tactical Muzzle Brake
Free-Float Ventilated Aluminum Handguard
ERGO Ergonomically Correct Pistol Grip
Crisp 3-3.5# Trigger Pull with JP Trigger/ Hammer Group
Premium Mil-Spec Bolt and Bolt Carrier
NP-3 Coated Hard Anodize Finish on Receivers
Mil-Spec Black Manganese Phosphate (Parkerized) on Barrel and Steel Components

The Magpul PRS stock was an add-on. If you aren't familiar, it's a drop in replacement for A1 or A2 standard AR15/M16 Stocks. The Magpul PRS(TM), the PRS is adjustable for both cheek riser height and length-of-pull with out sacrificing the durability necessary to withstand the operational environment. Machined aluminum adjustment knobs have positive-locking click detents to maintain position under recoil and allow easy, tool-less adjustments by simply rotating the knobs.
The butt plate is machined aluminum and the steel shaft provides stability and the strength to weather severe impact conditions,( ow, ow, ow). Even without their new rubber butt pad, it didn't slip at all. Trust me, if it won't slip with body armor or modular gear it's not going to slip on you out at the conservation club. A bottom rail is Picatinny-style allowing for monopod use, or additional sling mounts. Stock includes all mounting hardware for A1 and A2 type rifles with fixed stocks. Two color choices, (this one matches my purse. . . just kidding) and made in the U.S.A.
Just slip off your old stock and slide this one on. Uses the existing buffer and tube. It provides for adjustable length of pull and comb height adjustments via click wheels. Installation is simple. Simply remove the screw that holds on the factory stock and slide the stock off. You then slide the PRS onto the rifle length buffer tube without the small A2 spacer. Install the screw through the rear of the buttplate. Voilà. As I said before, the height of the cheek piece is adjustable via a machined aluminum adjustment dial with detents that are discernible, adjusting up from standard height up aprox. ¾ of in inch. You can can adjust the buttplate in the same manner. Fully extended it is over 11 ¼ inches long which is about ½ inch longer than the A2 buttstock.
It's nice, solid, and the pieces don't shimmy, move or rattle about. This stock is several years old, and has been worked hard, yet it doesn't look much different than when it was new.

In addition, Magpul, is a company that can do no wrong, at least so far as I have seen. I have yet to have a poor experience with any of their products or their customer service.
One friend cautioned me that these weapons don't hold up well in the field, but I haven't seen that at all. It's built pretty solid, yet isn't so heavy that a smaller than average shooter can't handle it well. The JP Trigger Group fitted to the lower receiver provides a superb single-stage pull, breaking cleanly at about 3 1/4 pounds. One might expect a heavy, creepy trigger on a semi-auto like this, but it is just not there.
The Wilson match-grade barrels are made of 4140 steel, fluted to reduce weight while retaining rigidity. The barrels are machined with a 1:9-inch twist, providing bullet stability over a wide range of bullet weights. The steel handguard adds to the elements of design that enhance accuracy. Wilson match-grade barrels are made of 4140 steel, fluted to reduce weight while retaining rigidity. The barrels are machined with a 1:9-inch twist, providing bullet stability over a wide range of bullet weights.
Not including the brake, barrel length is 15 inches.,with barrel length at 16.25 inches on the carbine, including the permanently fitted muzzle brake. The overall compact length (just a little over 34 inches) and short barrel make this a weapon that is not only east but is FAST to handle. Here it is, next to the Garand and a couple guns down from the Panther Arms SASS Tactical .308. The difference in size is pronounced, but the AR's firepower is impressive.

click to enlarge photo
The downside however, is that the short barrel and brake make this a very loud weapon that will get your attention. Comparing it to a .223 fired from a longer barrel, the difference in report is remarkable. But then, this isn't a weapon you are expecting to be shooting in the "stealth" mode after that first shot rings out. Every one is going to know you are there. The good guys are going to be coming over to ask "where can I get one of those" as soon as the bad guys are nothing more than shreds on the floor.

Therefore, good hearing protection is a must. I've shot mine indoors at a LEO range and cheap ear muffs were not going to cut it unless I are opting for enhanced "selective hearing".

(Oh, sorry Hon, I thought you said "bring me another bear").The flat-top Wilson receiver with Picatinny rail gives you some good choices for sighting equipment. Mine came with a large target scope that seemed a little out of place on the trim little carbine. It looked like a scope with a rifle attached. So I added an EoTech 511. I really like the EOTech. My friend Bob of Cowboyblob fame liked his so much he bought two of them. If you get one with a bare lower, you might also consider free floated 16" with a flat top and either an EOTech or ACOG (love the TA-31). EOTech Holographic patterns have been designed to be instantly visible in any light, instinctive to center regardless of shooting angle, and to remain in view while sweeping the engagement zone. Reticles are engineered as large, see-through patterns to achieve lightning quick reticle to target acquisition without covering or obscuring the point of aim. Snow, mud, even a shattered laminate screen from opposite fire -it still functions. As long as the shooter can see through any portion of the window, the entire reticle pattern is visible on target. The PRS was a nice accompaniment. Its nimble weight and correct balance made for fast target acquisition and transitions between targets. Add in that superb trigger and the very efficient muzzle brake and you will be quite pleased.
Sighting it in was easy. When zeroing an optic like the EOTech, the windage and elevation adjustments usually are to a given fraction of minute of angle (the owner's manual should tell you). Start with the dot of the EOTech right on the dot of the boresighter if you're using one. You will likely need to adjust it a fair amount to get them to overlap, but it doesn't take too long. As in anything, the boresighter is to get you on paper, not to get it perfectly dialed in without firing a shot.If you don't use a boresight, you can just set the optic to hit right at the sights, especially if you have iron sights that are already zeroed and will be back up. This method can get you closer than a boresighter.

I've never used a red dot or any kind of laser sight on my pistols, don't need to, but this is pretty handy on the AR for this type of shooting. Some folks take a little getting used to it, as they don't understand the point of reflex and red dot optics. You don't necessarily line up the red dot with the front site; you don't have to line it up carefully with one eye closed. You simply keep both eyes open, put the red dot on Mr. Target and squeeze the trigger.

.223 ammo was scarce for a while but it's becoming more available. Reloading will go a long way towards providing a lot of ammo for practice. If barrier penetration IS an important factor (and if you understand what barrier penetration means I don't have to explain), I'd recommend:

* 62 gr Federal bonded JSP Tactical (LE223T3)

* 55 gr Federal bonded JSP load (Tactical––LE223T1 or identical Premium Rifle––P223T2)

Again, just my personal choice. Others will recommend other things, and some folks aren't as fussy if their targets aren't shooting back at them.

Accuracy with both the Federal and the homegrown loads was good. Some standard five shot groups were in the range of 1.1 to 1.3 inches, with the weapon not being too particular on ammunition, though it did appear to do the best with Federal. You can get some better accuracy with the heavy barrel AR's, down to 1/4 MOA, but for the type of shooting you may do with this weapon, even for some longer distance varmint shooting, the distance accuracy is solid.

For a target much past 300 yards you're going to be needing greater magnification, as MOA is more of a factor on a small target. For that the EOTech would be replaced by a scope such as Leopold VX-III.
There are times when extreme accuracy and the ability for rapid follow-up shots are the most important criteria in selecting a rifle. This gun is engineered, designed, and built to deliver un-matched accuracy at great distance with the right scope. If you have always thought you needed a bolt action rifle for long range accuracy, think again.

If you are thinking defense, you can't go wrong. It's not cheap, but it's money wisely spent. If you are a varmint hunter – think nail-driving accuracy in a package that weighs less than a small bag of flour. Then imagine up to 30 rounds for consecutive shots. Coyotes or other pesky critters trying to take what is yours? This would do the trick. The Wilson Combat Tactical AR-15 in trained hands? A firearm worth stopping to take a look at.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cowboy Cook Shack Creations

What do you do when you only have a few Bratwurst and a household of hungry people? You improvise, yo the best Ranch "Cook Shack" tradition.

In the old West a ranch's "cook shack" was a world intertwined with, yet separate from, the life of the cowboy. Ruled over by an obstinate master cook, one of the few permanent members of the outfit, he wielded a lot more power than the migratory cooks who filled in on the cattle roundups and out on the trail. The master cook often slept in his domain, the cook shack, rather than in the bunkhouse with the rest of the men. He was noted for demanding proper respect for his role in their lives. He was not above reinforcing that respect with the broad end of a skillet. Why so much power? For the men, he provided one of those single important elements, along with sleep, that a cowboy needed to remain fit for a life both moving and hard.

Food.Good food, and lots of it. A ranch with a cook who wasn't a decent cook, had a hard time keeping good men, and that was not good business in the old West.
I don't keep a kitchen full of expensive, gourmet foods though I'm serious about my coffee and homemade bread. There's meat in the freezer, lots of venison, a few game birds sometimes. Veggies from the garden, apples, cheese, milk, and yogurt from the farm down the road, the staples of rice, beans, canned tomatoes and grain, and a nice collection of seasonings. I've not been known to refuse succor to a Pringle or a Rice Crispy treat, but I have little junk food in the house. I'd prefer to whip something up from scratch, be it cookies or dessert, with real ingredients, no chemicals.

So here was the situation. Supper time the other weekend. More people than Bratwurst. What would the Chuck Wagon Ninja do?

click on photos to enlarge, trust me on this.
Chuck Wagon Pasta. With the Bratwurst, a creamy sauce laced with tomatoes, chilies, jalapeno, and spice. Fresh veggies and good old "wagon wheel" pasta. Topped with some fresh grated Smoked Cheddar. A meal from "what's left in the fridge" and on the table in 15 minutes. The Ranch Hands were pleased.