Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I can't stress enough, that reloading isn't just something you sit down and do with a few purchased supplies and no instruction or training. Handloading should be approached with the same degree of caution as that science experiment you did in college. Although the manuals are helpful, I'd really recommend you learn from an experienced handloader or a NRA Certified Reloading Instructor.
If you don't know someone who actively reloads, or have an instructor in the area, ask at your local gun club, store or fish and game range to see if there are people who would be willing to mentor you in the process.
Just like in shooting the ammo, reloading the ammo requires the handler to assume the responsibility of safe handling with good judgment. Just as I will say that this post is simply a guide for a beginner and not to be used as a sole source of information; learn as much as you can before you start. Learn from someone with a keen eye on safety and if there is any question between you, use as a reference, a reputable reloading manual. For an excellent overview of reloading safety tips and information, before you get started, check out http://www.three-peaks.net/reload.htm . One of the best all around reference sites I've found as a beginner. The picture above was my "basic starter kit". If you are ahem "mechanically" challenged, don't let reloading intimidate you. At its most basic, it's simply putting a new primer, bullet and powder into an existing brass case. You could probably even teach a Congressman to do that (though they'd probably try to stick some pork in the case). You don't have to be an engineer, you simply need some supplies, and a personality that has some patience and attention to detail.
Most people started off reloading to save money. When your favorite pistols are .45 auto,like myself, the cost of ammo adds up. So you think 'I'll reload to save money!". Well, that is a myth, but don't tell your non-shooting spouse (shhhh). For you will shoot MUCH more for the same money, getting twice the bang for your buck, as they say, which is what makes reloading so valuable, not even factoring in the availability aspect of ammo. You can stop thinking "well that's a Quarter" every time you hear a bang (ah the good old days) and concentrate on practicing. And practicing some more.
I can't give you a precise idea of starting costs. Though I could venture to say if you shoot less than a box a month, it might not pay to reload unless you are having a hard time finding a particular ammo. If you shoot that little, I'm not sure you'd want to reload, but in any event, save your brass, as I guarantee you have friends that would love to have it.
You can easily spend $500 and up for precision and high-speed reloading for both rifle and pistol, especially if you get into the progressive presses. With an investment of this type you can produce some fine ammo at several hundred rounds an hour. If you're mechanically oriented, and have the finances to add to your store of tools, you might well enjoy that. But you don't have to. Buy the basics, save the really expensive high quality extra equipment until you've decided it's really what you want to do long term. You can buy the reasonable starter kits or obtain or purchase used and well maintained pieces, ask friends if they have any old equipment they want to get rid of, and you can get all set up for less than the cost of a fancy steak dinner out with you and the family.
If your budget is a little more than "bare bones" and you don't have a want or a current need for a progressive press, Lyman, Hornady, RCBS, and other companies make fine quality reloading equipment that uses more steel than aluminum and plastic. They each have kits (like the easy on the budget LEE kit) that will provide you all that you need to get started and will last you as long as you wish to use them. These kits can be found from $150 to around $300 and do provide some savings over buying pieces individually. I've been told that these kits will work for rifle or pistol (caliber-specific dies are required, and add a little cost $20 - $40 each, I think.) With this basic reloading equipment, the process is simple.
For reloading straight wall pistol cartridges, the set needs a resizing/decapping die, a case mouth expanding die, and a bullet seating die. The starter equipment is not ideal for long term use in that regard, but it is a great, budget-minded way to get started. You can add those other items to it later. This will allow rifle or pistol reloading at roughly 50 rounds an hour (maybe 75 with plenty of practice). The sizing die installed on a hand press. To fully resize the case, the die body must be screwed in until it touches the face of the shell holder installed on the press ram. The mandrel rod in the die must have it's decapping pin clear the base of the cartridge to fully eject the spent primer from the primer pocket. I can make a perfect blue cheese souffle. How hard can this be? Here we have a shell casing mounted in the shell holder and ready to be pressed into the properly adjusted sizing die. Watch your fingers! Another view. A shell casing ready to be inserted into the case mouth expanding die. This die should be adjusted in small increments till it 'bells' the mouth of the case just enough to allow starting a bullet by hand. This will let the bullet be pressed into the case without crushing the walls of the case, and without shaving lead from the bullet (when loading lead bullets). Over-expanding the case mouth leads to cracked cases and short case life. A sized and decapped case ready to have a primer installed. The biggest problem I had in finding supplies was in finding primers. Here is the LEE 'Autoprime' hand priming tool already set up to install primers in this size case. This is an area of reloading where you have to be as careful with safety precautions as you are on the range.. Wear safety glasses, follow directions, pay attention, etc. The primer is the only thing in the whole process that is actually explosive. One is not a big deal, but the tool can comfortably hold 50. Pressing the primers in by hand allows the reloader to 'feel' it being seated, and a case with a stretched pocket can be caught and discarded. Voila'. A case with the new primer correctly seated. (and no, I am not going to tell you how many many times it took to get it right. :-) If you can, buy your powders and primers locally to avoid Hazardous Material shipping charges which can quickly add up on a mail order. Gun shows often are a good source of powder and primers. The powder companies produce written guides (free!) that will tell you how much powder to use with particular bullets in each caliber. If you can study the powder manuals ahead of time, you can minimize the different powders you need for different purposes and keep your costs in check. In the picture of my supplies, the powder is what was recommended in the kit. A case with a LEE powder scoop. There are several ways to measure the proper powder charge. The best way is a mechanical powder measure checked by a good quality scale. That said, the oldest method in the world is a simple measuring scoop no different than a chef might use. Make sure you use the powders listed in the directions, if you're not a professional, this is not a process to say "hey let's try this!" Practice using a steady and repeatable scooping method.
I like to pour the powder into a small dish and drag the scoop through it. Is a scoop high tech? No. . . but it serves well as part of a beginner's cheap and portable kit. Later, when the reloader either obtains or cleans off their "dedicated bench", then a mechanical measure can be acquired and bolted to the bench. Till then, remember, most spouses would be cranky about having holes drilled in the dining room table to mount the measure. Speaking of workbenches. You will need a place to work. It will need enough weight to stay put while you're applying pressure to the handloading press and should be stable. The height should be right about your belt line. Can't find your belt line? Stand about a foot and a half from the wall with your arm at your side. Bend your arm at the elbow, keeping your elbow tucked into your side, and pivoting the arm 90 degrees to point at the wall. The spot where your fingertips touch the wall should be an ideal benchtop height for you. My start up benches were different heights as they were originally old doors made into tables which were beefed up with spare lumber and repainted. Total cost. $4.00. Give yourself enough space to lay out your tools and components. Add some shelves and storage area (secure from young children or grandchildren if you have them in your house) and make sure you have good lighting. An overhead lamp can really augment your garage or basement lighting. Ventilation is nice. I've got a big screened door into the backyard from here for a nice cross breeze. Remember though, if you are CASTING bullets, not reloading, ventilation is a basic necessity, not a nice option.I've got an old sink with hot and cold water next to the bench which makes cleaning of casings and general hand clean up easier. Here we have a case, bullet, and a bullet seating die. In a pistol round this die has two functions. It will press the bullet into the case, and it will apply a 'roll' crimp to hold the bullet snugly in the case. The person that taught me the basics stressed that crimps can only be (and should be) used on lead bullets or jacketed bullets with a cannelure. Jacketed bullets without a cannelure should have a taper crimp applied. Autoloaders generally work best with taper crimped cartridges, but soft lead bullets do not work well with taper crimps usually. The primed shell casing with powder charged, ready to have the bullet seated. Follow the die set up directions to properly set the seating die. If you want some more detailed instruction beyond reading about it, the LEE website has Video instructions on setting up the dies.You'll find them in the "single stage press' section. A loaded cartridge, displayed with a taper crimp die. This die squeezes the side walls of the case into the bullet, holding it in place without rolling the end of the case over. This is important in an autoloader, as most will headspace the cartridge on the mouth of the case rather than the rim. Now for clean up. You don't want to be reloading with cases that have grit or fouling on them. That can wear out your nice dies VERY quickly (including scratching them internally). Many folks have a small vibrating tumbler to clean the cases, equipment similar to what we rock hounders have, the cases vibrating with ground up walnut shells or corn cobs. One of my favorites group of folks, Midway (http://www.midwayusa.com/) has tumbler kits at a good price. But you don't have to have one to clean up. You can simply put the cases in hot water, and then rinse, and rinse again. To dry them out, put the cases on a clean pan in a warm oven for an hour or two to dry them out. Be careful that you use the lowest possible heat setting, less than 175 degrees. Any more than that is a really BAD idea. If you have a teenager in the house let them know, as they've been known to eat about anything found coming out of an oven. In the end you'll find more advantages to reloading than simply saving money on the cost of each bullet (you know, so you can shoot twice as much). You'll be able to tailor your ammo to a particular firearm and you can have ammo for obsolete guns. With practice and experimentation within the prescribed limits of the manufacturers, you can improve your accuracy by developing loads that work best in a specific gun. You can reload ammo that by either market conditions or manufacturing rate isn't readily available. You can also match your ammunition to the type of game you are hunting or the type of sport shooting you are doing.
It's GREEN. (everyone's favorite buzz word). By picking up all those brass casings on the ground and re-using them you are stopping global warming (OK, NOT, but Al Gore would try and use that line). But it IS fun if you are technical/mechanical minded. But mostly, it's a way to work with your hands, using new tools to enhance another sport you already enjoy, there quietly in your own garage, shop or basement. I can't think of a more relaxing way to spend an afternoon while gaining something truly useful with only a little time, effort and patience.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Oh boy, Barkley is not going to be happy with me if I leave him and don't even come home with a doggy bag.
But you're gonna see Aunt Tam, why can't I go?
The Jack , Joanna, Tam, Old Grouch, Roberta X, also known as Retrotechnologist, Nathan,and first time attendee Dave soon arrived. Old Grouch led a scouting expedition while everyone showed up and he came back with a short list of what was open.
We passed on the Wild Beaver Saloon.
And decided on the Canal Bistro, which had all the prerequisites for a IND blog meet, outside of that open sign, a great view of the bridge over the Monon and the wonderful smells wafting out of the front door. . .
(1) Within walking distance of the trail and everyone's cars.
(2) great food
(4) falling hippies.For yes, soon after we arrived we were treated to the the sight of a drunken hippie falling off the Monon bridge after sitting on the edge with his friends and leaning back just a little bit too far ("hey man is that a turtle?") Someone summoned the IFD (I Fell Down?) who arrived with ambulance and fire trucks and a few locals out in the rain watching the action there in the shadow of a statute of long arms holding a turtle into the air??
I couldn't help myself but all I could think of was, at first, was that song "it's raining men". Everyone but the X Team was soon assembled to bring him up to land, probably the little worse for wear as there are concrete pilings under there, not just water. But I'm sure his last coherent thought as it watched the giant turtle up in the sky like some demented sun with legs, was "Wow, I sure am glad I have Obamacare!"
Soon, the excitement was over and everyone was back to catching up and someone suggesting I could be in the group picture if I had one of those fake nose and glasses and Tam doing the budget version of a disguise.
It starts with the appetizers. I'm not sure what this was called but involved dousing a delicious wedge of cheese with what appeared to be some fragrant oil or liquid, which was then set on fire (WHOOOSH!!!) and then doused with lemon juice to put out the rather impressive flames. It was served with fresh hot pita bread to smear it on. It smelled wonderful and after checking to make sure my hair was not on fire, I ensured it tasted wonderful as well.Pardon me, I think that calamari has my name on it.
The Gyro's were incredible. Actually everything on the table was excellent, as was the service and I'd recommend the restaurant to anyone. It's casual enough for just stopping in but with decor beautiful enough for the most romantic of evenings.
Soon, as the light faded, it was time to say goodbye. We took a moment to stop and salute the spot to our fallen, crunchy warrior and head on home. There was no tie dye body outline so we assume he survived the fall.
Friday, April 22, 2011
(click to enlarge photos)
Steak marinated with Srirachi sauce, Guinness, key lime and spices for 24 hours, then grilled. The Srirachi gives it a nice little afterglow when all is said and done.
The veggies? Mushrooms, sliced onion and green beans tossed with olive oil, a little balsamic vingerette, then quick roasted at 450 F for about 10-15 minutes and sprinkled with a little smoked mozzerella the last couple of minutes of cooking.
It's Friday, so I'll leave you all to your own devices. I've got a dog that's happy to see me, an airman who probably is wanting to talk to me and about 11 hours of sleep on the horizon.
Afterburner Steak Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Guinness
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons key lime juice
a pinch of dried thyme
2 generous tablespoons Sriracha
2 pounds New York strip or rib-eye steak
Whisk together and marinate steak in a big zip lock for up to 24 hours. Grill as you like, brushing with marinade. Or, if you like smoke and noise, coat marinated steak very lightly with olive oil, let sit at room temperature for a few minutes and then cook for one minute in a preheated smoking hot cast iron pan, flip the steak and immediately place in a preheated 450-500 F oven for 3-5 minutes. (be prepared for smoke alarm). Remaining marinade can be cooked down in hot pan until reduced, for a dipping sauce, while the steak rests, lightly covered with foil for 3-5 minutes.
Serves 2-3 people.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
She looked at me and said "you're carrying, aren't you?".
I looked down at a light rain jacket over a T shirt, and couldn't see the form of a holster or anything so I asked, "how can you tell".
She said, "you carry yourself differently, there's a different look in your eyes. I've seen that look when you work but not when you socialize". She chuckled . . . "It's a little scary".
She thought about and replied. "It's daylight, we're in a park with other people, why?" It wasn't spoken with incrimination, simply curiosity.
Individually, collectively I believe it's a right of mine, as a law abiding citizen, whether I am a LEO or not, male or female, large or small. That being the right to protect my body and my interests for which I've toiled. And I would defend with each breath, against any interference with that liberty on which our country was founded.
The Founding Fathers did not give us that right, they simply affirmed us that right, one over our own bodies and minds that was God given long ago. But with the right comes obligation and responsibility. Our country was not founded on the principle that government would take care of our every need, including protecting us at every instance. To have the law enforcement power to achieve that alludes to an Orwellian world I would not wish to live in.
I carry because I am empowered with not just the right, but the duty to take care of myself. I am sovereign in my protection of myself, charged with that moral duty and supported by the Second Amendment and the steady hand that holds the grip. It is a decision that I alone make, to carry responsibly, to be proficient, to be sure. I can no more imagine giving that up, than the sibilant intake of breath as I squeeze the trigger.
Then there is simply the sheer love I have for that which is history, of the acts of courage that defined men's freedom, of the mechanical workings of objects which support self sufficiency and strength. Planes, trains, steam engines, old tools, and yes, the gun. There's an attraction to old tools and old machines, the human values they represent. Nothing that withstands history gets built without brilliance of design, a laboring effort and the dreams of man.
Some say a gun is a killing instrument. Man is a killing instrument. The gun is only a tool, from which we have the pure mechanical force which can keep one alive or take a life. As a tool it is as weak or as strong as he or she who hold its, as good or as bad as the collective soul that keeps it in working order. The guns I own are defenders of good, soldier's weapons, officer's weapons, my weapons.
As a female, I am by most cultures considered weak, yet my will to survive is born out by a life that most would have shied away from. That strength, that utter potency of the will to live is instilled in some things more than others, and in my old weapons I can feel it. Taking that, holding one in my hand, feeling the power and the recoil shudder through me is empowering. Using my own will and ability to place the precision of liberty onto a small piece of paper, it's history. That of the past, that of my continued future. I shoot, be it for sport, for duty, or simply in practice of that which I hope never to have to encounter. I am ready. Tools in hand.
Friday, April 15, 2011
I just wrote a $14,700 check two weeks ago to pay for the realtor and remaining taxes on the Range. I won't be buying any guns today and will have to make do with Vera, my trusty Wilson Combat Tactical.
Since I had the day off, and felt creative, I consoled myself with SAC (Snarf a Cupcake) Day.
Cupcakes ! Two kinds. Guinness Cupcakes and Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes. Then I frosted some of each with two different frostings. A Baileys Irish Cream Buttercream and a Chocolate Kahlua Buttercream.
You start with basic Buttercream Frosting Base. I doubled the recipe to make frosting for four dozen cupcakes. Half of the cupcakes with Baileys Irish Cream Buttercream and half with Kahlua Chocolate Buttercream. On either cupcake they both were divine (though I think I moaned when I bit into the Guinness Cupcake with the Chocolate Kahlua Frosting). After preparing the frosting base, divide into two bowls. For Baileys buttercream add 3 tablespoons of Baileys to one bowl and beat until combined. For Chocolate Kahlua Buttercream add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 4 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua to the other bowl and beat until combined. Now, what did I DO with these cupcakes. I delivered them to some male friends that I work and play with. They said "are these for us?" I said - " well one maybe, the rest are for your wives. Take them home a few and repeat after me". "Honey, you are looking MUCH too skinny, here, have a couple cupcakes". It's as simple as that.
"Can I buy a new gun?"
I doubled the recipe to make frosting for four dozen cupcakes. Half of the cupcakes with Baileys Irish Cream Buttercream and half with Kahlua Chocolate Buttercream. On either cupcake they both were divine (though I think I moaned when I bit into the Guinness Cupcake with the Chocolate Kahlua Frosting). After preparing the frosting base, divide into two bowls. For Baileys buttercream add 3 tablespoons of Baileys to one bowl and beat until combined. For Chocolate Kahlua Buttercream add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 4 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua to the other bowl and beat until combined. Now, what did I DO with these cupcakes. I delivered them to some male friends that I work and play with. They said "are these for us?" I said - " well one maybe, the rest are for your wives. Take them home a few and repeat after me". "Honey, you are looking MUCH too skinny, here, have a couple cupcakes". It's as simple as that.
After preparing the frosting base, divide into two bowls. For Baileys buttercream add 3 tablespoons of Baileys to one bowl and beat until combined. For Chocolate Kahlua Buttercream add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and 4 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua to the other bowl and beat until combined. Now, what did I DO with these cupcakes. I delivered them to some male friends that I work and play with. They said "are these for us?" I said - " well one maybe, the rest are for your wives. Take them home a few and repeat after me". "Honey, you are looking MUCH too skinny, here, have a couple cupcakes". It's as simple as that.
"Honey, you are looking MUCH too skinny, here, have a couple cupcakes". It's as simple as that.
"Honey, you are looking MUCH too skinny, here, have a couple cupcakes".wait 10 minutes while the alcohol laced goodness settles.
It's as simple as that.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Music has always been a part of my life though I'm not particularly gifted. Good, enough to do auditions on piano in high school and play in the youth symphony, but not near good enough to make any kind of career of it. That was fine with me, my interests being more science and engineering than the arts.
But the first thing I bought when I started making adult money was not a sports car, it was a Baldwin Baby Grand. But I only played for friends over for food and fun.Yet I still loved it. Then I got married, and the music that was to be my life went soundless. He sold the piano; I came home one day to find my beloved Baby Grand being loaded on the back of some ramshackle farmers truck, to pay off some debt he'd incurred, sold for 1/10th of what I paid for it. After that day there was nothing left in me that felt like making any more music. So I didn't play. For 15 years. Long after he was gone.
Then I put my foot back into the water again. A keyboard, a clarinet. Then something I had never played. Three years ago I got a violin. As far as the violin was concerned, I had the musical gift of a dyslexic tree sloth, but I tried. My fingers were a bit stiff and the some of the notes sounded like someone squeezing a cat, but the music was still in me.
Oh, please tell me you're going to just set fire to it.
The first step is always the hardest. Trying something new. Embracing something long forgotten that at one time you loved. Embracing something you've never done but wanted to. Tiny leaps upward propelled by longing and only held back by the gravity of timidity.
It's not much different than taking that first solo in an airplane. . You have been given the tools, you have the capabilities. But it's the fear of the what you don't know that holds you back, while upward a huge unknown, the sky, beacons. You've learned through your experience, through your lessons, that the sky is sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes frightening, never the same two days in a row, almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in it's quiet, and almost divine in it's vastness. And you're just a little afraid of it at this point.---But it calls to you, and you know you are going to go forward. It's like that first solo. Suddenly you know. It's time.
So you gingerly taxi away from your instructor, who is probably as nervous as you are, and you turn your eyes upward, and drink the air and breath the light and like a eagle on the wind you climb the sky and make that leap. And the beauty and the vastness of what's out there envelopes you and the exhilaration of all that awaits takes your breath away. And life is suddenly fuller. So even though I got the "oh, is this for your child?" I did it. I got my first violin at age forty (mumble mumble).
It was a small family run business that specialised in renting instruments to students with the option to purchase. Quite a ways west of Indianapolis, and WAY away from where I lived, I thought at first I had missed it, but there it was. A small barn like building next to a beautiful old farm house. I pull up. You would not know it was a business but for the small sign out front.
Taking an admiring glance of the quiet stillness in which these folks, a husband and wife, have built a thriving little business, I entered the store. The two of them, high school sweethearts from this area, have taken a love of music and built it into something that allowed them to live out here and raise their kids in a small, quiet town. They rent to school kids across the country, and sell used, new and beautifully restored classics across the country.
I walked in and the smells and the polish of the wood just pulled me in, the sounds of Winter by Vivaldi playing in the background, like a siren song.
So, after holding and feeling and touching, I picked one. I had never played. I left, happily clutching the case and the name of a local teacher, the echo of the music from the store trailing like a contrail in the twilight sky.
As I've said on here before, one is never to old to learn. One is never too ingrained in their habits to take up the instrument that for them, will be the perfect blend of the joyous with the sublime, hands stroking a thing of beauty as it resonates with the sound of their dreams, the lingering notes of their need. I have no great musical talent, and it might be a pipe dream that I learn to play this thing well halfway through my life, but I'm not going to ignore a dormant desire because I feel that I'm too fixed in the routine of my life. So, be it an instrument, learning to shoot, or simply learning to craft somethings with your hands, try it. And may the music of your longings fill up those quiet spaces within, as you curl up between the notes and breathe deep the dreams that are in all of us.
I'll never be 20 again. You can't make the years rewind like a tape. The Roman Poet Ovid said "All things change, nothing is extinguished, everything flows onward". Yet my music will pull me onward, pull me forward, calming me, soothing my mind, giving it rest, becoming the soundtrack of my life.
If could have put some of my aerial adventures to music, what a song it would have been. Flying can be as mathematical precise as Bach, as fluid as Chopin and as restful as Brahmns. I've had landings that were as lyrical as Vivaldi and I've had some that should have been set to the theme from Loony Tunes.---Maybe that's why I love music as much as I love flying.
Music induces in me a sense of the infinite and the contemplation of that which is unseen. Music and flying are both wonder, or can be. The same visceral connection between the soul and what elevates it to the heavens. Both strike in some people the same chord, the same spark that is embedded in some souls. Something that, in certain individuals, is simply part of our most basic and natural inability to live with the gravity of silence.
Tonight I don't have my violin, for which the neighbor's are likely glad. or any other instrument. But I've got some YoYoMa plays Vivaldi on a tape. Maybe for tonight, I'll crack open the windows and let the music out.