'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

28 October 2013

MB Remodel Pt. IV

The remodel is going slowly but we are making headway. Today we finished the ceiling and removed all the existing interior walls. I'd like to take a moment and talk about dimensional lumber for a minute. The lumber you buy for things like stud walls, joists, etc. aren't really what they're advertised as. For instance a 2x4 is really a 1.5 by 3.5 (approximately, YMMV depending on where you source your lumber and who the mill is). Take a look at this.

You see here a 2x4 old measure attached to a modern 2x4. The older wood is actually dimensionally correct and is significantly larger than the newer stuff. That 2x4 is probably about as strong as a modern 2x6. If you run into this stuff and it's at all recoverable I recommend you hang on to it with both hands. I'm keeping about all of it I can find in these walls. You just can't find it anywhere these days. I won't use it in the new construction but there's lots of projects where such sturdy lengths will be invaluable. It's also important to understand the true dimensions of the lumber you're using as your measurements will all be off if you don't. A 2x4 is not actually 2 inches by 4 inches.

Ok, time to get back to work. The ceiling is done so the false wall that defined that dead/closet space came down. I am so glad to see that thing gone. I was lazy and didn't take the time to remove all the interior nails in that space and my arms and back are covered with gashes and scrapes from banging and rubbing against them repeatedly. And of course they all got infected. Something about 60 year old dirt and crud I suppose. Probably should get a Tetanus shot but I won't.

When that was done we took out the wall between the bedroom and laundry room.Note the linoleum I'm standing on outlining where the original laundry room was.

A look down the masonry wall where that dead/closet space was. All the new ceiling joists are tied into that stud, load bearing wall.

All cleaned up and ready to lay out the new walls and fixtures.

I'm a big believer in laying out the new walls on the floor. After doing the measuring and figuring there's nothing like seeing where everything is going to be to really give you a good feel for the spaces and where and how big you want everything. In this remodel I used blue tape. The gaps are where doors will go. In this picture you can see the new hallway wall and where it will define both the laundry room and bedroom. I think it's tight but Lu says it's fine so she wins.

The new master bathroom. It actually measured out to be 5x11. The shower is on the left, the 4 foot vanity on the right and the toilet in between. Take the time at this point to measure in everything as exactly as you can because soon I'll be cutting out concrete and digging to put in the plumbing. Something I really, really do not want to screw up and have to do over.

Next to the bathroom is the new walk in closet. At 5x7 it's not huge but it will be plenty large enough for our needs.

In these pictures I'm standing in the shower and looking into the master bedroom. The french doors will go in the space currently occupied by that large window on the left there. The new master bedroom will be 18x12 which is larger than the old one while adding in a brand new bathroom and walk in closet. It's amazing what you can find space wise if you're very efficient. If you look back at some of the before pics you can see how much we opened everything up by taking out those walls. There was an awful lot of wasted space here and we have managed to recover pretty much all of it.If you look closely at the floor you can see where the carpet strips were and those squiggly lines are where the carper pad was glued down and show the edges of the carpet. Those define the dimensions of the old master bedroom. The new West wall is there on the right. You can see how much bigger the new space will be. Basically the bed will fit into the new space and leave the rest of the room untouched. With a walk in closet handling everything else we can create a sitting room/reading nook in the master bedroom. We'll even have space for comfortable chairs and a TV.

We're now ready for the next phase. Structural repair and demo are done with the exception of taking out and framing in those two windows. Actually it's 4 windows with two of them in the laundry room. I'll be exchanging one 2x3 single pane for a 2x2 double pane in the laundry room for light and air but other than that no windows are going back in. Plus the french doors of course.

Next will be concrete cutting and plumbing. I must do the cutting before I frame in the new walls. I can frame over the cuts and still plumb and back fill but I can't cut under a new sill plate. I'm dreading this if only because there's an awfully large chance for a screw up. I may even break down and hire a plumber to come by and tell me if my cuts are correctly placed. I hate to do it and I'm pretty certain I'm right but discretion is better than a catastrophic malfunction. We shall see.

Then we'll be putting in new walls, wiring in the new lights, outlets and switches and putting in that new french door. Which is going to be flat out awesome. Plus two new interior doors, a closet door, about 50 sheets of drywall, tile, carpet, finish work....

Man, there is still so much to do. Come back later and see if I can do it without hurting myself significantly.


27 October 2013

Sunday Kipling

The finger is healing nicely. Thanks for all your comments. You guys are a bit of alright as I believe my friend ExBootneck would say.

The remodel continues though we did take some time off Friday to do a little shooting. I have a bit to do to get ready for the 3 Gun match in December. Ok, a lot.

It struck me the other day while I was working. No, not the nail gun. That was earlier. The Republicans are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They've been hostages by the liberal establishment for so long they've fallen in love with them. Maybe explains why I'm no longer a big R. Unnatural sex gives me hives.

Hey, it's Sunday. Time for some football, BBQ, good company and maybe a prayer or two. America and a lot of her sons and daughters could sure use them.

The Derelict


   I was the staunchest of our fleet
   Till the sea rose beneath my feet
Unheralded, in hatred past all measure.
   Into his pits he stamped my crew,
   Buffeted, blinded, bound and threw,
Bidding me eyeless wait upon his pleasure.
   Man made me, and my will
   Is to my maker still,
Whom now the currents con, the rollers steer --
   Lifting forlorn to spy
   Trailed smoke along the sky,
Falling afraid lest any keel come near!
   Wrenched as the lips of thirst,
   Wried, dried, and split and burst,
Bone-bleached my decks, wind-scoured to the graining;
   And, jarred at every roll
   The gear that was my soul
Answers the anguish of my beams' complaining.
   For life that crammed me full,
   Gangs of the prying gull
That shriek and scrabble on the riven hatches.
   For roar that dumbed the gale,
   My hawse-pipes' guttering wail,
Sobbing my heart out through the uncounted watches.
   Blind in the hot blue ring
   Through all my points I swing --
Swing and return to shift the sun anew.
   Blind in my well-known sky
   I hear the stars go by,
Mocking the prow that cannot hold one true.
   White on my wasted path
   Wave after wave in wrath
Frets 'gainst his fellow, warring where to send me.
   Flung forward, heaved aside,
   Witless and dazed I bide
The mercy of the comber that shall end me.
   North where the bergs careen,
   The spray of seas unseen
Smokes round my head and freezes in the falling.
   South where the corals breed,
   The footless, floating weed
Folds me and fouls me, strake on strake upcrawling.
   I that was clean to run
   My race against the sun --
Strength on the deep, am bawd to all disaster;
   Whipped forth by night to meet
   My sister's careless feet,
And with a kiss betray her to my master.
   Man made me, and my will
   Is to my maker still --
To him and his, our peoples at their pier:
   Lifting in hope to spy
   Trailed smoke along the sky,
Falling afraid lest any keel come near!

23 October 2013

First Blood

Ok, who had Tuesday in the "When will Six nail gun himself" pool? 'Cause you can claim your prize now. C'mon. We all knew this was going to happen.

I always await First Blood with some trepidation. I know it's going to hurt like all get out but it's kind of a project rite of passage for me. Once done I seldom do it twice and the remodel can then go ahead with no further calamities. And not Sissy First Blood either, as in "Oh, stop being such a sissy and get back to work" scrapes and cuts and the like. Heck, I managed that in the first 5 minutes. It needs to be real "Oh man, that's a lot of blood. Hey, did you see that spurt? Will you please stop bleeding on everything and hold still so I can wrap it?" First Blood. A Manly injury.

Nail guns are wonderful tools. Except when they're not like when they're driving a nail through a digit or appendage. Then they're tools of evil and mass destruction. It's hard to tell but the end of the finger is quite purple. Thankfully I missed the bone but the nail did manage to go most of the way through.

It's also quite swollen. And tender. Did I mention tender because it is. Quite. Lu did the bandaging. By this point in our lives she's getting pretty good at it. If practice makes perfect she should be an ER nurse by now.

How did I manage to do that you ask? Well see it was like this. We were putting in the new ceiling joists and the work space was a little cramped. The joist was in and I was putting in the very last vertical support of the day. Isn't that the way it always is? The very last thing you do just before knocking off for the day. I had a hold of the support with my left hand and was nailing it from the opposite side. All lined up? Yep! Well drive that nail home boy. What you waitin' on? Well, apparently my aim was off by just a little. Anyone who has ever seen me shoot will hardly be surprised. As the gun spat out it's missile of doom I felt what I can only describe as a sharp ouchie in the middle finger of my left hand. I tried to pull it away but it seemed to be caught on something. I realized what had happened and tugged it off of the offending fastener. As I looked at it the blood started to run. And run. And run. Lu knew immediately and ran for the first aid kit while I cupped my hand below it to catch the runoff as it were. I still left quite a blood trail to the bathroom. When we got there I ran it under hot water and watched the bright arterial spurts rise about 2 inches. It was actually pretty cool.

Today it's purple and sore. I may even take the day off since even touching it at the moment causes new spasms of pain and discomfort. Still, I'm Ok. It takes a lot more than a little booboo like this to knock me out of action though I will have to do my bird flipping with the other hand for a while. Good thing I'm ambidextrous.

And at least First Blood is done. Without a trip to the ER. Life is good.


22 October 2013

MB Remodel Pt III

We'll call this chapter Dealing With Issue The First because when you open up walls and ceilings to bare studs you will find them.

Ok, Issue The First was the roof. Here are the existing roof joists and where they tie into the original house. You can just see the old rafter ends that formed the soffit. We had to open up the entire run of that masonry wall so we could see and get to every roof joist.

Here's a side view. The roof joists are nailed into a wooden nailer strip that runs across the face of the masonry wall. Yep, it's a 1x6 and the joists are fastened at each end with a single nail. Each and every one. Yeah, that's not going to work for me. At the bottom left you can see the old chimney to the original house. I'd tear it out but it's structural and at this point I'm less concerned with losing that space than I am opening up that can of worms. It's there and structurally sound. That's good enough for me.

What to do? Well, there are a variety of ways to address this but I'm unwilling to just tear the old roof down and start the whole thing from scratch. I decided on a compromise, a new load bearing wall. I started by putting in a double top plate. The first board is nailed directly to the joists and the second to the first. The top plate runs the width of the room and is fastened to every joist.

Then I put in a sill plate which is fastened to the slab with the Hilti gun. 16 inch on center studs then run from top to sill plates.

Here's a better look at the double top plate. I always use a double top plate on all load bearing walls. In fact, most building codes require it as a minimum.

Top plate, sill plate and studs in place. After I address one more roof issue I'll put in the horizontal bracing and fire blocks. This wall will be the North wall of both the new bathroom and closet. There will be both plumbing and electrical runs that will have to go in later and it needs to be complete before that happens.

The view of the old closet space. The roof joists are now supported by a load bearing wall that's fastened at top and bottom securely instead of by a single nail into an inadequately sized nailer board. The wall does eat into my space a little but that's a small price for proper structural stability. Honestly, I had a feeling about what I was going to find here a long time ago. When I walked on the roof I could feel it give a little. Disconcerting is putting it mildly.

The roof joists are 2x6 dimensional lumber over an 18 foot span and are spaced 24 inches on center. That's marginally adequate but certainly not ideal and needs to be modified a little. To address the last of my roof concerns there will be some new 2x6 ceiling joists going in that will tie into the roof joists and that new load bearing wall. When that's done I can begin taking down the interior walls and start framing in earnest.

Yesterday was a big day and by the end of it both Lu and I were fried. This is hard work, if you've never done it before, but totally within any good DIYers reach. Don't be afraid, just have a plan, understand there will be unforeseen issues you must deal with and start tearing stuff out. It's cathartic.


20 October 2013

Sunday Kipling

Shame on me. It's nearly midnight here and no Kipling. In my defense we got back from a wedding in Arizona late last night and we've been pretty much wiped out today. My favorite nephew, hereinafter referred to as AFNephew, got married to a lovely young woman Saturday afternoon. He was resplendent in his dress blues. You Air Force folks would have been proud. I know I was. They're bound for his duty station in Japan as soon as they can get her all signed in. Bureaucracy.

Tomorrow we start reconstruction on the remodel. I'm dreading cutting into the slab for the rough in plumbing. I may hire that out depending on how I'm feeling. We'll see.

 I hope this day found you all well and happy. The days are growing ever shorter and the nights colder. Turn up the heat, snuggle into a warm comforter and sip on something that makes the blood hot.


The City of Sleep

("The Brushwood Boy" -- The Day's Work)

Over the edge of the purple down,
  Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
  That is hard by the Sea of Dreams --
Where the poor may lay their wrongs away,
  And the sick may forget to weep?
But we -- pity us! Oh, pity us!
  We wakeful; ah, pity us! --
We must go back with Policeman Day --
  Back from the City of Sleep!

Weary they turn from the scroll and crown,
  Fetter and prayer and plough --
They that go up to the Merciful Town,
  For her gates are closing now.
It is their right in the Baths of Night
  Body and soul to steep,
But we -- pity us! ah, pity us!
  We wakeful; ah, pity us! --
We must go back with Policeman Day --
  Back from the City of Sleep!

Over the edge of the purple down,
  Ere the tender  dreams begin,
Look -- we may look -- at the Merciful Town,
  But we may not enter in!
Outcasts all, from her guarded wall
  Back to our watch we creep:
We -- pity us! ah, pity us!
  We wakeful; ah, pity us! --
We that go back with Policeman Day --
  Back from the City of Sleep!

16 October 2013

Remodel Video

Let's see if this actually works. It should make the whole thing make more sense.


MB Remodel Pt II

Final demo is pretty much done and I have found a few structural issues that will need to be addressed. Mostly in that ceiling I oh so confidently announced would need no work. Man, that Murphy is a cold blooded fellow. Teach me to run my mouth.

When you're doing tear out on old houses there's no telling what you will find. Case in point. We found two dead spaces, that is space that was walled off and not used for anything besides collecting dust and insect carcasses. This is the north wall that is the bulkhead between the master and spare bedrooms. Note that big hole in the drywall on the right.

In the closet, on the east side was this built in shelf system.

Behind that and the bulkhead wall was a dead space that was about 2x2 and ran from floor to ceiling. It's not an issue just a head scratcher. Bear in mind that the closet space also had a dead space below the floor that also ran from side to side. I figure we'll add in about 75 cubic feet of space just by eliminating those two dead areas.

Time to get the rest of the drywall out. There's absolutely no reason this can't be fun as well as work. Here's Lu getting her Ninja destruction skills on.

And Heeerrrreeee's Sixie!

This is a good time to talk about recycling. I'm a big believer in reusing whatever I can. Within limits. Look at what you take out, especially dimensional lumber, with a critical eye. If it looks sound by all means use it if you can. If it looks even a little questionable my advice is to chuck it and use new. I tossed the top board but will reuse the one on the bottom. This is the time to look at everything and replace it if needed. Look for signs of termites, rot and structural failure. If in doubt now is the time to rip it out and replace it with new and modern materials. Chemically treat the surrounding areas as required. You'll never be in a better place to do this and the cost is much lower than having to rip out new construction to fix something you can easily do now.

The proper tools will also make the demo go easier and faster. Hammers, an assortment of pry bars and a Sawzall will make your job vastly simpler. That's me sawing out the old floor in the closet.

I recommend clean up as you go. We also take the time to do a thorough sweep up at the end of every day. It cuts down on the dust and you won't have to wade through piles of crap constantly. We have the trailer positioned in the backyard and a wheelbarrow outside the window so we can pitch stuff into it and carry it to the trailer pretty much constantly. And if you have a lovely assistant? Heaven!

Here's that North wall after final demo. You can see the closet opening and the spare bedroom behind the old bulkhead wall. I later covered that opening with a blanket.

All the drywall is out and the carpet and pad are gone. This is the view looking into the bedroom with the laundry room on the right.

This is from the bedroom, looking back toward the rest of the house with the laundry room on the left. That wall where Lu is standing will come down and be moved about 4 feet into the laundry room space behind her.

What's next? Well, the next phase will involve the structural changes I need to make as well as taking down the old walls and installing the new framing. I mentioned an issue with the ceiling. Take a look at this photo of the closet space we're eliminating. At the top you can see that the ends of the ceiling joists stop about 2 feet short of the masonry wall. That's bad because it turns out they are being used to brace the roof joists which are attached....poorly. I'll have to address this and in the next installment I'll show you what I decided to do. It will involve some new ceiling joists but not as many as I first feared as well as a new header for the roof joists and some new framing along the masonry wall. I'll also need to unload and extend these existing ceiling joists. It's going to be fun.

We're taking the rest of the day off, just because we can. That's the nice thing about working for yourself. Of course I do have to report to Lu but I know all her weaknesses :) I also have a video and if I can ever figure out how to download it I'll post it. More later.


14 October 2013

Master Bedroom Remodel - Part 1

Ok, it's remodel time. We're going to completely blow out the master bedroom, laundry room and a small wasted space adjacent to both in order to add in a second bathroom and increase the square footage and usable space in the MB. That means that essentially everything comes out from walls to the built in closet/dresser to the ceilings.

This is a photo of the space from the doorway. Behind me is the wasted space we'll be incorporating into the remodel. To the right is the laundry room.To the left is the built in closet/dresser. In the bottom is a certain black dog. You can also see two windows. Besides being crappy wooden sash, single pane they're in the wrong place. The one on the right looks out on the back patio and will be taken out without replacement. The one straight ahead will come out and be replaced with a French door although probably not in the exact same spot. Note also the two slot holes in the walls by the corner. I checked to see and yep, there's no insulation in either exterior wall. Sigh. No wonder we had such a hard time controlling the temperature in that room. No matter, the drywall needed to come out anyway and insulation doesn't cost that much.

A better view of that built in. The thing was huge, running the width of the room and about 2 1/2 feet deep. Behind it is something very special as you will see. That's the entry doorway on the left leading to that frustrating wasted space.

I decided to take out the ceiling first, mostly to see what was up there and get an idea of what structural issues I was going to have to address. The ceiling was in two layers. First was acoustic ceiling tiles nailed to those lathe strips you can see. Under that was a second layer of acoustic ceiling tiles. Why two layers? I have no idea. The good news is that the joists are 2x6 dimensional lumber, 16 inches on center with fiberglass insulation. The better news is that I'll get back about 2 inches in ceiling height. Ceiling work in here is going to be minimal. I hope.

This is the ceiling in the wasted space. This is essentially a small room that had no use, nor could it be used for anything beyond staring at and wishing it had been incorporated into the bedroom in the first place. You can see the ceiling joists. They run at a 90 degree angle from those in the master bedroom and laundry room. I'll end up taking all these out as well as those in the laundry room and putting in new joists that run the length of both rooms, parallel to the master bedroom. Trust me, it'll all make more sense as the remodel proceeds.

And of course I had some expert consultations. "Ok Dad, here's what I think we should do..."

Ok, the ceiling is down, now it's time to tackle that built in. The thing was massively constructed. If The Meteor of Death had hit the house this thing would have emerged unscathed.

But we persevered and in the end it was gone. Please note the concrete slab. That's both good and bad. The good part is it's solid and no concrete will need to be poured. The bad is that I'll have to cut and jackhammer out the plumbing rough ins. The bathroom will be going in to the left in this picture with the walk in closet on the right. I have enough room to add in a 10x5 bathroom and a 7x5 closet while still increasing our space. What's behind that drywall? I'm glad you asked.

On the left there you can see a masonry wall. That's the old house exterior wall before the master bedroom was built. Behind it, to the left of the wall, is the spare bedroom. This space was created by building a bulkhead wall about two feet from the masonry wall. That bulkhead wall is the wall behind that built in I talked about above. In this space is the closet for the spare bedroom. I'm going to build a temporary wall in the master bedroom to support the ceiling joists and then tear all this out. I'll put in a nailer on the masonry wall and extend the ceiling joists (which are not load bearing besides their own weight and the ceiling drywall) and attach them to the nailer with joist hangers. That will open up all this space to add to the bathroom and new closet.

We did all this the first two days. In the next week we'll complete the demo, including tearing everything down to the bare studs and concrete slab. Then I have two walls to remove and some ceiling joists to replace/add/modify. When that's all done we'll measure everything out, do a layout on the floor and start building the new interior wall that will separate the master bedroom from the laundry room and new bathroom and closet. Did I mention the plumbing rough in through a concrete slab floor? Yeah, that's going to be a joy.

I anticipate this taking a little less time that the kids rooms did but that all depends on how things go and what hidden issues I find. We shall see.


12 October 2013

Sunday Kipling

Lu and I have started the next phase of the remodel, the Master Bedroom and second bathroom. Yeah, we really need that. Demo is in full swing. Photos and write up starting this week. If you followed the kid's bedroom you have a fair idea what we're getting into. I will say that so far it looks much better. No rebuilding of the ceiling and there's already fiberglass insulation present. Not in the walls of course but at this point we'll take what we can get.

I hope you all have a great Sunday, full of joy, laughter and good company.


Something light today I think.

The Centaurs

"The United Idolaters"
Up came the young Centaur-colts from the plains they were
       fathered in--
   Curious, awkward, afraid.
Burrs on their hocks and their tails, they were branded and gath-
       ered in
  Mobs and run up to the yard to be made.

Starting and shying at straws, with sidlings and plungings,
  Buckings and whirlings and bolts;
Greener than grass, but full-ripe for their bridling and lungings,
  Up to the yards and to Chiron they bustled the colts...

First the light web and the cavesson; then the linked keys
  To jingle and turn on the tongue. Then, with cocked ears,
The hours of watching and envy, while comrades at ease
  Passaged and backed, making naught of these terrible gears.

Next, over-pride and its price at the low-seeming fence
  Too oft and too easily taken -- the world-beheld fall!
And none in the yard except Chiron to doubt the immense,
  Irretrievable shame of it all!...

Last, the trained squadron, full-charge -- the sound of a going
  Through dust and spun clods, and strong kicks, pelted in as
       they went,
And repaid at top-speed; till the order to halt without slowing
  Showed every colt on his haunches--and Chiron content!

10 October 2013

AOL Spam From Me

See, this is why I hate technology. We dropped AOL a year ago and I thought it was a done deal. Fini. Dead and buried.

Not so. Apparently once the little AOL douche bags gets their grime encrusted fingernails into you they hold on for dear life and never let go. To wit:

If you got spam from my old account, bdkennels@aol.com, please accept my most abject apologies. See, I thought that by dumping AOL and no longer giving them money and telling them that I hated them and wished the entire company would die in a meteor strike that wiped out every single trace that the company had ever existed would be sufficient to give them a big hint. But apparently not.

No. Unbeknownst to me they kept my e-mail account active, they just never mentioned it to me. Car Guy wrote me the other day to let me know the account was sending out spam messages. my response?

And? Hey, it's some other bdkennels who now has that e-mail account. I gots nothin' ta do wid it brudda.

Yeah, not so much. I checked AOL today and what did I find? Yeppers, my e-mail account is still alive and active, apparently being used by the good folks at Spams 'R' Us in lovely eastern Europe. Joy. And hey, only 857 messages! Go in and try to delete it. AOL says Nah. Nah? What do you mean Nah? We mean we're keeping it open forever and there's nothing you can do about it. Punk.


So I changed out the password and reset everything whilst Lu explores the options and tries to remove me from the clutches of those vile gangsters at AOL. I hope this will stop anyone from being further spammed by Krazy Ed Krasnovitz and his "Is Real Rolex I Swear Would I Lie To You?" offers. If not please feel free to give ol' Ed my home phone number.

Sorry folks.


08 October 2013

Upcoming 3 Gun

It's all Laura B and the Trooper Sgt's fault. Purgatory Flats Multigun, Hard as Hell. I need a few things before December. I'm running an 870 for a shotgun and after watching the video and talking to some guys who ran it last year it's pretty obvious that's a non starter. My coach wants me to but an M2 but this shotgun is intriguing. Both need about the same accessories (extended mag tube, rail, sights, etc.) but the initial price point is significant. The word on the forums about the CZ is almost universally positive.If I can only find one.

I have the M1A and I think I'm going to run that. I'm in the Tactical Centerfire division and that requires a 7.62X39 minimum for rifle. That means the M1A or a new AR upper in one of the .30 calibers. I already have the RS2 sling and a good scope. I think a Basset mount.

I'm shooting about as much as I can, time and ammo considerations allowing. In fact, I shot a classifier match on Saturday. Still slow but I think I did well enough for C Class which ain't exactly horrible considering.

Nuevo El Presidente. All 3 targets are partially covered. This is a classifier stage.

I still feel clumsy and awkward and my reloads need a lot of work. But then I am old :)

Shooting steel tonight, a competition class with my coach on Thursday and gun/ accessory shopping. It's gonna be a good week!


05 October 2013

Sunday Kipling

Have you seen what this administration did to our vets at the WWII and Iwo Jima memorials? I sure did and I suspect your reaction was much like my own. Stark, red faced anger. Too far, they've gone too far. Such juvenile reactions. Reminds me of a toddler throwing a tantrum who badly needs his bottom swatted.

This is, in my opinion, one of Kipling's best. It so clearly encompasses how we are viewed by the current occupant of the Whitehouse. Well I have one thing to pass along to the President and, seeing as how the intelligence organs are vacuuming up every scrap of information we receive or generate, I'm confident someone in the government will see it.

NO. I will not be treated this way. I will not tolerate my brothers and sisters being treated this way. Tread lightly because the very people you insult and illegally ban from public parks and memorials have not an ounce of backup in them and I do most certainly count myself as among their membership. Bad dog, no biscuit.


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins 
    to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins 
    to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! 
they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 
    "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" 
    when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, 
    the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" 
    when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, 
    an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" 
    when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, 
    the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" 
    when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, 
    an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", 
    when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, 
    there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", 
    when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, 
    an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" 
    when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, 
    an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool  
    you bet that Tommy sees!

03 October 2013

Video Of My First USPSA Stage

A little video comedy for your viewing pleasure. My buddy shot this today during a practice session.

Ok. This is with the new Sig 1911. I had a couple gun of issues. I think it's a combination of a stiff, new gun and ammo not tailored to this specific firearm. I'm working on getting it all sorted out. Near the end of the run you'll note that I had to go back, retrieve a magazine I'd dropped in order to shoot two poppers I missed on my run. That was the second time I'd done that so yes, it was quite embarrassing. You can hear my coach laughing.

This was my first try at a real stage run. This was Stage 9 from the recent Nationals. I'll get a chance to shoot all 22 stages in the coming weeks, including this Saturday morning at a local match. I'm still moving very slow, mostly because I'm concentrating on the mechanics of shooting USPSA style and not on dynamic movement. I believe the speed will come as my experience grows and I master more of the techniques for speed and accuracy. My shooting was actually very good. I only dropped a few points throughout but the speed issue is keeping my scores down. In USPSA it's the combination and I'm still too focused on only center "A" Zone hits. I'm getting them but, man am I ever slow about it.

If you hit that little box in the lower right you can see it full screen. Watch for the two missed poppers in the background where I'm doing the malfunction clearance. Hey, comedy gold. I'll try and get some more on Saturday.

It's a rocky road, trying to master a new shooting style at this stage of my life. But then again, if it was easy it wouldn't be nearly as much fun!


02 October 2013

Handgun Accuracy And Weight

I'm finally back. After a few weeks of running around chasing my own tail, things have settled down again. The old place is a little dusty with cobwebs everywhere. And where the heck did that ratty old couch come from? Dang kids. Anyway. I'm going to begin again and, as usual, with a long post :)

I've been doing a little shooting with my USPSA coach and bought a new gun. I also had the chance to talk to a lot of very fine shooters at the Nationals. I have come to a conclusion. To some it will be a "Well Duh!" moment. Others will find it heretical or moronic. A few may find it of some value. We shall see. Ready? Ok, here it is.

Handgun weight has a direct influence on accuracy.

Now that's assuming one has the basic requisite skills to run one with at least a modicum of competence. Not at world beating levels mind you, just a basic skill set. For those men and women who are world champions and special ops members I don't think the gun really matters all that much but for those of us on the lower end of the shooting scale I think the weight of the pistol can have tremendous influence. Even more than good versus bad triggers, grip angle and even grip.

Let's look at these four pistols from my own armory.

From top to bottom:
Glock G35, .40 S&W, 5 in. barrel - 25 ounces
Springfield Armory XDm 5.25, 9mm, 5.25 in. barrel - 29 ounces
Sig Sauer P226 DuoTone, .40 S&W, 4.4 in. barrel - 34 ounces
Sig Sauer Scorpion 1911, .45 ACP, 5 in. barrel - 41.6 ounces
All weights are with an empty magazine and taken from the manufacturers specifications.

I shoot or have shot all these regularly, especially the P226 which I carried on duty for more than 15 years. I've shot the P226, the G35 and the 1911 in competition. The P226 is aluminum framed, the Glock and XDm composite and the 1911 is all steel. As you can see there's a pretty wide difference in weights, in the case of the Glock and 1911 more than 16 1/2 ounces. If you don't think a few ounces make a difference try holding each out at the end of your extended arm for a few minutes. But there's more to it than simply how much effort is required to bring each into play.

To simplify things a bullet performs it's dance through the burning of a chemical propellant which pushes the projectile down the barrel. Simple but that reaction occurs dang quickly and it results in recoil and gun/barrel harmonics. Weight tends to help dampen that reaction. At least to a degree. That means, all things being equal, a heavier gun will absorb more recoil and dampen vibrations to a greater degree making recoil management easier and target reacquisition faster.

Let's talk about triggers for a moment. The shooters in USPSA I listen to and try to emulate all talk about the shooter versus the gun. A great shooter can run any gun. They emphasize grip and trigger control but they really hit on grip. A good grip, one in which the off hand takes up an inordinate and majority amount of the control (which is anathema to many of us) tends to isolate the trigger finger, allowing for smooth operation and produces the least effect on the front sight. The guns above have three basic types of triggers; Striker Fired for the Glock and XDm. SA/DA for the P226 and 1911 style for the 1911. The Striker fired pistols both have trigger safeties and kinda mushy triggers. The P226 has a 12.2 pound DA trigger pull with a 4.4 pound SA with a little creep (not much actually). The 1911 is 5 pounds but breaks like a glass rod. All different but none of them is what I'd call bad.

Ok. What if you're like me, competent but hardly in the stratified air of those who are at the very top of the shooting game? What if our grip is so so but works for us? We're decent weekend shooters and can handle and manipulate most any firearm safely. We're trained and competent for self defense encounters but we're not Jerry Miculek. For us trigger pull and break may be a significant factor. Grip angle may be of enormous importance. Grip is solid but not the contortionate positioning required for absolute efficiency. What if there's a way to compensate, at least a little, for trigger and grip issues?

Here's what got me to thinking. A lot of those same shooters prefer large steel guns. At least those not being sponsored by one of the composite handgun manufacturers like Glock or Springfield. Why? Well, I did a little test to try and find out. I went down into my basement lair with all four of those guns and did the blank wall drill. I picked a section of bare, white wall and did some dry firing. In that test one simply takes a good grip, aims at a bare wall, no target at all not even a small spot, and dry fires while watching the front sight intently. What I found was interesting.

With both of the composite framed guns I tended to pull down and left. I could see the front sight move as I squeezed the trigger. Every time but especially bad when I was trying to go fast. I could control it to a degree by consciously trying to not let the sight waver and I can see how a lot of practice might tend to alleviate that but for someone who has been shooting actively for more than three decades it was disconcerting. I think this is why dry fire training is so necessary. I also found that the more finger I had on the trigger, at times right up to the first joint and even frame dragging, the better front sight control I had. Contra intuitive to pretty much everything I'd thought up to this point.

With the P226 front sight movement was there but nowhere near the degree it was with the other two. It was also much easier to address and overcome. It also responded negatively to increased finger cover of the trigger and frame dragging was definitely out. I was back out to the end of the finger, right at the center point of the pad. Exactly as I'd been taught and shot for so many years.

But the 1911 was an eye opener. The front sight barely wavered. Same grip, same front sight concentration, same trigger movement. It didn't seem to matter how much finger I had on the trigger, as long as I had a straight pull to the rear the sights stayed dead on.

Let me address one more issue here, grip angle. Here's the Glock and the 1911;

The difference in grip angle is obvious. But the XDm and P226 share very similar angles with the 1911. So, is grip angle an issue, maybe a significant one? I don't know but I tend to doubt it. Grip angle does seem to matter when I'm in initial target acquisition. With the Glock I tend to hunt for the front sight. With the P226 and 1911 the front sight falls bang on every time. But it doesn't seem to be a factor in trigger manipulation, at least for me. Performance is why I think that. Let me cut to the chase here and present my closing argument for weightier guns.

When I started competitive shooting it was with the P226. It was a platform I was familiar with and I had the gear to start shooting immediately. I knew I could shoot it competently and it would give me a base to work off of and decide what came next. I did in fact shoot it with at least a modicum of success. Work and practice got me better. Then I switched to the Glock and I fought it. I tended to shoot.....low and left. So much so that I was consistently able to simply adjust my point of aim and run very well. Enter the 1911.

I've talked before about my reluctance to even have a 1911 pattern handgun in my collection before. The most fundamental being my inability to retain the gross motor skill of clicking off the safety before trying to fire the thing. With my retirement I thought it would be fun to try one again and bought the Scorpion (Mostly because it's gorgeous but please let that be our little secret). I ran it at a steel match last night and the results were informative. The results I obtained from my little basement dry fire test bore out on the live fire range under competition stress. I shot it much better than I did either the P226 or the Glock. Much better. Up Front Sight Press Bang and down the steel went. I even out shot my coach on at least one stage and that's absolutely astonishing.

It would be easy to chalk it up to the 1911's trigger but bear in mind that the P226 SA trigger is about half a pound lighter than the Scorpion's. It doesn't break quite as crisply but it's at least in the same neighborhood. The P226 actually has a very nice SA trigger, especially for a 'combat' gun. What about grip angle? The P226 and 1911 are alike enough for me to conclude that's not it, the Glock notwithstanding. No, there was another force at work and I believe it is weight. As I've moved up in handgun weight classes, as it were, I've noticed that each successively heavier gun is more forgiving of my form weaknesses, especially in grip and trigger control. Don't misunderstand me here, I am not saying that a heavy gun will cure all that ails you. Far from it. Practice and fundamental skills acquisition should be at the top of all our lists of things to do as responsible gun owners and self defense shooters. But. I will never be a top level USPSA shooter, I simply do not have the drive. I'll also never be a member of a SEAL team or Delta. I can't afford thousands of dollars per year in instruction, many hundreds of hours of range time and tens of thousands of rounds in practice. I need all the advantages I can get just to be a decent competition shooter and a dangerous opponent for anyone who views me and my family with evil intent.

There is one more point to gun weight. It's relative. For me a 34 ounce gun is very light, for Lu it's almost too heavy. For her the 29 ounce XDm is about what the 1911 is for me. Maybe even a little heavier. I think there's probably also some influence in how that weight is distributed. The plastic fantastics are nose heavy. The 1911 just feels like you're holding a solid chunk of steel. The 226 is somewhere in between but still a bit porky out at the far end.

For me all this has invoked a bit of a sea change. I am viewing my current collection and future purchases with new eyes. I think the Glock will be retired and I'm eyeballing the 2011 (1911 double stacks basically) offerings carefully. A new STI in .40 (or heck maybe .45) is probably in my future. A carry Commander? Absolutely and sooner than later probably. I also like the way the steel guns swing and point. My transitions between targets have actually gone down as the weight of the forearm has gone up. Counter intuitive or not it's true. I can't quite explain it except to say that ol' JMB may have been on to something those many years ago. Who knew?

Bottom line. Everyone is different. Mechanically we're as alike as dogs and fish. What works for one will most definitely not work for another. But don't automatically assume that just because a handgun is lighter and compositier it's better. I am convinced that there are significant advantages to heavier, all steel non shoulder fired firearms. So much so that I am re-evaluating all my old and dearly held beliefs about handgun choices. And it doesn't have to be the 1911 platform. There are an awful lot of all steel handgun manufacturers out there offering a myriad of choices for everything from compacts to race guns. I'm also not saying ditch your favorite heater, just to keep an open mind.

And if you get the chance, shoot everything you can lay your hands on. You never know when epiphany may come calling. Heck, I've got a box of .45, a 1911 and access to a beautiful range. Stop by sometime and we'll go shooting.