Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Arsenal of Democracy

This is what liberty looks like:

Suck it, Charles Schumer. 

I bought 1,000 rounds of 9mm from Freedom Munitions. They are both a manufacturer and a reloader; they commercially reload cartridges to factory specification for a cheaper price. And if you're willing to accept cosmetic blemishes on your ammunition (seriously, is this even a consideration? Is bullet. Is not pretty. Is meant to be shot) you can get an even cheaper rate with their Blaster line. 

I ordered this on July 22, and it took a week to arrive. With shipping (and 1k rounds 9mm weighs about 30 pounds), it cost me $195.68.  For the record, that is about $15 less than what it would cost for a spam can of 900 rounds 9mm to be mailed to me.

And if you save your brass, you can mail it back in and get a rebate on your order.

I can't quite call this a review because I haven't shot this ammunition yet. (But I will. Oh, but I will, and very very soon.)  Assuming they shoot well enough -- and they should, as this isn't rocket surgery -- this is an exceptional value for the money.

UPDATE #1: I shot some of these side-by-side with store-bought ammo. I couldn't tell any difference between the two. More information may be found here.

Update #2: As of 1/15/2013, I have shot approximately one-quarter of these bullets. So far, not a single one has failed to perform perfectly. I feel completely justified in giving Freedom Arms the Palette Seal of Approval!

Monday Gunday: Update on Young Texas Mama

So, an update on Young Texas Mama:

First of all, she would like to thank everyone who has donated her to Gun Fund, and offer "Super huge awesome cyber hugs to everyone who donated. They have my eternal gratitude, and I'd love to buy them all a beer someday." As of last count, she has $160 in donations.

She has yet to go shooting with Lori, because she recently injured her knee quite severely:
I fell down the stairs in May and tore all the ligaments on the left side of my right knee, and then fell again 6 weeks later. It's been swollen and nasty since.

Originally the injury was so bad I was in a knee immobilizer for 6 weeks. The doctor gave me a brace and said it would heal over time, just to wear the brace . The second fall caused the real problems. I saw the doctor again, got a new brace and was to come back in 2 weeks. 2 weeks later it was clear that I might have cartilage damage, so I got scheduled for an MRI. It said that the second fall caused me to re-tear some of the healed ligaments & my ACL.

The knee is crap. I go today to see about my options for surgery. It's getting to the point that every day life is painful.
So obviously, shooting is on the back burner until her knee is fixed, because she doesn't want to aggravate the injury with recoil. This bums her out, but having a working body is more important.

The good news in all of this is that the Sperm Donor -- who was one of her principal fears -- has said he will sign away parental rights. This is excellent news, because not only can YTM's daughter be adopted by her husband, but this also means she can file a restraining order if she feels it necessary. This was not done previously because, as it was explained to me, filing an RO could be seen as interference with parental rights, and be the source of legal unpleasantness.

So to conclude:
  • She feels welcomed into the gunnie community, and still wants to carry a pistol;
  • Surgery will need to come first, but
  • Things aren't as bad as they used to be, so the delay isn't as worrisome as it could be. 
I will continue to keep everyone updated on her status, and if you wish to donate to her Gun Fund, she will of course be very grateful. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Palette's Product Reviews: I'm a Firestarter

Now that I am actual honest-to-Eris product reviewer, I figured I would push my luck try my hand at reviewing other things by bald-facedly asking people to give me stuff requesting products for test & evaluation from manufacturers. Since I am a fan of preparedness and survival, and I also enjoy setting things on fire, I decided to test some camping stoves. They are as follows:
Kind of cute how three out of the four have alliterative names, isn't it? Very superheroic of them.

Before I begin the reviews, A Necessary Disclaimer:
I am not very good at starting fires. This makes me exactly the right person to review these stoves. A trained survivalist can make a stove out of a cow pattie, a hole in the ground, and a mirror. I, however, am an average schlub, just like most of the people who will be using these stoves. If they'll work for me, they will certainly work for you. 

These were the tests I performed on the stoves:
  1. How easy they were to light and keep fed, using identical natural materials. 
  2. How quickly they could bring 16 ounces of water to boil in a steel mug. 
  3. How quickly they could bring 24 ounces of water to boil in an uncovered aluminum pot.
  4. How quickly they could cook a single egg on an aluminum skillet. 

All tests were performed on my back porch where wind would not be a factor. I used natural fuels, but since this was not a referendum on my fire-making skills, I used a lighter to start them. All water would be poured out and the containers allowed to cool between use.

Now that the formalities are taken care of, let's begin.

1) The Vargo Hex Stove ($39.95)

I bought this stove with my own money sometime after Christmas and never got around to testing it until now. It's lightweight, it folds nearly flat in a very clever manner, and -- dare I say -- it's cute. It assembled easily and I had plenty of room to put in my tinder and kindling. It doesn't have much ground clearance, though, and that will be a factor later on.

Test 1
This is not an easy stove to keep lit. I don't know if it was inexperience on my part, or poor ventilation on my porch, or if I wasn't feeding it fast enough or what, but the fire just kept going out. I eventually got it going by dumping nearly all of my tinder on it and then blowing through the little door until I was blue in the face. Feeding it was a nearly constant activity -- if I left it alone for 5 minutes it would threaten to die.

This is most emphatically not a set-and-forget stove; it needs constant babysitting, more fuel than you think you will need, and a continuous supply of air. It's also exceptionally easy to smother, and if you're feeding it through the front door then ash will tend to build up near the entry. You'll need to clear this out regularly, because there isn't much surface area inside and you need every bit you have in order to keep the fire even.

Test 2
After much effort and cursing, I was able to get the fire mostly stable, and so I added the 16 oz steel mug. Nearly immediately, one of the walls popped out of its hinge. Since the steel stove was too hot for me to attempt any sort of repair, I just shoved a fire stick (see below) underneath it to keep the bottom from collapsing.

Another problem with this design is that even a 16 oz mug completely covers the top. Air can only enter through the triangular cuts at the top, the ventilated bottom (if it isn't buried in ash), and the front door. Again, I had to keep blowing on the fire and feeding it just to keep it from dying and to feed it, I had to either lift the cup (and risk a burn) or feed it through the door -- which meant a constant build-up of ash that needed to be raked out in order to keep the fire burning evenly and efficiently.

It took 21 minutes of solid effort to get the water to boil.

In the spirit of fairness, I provide equal time to a video rebuttal. 

Test 3
Same as above, only worse. The times were fairly consistent, at least: it took 26 minutes to bring 24 ounces of water to boil. It wasn't what you'd call a rolling boil, though; more like a "That's hot enough to kill the bugs and make some soup" boil, because frankly I was exhausted.

Test 4
I'll be honest, I didn't even attempt this. The frying pan was hugely oversize for the tiny opening, and I would have constantly been steadying the handle with one hand while alternating between feeding the fire and keeping the egg from burning with the other -- all while blowing air onto it. I decided I would rather do something fun, like see the dentist, than attempt to cook anything else on this stove ever again.

My rating: C- at best
I imagine you're surprised by that and expected I would fail this product. Well, the fact of the matter is that it's billed as an "ultralight backpacking stove," and it is both very light and has a small enough footprint to make it suitable for such. I was able to cook on it, and it sure beat building a campfire and holding the cup over the flames.

Someone far more experienced at camping and fire-building would probably be able to get this to perform more efficiently than I could, and if I had to use it again I would place its legs on rocks so that there is higher clearance between the ground and the combustion chamber. But unless you're an Eagle Scout, a Special Forces soldier, or a lifelong outdoorsman, I have to recommend against this product.

Not my hand. 

2) The Solo Stove ($69.99 & free S&H)

After the debacle with the Vargo, I went looking for more tinder while the utensils cooled. Did you know that lint from a dryer is perfect for this? It's basically very fine, pre-fluffed and aerated cotton. After I gathered up more fuel and measured out more water for the mug and pot, I was ready for an "easy" button.

The Solo Stove weighs only 10 ounces, which is great because there is no way it can be considered compact. It's approximately the same volume as one of those "feed your whole family" cans of Pork n' Beans or a box of iodized salt. Still, it's an impressive double-wall design and seems quite sturdy despite its light weight, so if necessary you can just throw it in a bag and clip it to the outside of your backpack if it won't fit.

I received this product for half price from the manufacturer. It came with some cosmetic blemishes that I barely noticed (and quickly became irrelevant after use, as the entire product took on a coppery patina.)

Test 1
Holy crap.

I asked for an easy button, and I sure got one. This thing is like a can of sterno, but using natural fuels rather than chemicals. The only trick to it is that you need to get the fire going before you put the cooking ring on it. But once that happens... wow.

It produced a nice even flame, much like that of a bunsen burner, without me having to blow once. It was nearly impossible to smother (I admit I didn't actively try to smother it, but I did get overzealous with the fuel once or twice). And once it really got going, I could hear a low hissing sound as jets of burning oxygen raced into the stove. 

This is perhaps the first idiot-proof stove I have ever seen. It burns amazingly hot in practically no time, puts out hardly any smoke, and eats anything you can stick in it. Wind direction doesn't matter, because the flame is shielded, yet vents around the entire base of the unit feed it constantly. As long as you keep feeding it, I don't see how anything short of kicking it over or dumping water on it could put this beast out.

Test 2
8 minutes to a rolling, roiling, oh my god that will scald boil. And all I had to do was occasionally put some sticks in it. Really, I was feeding it more for the pleasure of watching stuff burn than for any need to keep it going.

Test 3
12 minutes to the same boil, and by this point I was playing a game of "What won't it eat?" I am thrilled to tell you that this beast will burn any damn thing you put inside it: green sticks, damp leaves, squirts of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, even a charcoal briquette. I may have cackled like a lunatic once or twice. If it's at all flammable, the Solo Stove will turn it into fuel.

Test 4
I cracked an egg into the frying pan and set it to cooking. The handle of the pan put it off balance, so I needed to steady it with one hand. This wasn't a problem, as the fire didn't need any help from me, and so my other hand used a spatula to keep the egg from sticking and burning.

It took precisely three minutes to turn a cold raw egg into hot scrambled food.

My Rating: A+
The worst thing I can say about the Solo Stove is that it's larger than I'd like. But it's light enough that its size doesn't really matter, and it's so crazy efficient that I want to take it out into a thunderstorm just to see if it will light. I actually expect that it will.

In fact, it's so efficient that almost all of its heat is directed upwards towards the food. This stove won't keep you warm by itself -- but while it's going, you can build an actual camp fire and light that with the fire from the Solo.

3) The Folding Firebox ($49.99 & free S&H)

This sucker is heavy. Sure, anything would feel heavy when compared to the mostly-made-of-air Solo Stove, but this thing has some serious heft to it. We're talking college textbook weight here. If I dropped this, I fear I might lose a toe.

On the other hand, it's built like a freaking tank. I didn't try it, but I suspect it would support my weight if I stood on it. This is because the firebox isn't exactly square -- it's a very clever polygon with only two parallel sides. This means that, if I am correctly recalling my geometry, that it converts angular shearing force into pressure that makes it stay rigid. And if I'm wrong, it's still amazingly tough.

Also, it folds into a shape not much larger than stenographer's pad, which means it can be packed into a rucksack where its weight can be mitigated.

I received the Firebox for free from the manufacturer and, amazingly, it made it from Utah to Florida in two days. Just to make sure, I bought the accessory pack (and oh, was I glad that I did) and it also reached me in two days. There's a lot to be said for a company that gets your products to you without screwing around with "Expect your package to arrive in 5-7 business days."

Test 1
The Firebox has a nice big opening 5" square. I had plenty of room to set up my fire, but it took me a few tries to get it to light. It wasn't as efficient as the Solo, but once the fire got going it quickly took on a life of its own and started putting out a massive amount of heat. Unlike the Solo, the Firebox most assuredly can be used to warm you up like a campfire, because its large steel walls radiate that heat out like, well, a radiator.

I also have to give the Firebox top marks in versatility. It comes with detailed instructions on how to use it with not just wood and charcoal, but also fuel tabs, alcohol stoves, small flammables like pellets and sawdust. It also comes with two Firesticks, which are basically prongs which can be used to poke the fire, or support a pot, or move the Firebox out of the way. These things were so useful that I wouldn't have been able to operate the Vargo without one.

Test 2
Are you ready to be amazed? The Firebox boiled 16 oz of water in three and a half minutes. I can't claim that it's more efficient than the Solo, because it puts out a lot more smoke and is much hungrier, but you can't dispute that it was faster than its competitor by almost half.

Also, this thing is rock solid. I had no fear of knocking over the stove or the cup that was on it -- probably because I was afraid I would brush up against it and get third degree burns. I am not kidding when I say the Firebox is a portable campfire rather than a stove.

Test 3
Again, no worries about the pot being knocked over, which was a concern of mine with the other stoves. 24 ounces of water took six and a half minutes to come to a roaring boil. I was very, VERY glad to have the Firesticks by this point, because the flames were licking up the sides of the pot and blackening it.

In both tests, this monster ate everything I threw at it and asked for more. I was shoving sticks into its gaping maw and it just laughed and asked for more. It probably would have taken a tree branch if one had been lying about. I'd have been cackling with glee and wantonly burning stuff like I did with the Solo, but between the Florida humidity and the heat it was putting out, I didn't have the energy.

Test 4
Fuhgeddaboutit. Cooked that egg in a flat minute. This was the only stove that completely supported the frying pan without even a hint of wobble. I could probably roast a Cornish game hen over this monster.

My Rating: A+
The Firebox is tough, versatile, and HOT. It's a campfire, it's a cookstove, it packs nearly flat and eats anything. It's built like a tank and in a pinch I think I could use it as a weapon to bludgeon something to death.

It's biggest drawback is that it's heavy, but its versatility overshadows that. This is the Swiss Army Knife of camp stoves, and if I had to pick just one of them, I'd pick this one. Fortunately, I don't have to.

4) The Kelly Kettle Trekker ($59.99)

This is a bit of an oddball in that it's not strictly a stove, although it can be used as such if you buy the cook set that goes with it. Mainly, it's a way to carry and boil water as efficiently as possible. The version I used was the small (16 ounce) version in aluminum. This product also comes in steel, and in medium (44 oz) and large (54 oz) sizes.

I bought this product with my own money.

Test 1
The fire pan is basically a bowl with two holes cut out of it for lighting. It's very simple, but there is no provision for ash, and some people might find it difficult to light the fuel through the little holes. It's much easier to light with the kettle off, but be careful if you do. The way the kettle is shaped, it draws the fire up through its chimney very quickly. Burning yourself with open flame that is roaring out of the top is a very real possibility.

Feeding it is also dead easy -- just drop fuel down the chimney -- but again, be careful not to get burnt. This sounds easier than reality, because smaller fuel often misses the hole and it's human nature to want to bump it into position. Also, be careful not to overfeed it, because when the water gets hot and it's time to remove the kettle, you don't want to have burning branches and hot ash falling on your legs.

That said, it was still easier to run than the Vargo Hex stove. 

Test 2
I didn't need to boil the actual steel cup because, as stated, the kettle holds 16 oz of water in a double-wall design. Once the fire was started, I put the kettle on to boil (and just saying that makes me feel oh so British) and waited.

I confess, it was hard to tell when the water was actually boiling, because there isn't a lot of space between the walls for me to observe the motion of the bubbles, and there isn't a convenient whistle on it like a proper kettle to tell me when it's done.

What I can tell you is that the water was hot to the touch at the 2 minute mark, and by 4-5 minutes it was pinging and shaking and definitely boiling. Taking the average, it's still faster than any of the others.

Test 3
Well, I didn't boil a pot because I had no way to put a pot onto the kettle. However, boiling more water was dead easy: just add more and put it back on the fire. It boiled faster this time, perhaps because the metal was already hot. So making enough hot water for everyone is not a problem.

What is a problem, however, is getting the kettle off the fire without getting burned, and then pouring the water. It's possible -- their video even shows you how -- but it takes a fair amount of practice and no small degree of coordination. Klutzes should stay far, far away from this product.

Test 4
Cooking an egg over the Kelly Kettle, while possible, is problematic at best. While the water is boiling, the fire is very hot but has a small surface area. I had no place to rest the pan, and instead just held it over the open flame. I had to move the pan frequently in order to feed the fire, which also delayed cooking. And finally, the water become hot and started to boil over, so I had to once again set the pan down, take the kettle off, and finish cooking my egg over the now-exposed flame.

All told, it took about 4 minutes, which wasn't bad considering all the juggling I had to do.

My Rating: A+ as a kettle, B overall
For what it is designed to do -- boil water -- the Kelly Kettle is very, very good. I especially like how I can carry it with water inside, like a thermos, and then heat it up when I'm ready. If all you want to do is heat water for beverages or reconstituting meals, this is an A+ piece of kit. 

For cooking, it performs well but not spectacularly. This may sound like a dig at it, but please note that 1) it's a stove in only the barest sense of the word, in that it's a metal thing which holds fire, and 2) it still worked better than the Vargo.

But wait, there's more!  
In addition to setting fires and burning things, I also decided to pull an Xzibit and put some stoves inside other stoves to see how well they performed!

Kelly Kettle & Solo Stove
Sounds like a superhero team, doesn't it?  Well, it should, because these two are an amazing combination. The Solo fits perfectly into the base of the Kelly, almost as if it were designed that way.

16 ounces of water was hot at 1:30, and boiling by 2:30 if not earlier.

If you're going to use the Kelly Kettle, ditch the fire bowl that comes with it and use the Solo instead. They're both lightweight, nest inside each other, and if you're carrying a Kettle then the shape of the Solo obviously doesn't matter to you.  A+ combination

Kelly Kettle and Firebox
Feeding the fire is no longer a burn hazard, which is good, and the Firesticks might prove useful in taking the Kettle off the fire. The drawback to this combination is that now you're dealing with both awkward size (Kettle) and weight (Firebox).

Very obviously boiling at 1:30.

This combination gives you the best time for boiling water, but you've got the previously mentioned drawback of bulk and weight. Still, if you have both -- in a camper, say -- why not use both?  B combination

Firebox and Solo Stove
There's absolutely no reason to try this out other than sheer perversity -- a quality I possess in spades. I was curious to see if the Solo could achieve the same level of efficiency while encased in the steel Firebox.

It couldn't. 16 oz of water took 5 minutes to boil, and the Solo ate way more fuel with obviously reduced heat. Clearly, the walls of the Firebox were depriving it of oxygen.

Really, I did this just to be stupid. But y'know, it still worked better than the Vargo. C+ combination

So which one do I recommend?
Honestly, it depends on what you want it for. There is an awful lot to be said for the nearly idiot-proof Solo Stove, especially if you pair it with the Kelly Kettle. Guaranteed fire, hot water, and a cooking surface for the same volume of a loaf of bread is significant. If you went this route I would not blame you one bit.

The Firebox, however, is just so darn rugged and multi-purpose that I can see it having a place in every camper's rucksack. Much like a good pair of boots, it is heavy but dependable and will work wherever you take it. If you keep it in your car where weight won't be a factor, it becomes perfect.

The Kelly Kettle, in my opinion, suffers in the fire department. The kettle itself is fine and would make a fine partner for either of these stoves.

Don't buy the Vargo unless you are a Green Beret or a masochist. There are other stoves out there which are less expensive but still very light, such as the fuel tab-using Esbit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WNW: If this doesn't make you smile, there's something wrong with you

Meet Michelle Jenneke, an adorable and perky young Aussie who is, apparently, part Tigger. In addition to being perky and bouncy, she is also hella fast.

Pellatarrum: Giants (part 3)

by Demonic Bunny

The Present

The giants of today are a reclusive people. The elder giant species have retreated to deep forests, secluded islands, the badlands and inaccessible mountain ranges. Hill giants can be found all over Pellatarrum in small but increasing numbers; however, they as a race are plagued by mutation, both from inbreeding and from lingering effects of the Sundering.* Athach, ettins, and other deviations from the giantish norm are common in hill giant communities.

Among the elder species, Storm giants are the most dangerous and organized, and Frost giants are the most common (as they prefer a climate which is too cold for most other species, even dwarves). After campaigns of extermination by orcs and dwarves, Fire and Stone giants are extremely rare and tend to avoid the sentient races.

Of their vaunted magical powers, little remain. Only the Storm giants still produce credible sorcerers and wizards. All giant races still have the gift of prophecy, although it is greatly diminished. These seers are all cyclopes, and legend states that it is their missing eye which allows them to glimpse the future.

Giants have always been solitary creatures, living alone or in bands of forty or less. Like dragons, they have the minds and attitudes of apex predators: territorial, suspicious, xenophobic, turning on each other if their living conditions become cramped or if the social structure becomes too complex.

In the ages before Pellatarum this did not present a problem. If a small band had the power to raise armies of golems or purge continents of all life, they didn’t need strength of numbers. But without their sorcerous powers, their lack of numbers became crippling. They are still fierce fighters and possess an almost unmatched physical strength, but regardless of how formidable they may be, two score fighters are not sufficient to defeat an army -- especially an army as battle-hardened as those of the elder races.

*Editor's Note: I confess that I have a fondness for making hill giants resemble all the ugly stereotypes of Southern rednecks and Appalachian hillbillies. No insult is intended to either people; I just like the notion of stupid, inbred giants that look like they came from "Deliverance".

Continuing in this vein, Frost giants are Vikings (with perhaps a touch of Russian to them), Storm giants are Athenian Greeks, Fire giants are Romans or perhaps Spartans, Stone giants are Aboriginal, and Cloud giants are Tibetan.

Giants in the myths and legends of Pellatarrum

Because of giants' adversarial nature and legendary arrogance, “Giant Tales” -- stories of heroes outwitting giants (or the other way around) -- are a staple of Pellatarrum's literary traditions. However, the stories vary depending on their origin.

The dwarven and elven traditions are the oldest and have their roots in the time before Pellatarum. As such, the giants in these stories are far more intelligent, and the stories are centered around contests of illusion and cunning. They differ in that the dwarven stories usually end with one part seeing through the illusion and killing their adversary, while elven stories often end with one part either realizing that they have been tricked (and that their opponent is long gone) or one of the parties admitting defeat and the other explaining the many layers of the illusion. An example from our world would be "The tale of Thor and Utgard-Loki."

Although it is certain that the orcs also had a tradition of Giant Tales, the original stories are lost to the mists of time. These days, orcish Giant Tales have degenerated into two hand-puppets beating each other over the head with iron clubs."

The storytelling traditions of the younger races are more influenced by the current state of giants. In these, the giant is a strong but brutish opponent, gifted with a low cunning. Occasionally the giant has impressive magical abilities, but these tales are invariably concerned with the follies of misusing such abilities. Cloud giants are by far the most common antagonist in these tales. (As such, 'having your head in the clouds" is a much harsher insult in Pellatarrum than in our own). The stories of the younger races are notable in that the giant is always defeated.

Compared to their human counterparts, gnomish Giant Tales are considerably more absurd and nonsensical, often involving bad puns and strange literary twists. Halfling versions usually have morals of  "If you'd just stay at home, you wouldn't bring trouble upon you" alternating with "Small and smart always defeat large and stupid."

Kobold Giant Tales are a different beast altogether. Although superficially similar to the dwarven and elven traditions, these tales are part of the educational stories that kobold bards tell young dragons -- or old dragons feeling bored and nostalgic. The kobold tradition is almost always concerned with strategy and the proper application of force or cunning (when to use one or the other, and in what quantities), preparing the young dragon for a world of intrigue.

However, as the kobolds never write down their tales and refuse to retell them in any language but draconic (they claim that their stories lose an essential quality when translated), the kobold tradition was unknown to most of Pellatarum until the halfling bard Niccolo Talltales wrote his famed translation The Giant. The book became an instant classic among the political elite, although its forthright approach to the application of power was quite shocking to the other races of Pellatarrum, even considered indecent and scandalous.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Gunday: I went shooting too

While I was at the range with mom I decided to burn off my remaining 30 rounds of FMJ that were just sitting around doing nothing.

I confess I was a bit all over the place at first, but towards the end I started to settle down. I'm very pleased with that straight line I managed to draw. A bit south of the hitbox, but still quite a nasty set of lung and spine hits.

Also, headshots! Yay!

My 73 year old mother shoots a laser (Crimson Trace review, part 2)

Part 1 of this review may be found here.

Part 2: Range Use

Last Thursday was my mother's birthday. As a treat for her, my father and I took her to our local indoor shooting range so she could perform a practical test of her Crimson Trace lasergrip for the .357 Ruger LCR.

Her vital statistics as they apply to this review:
  • 73 year old lady
  • Arthritis in both hands (specifically around the thumbs)
  • Wears trifocals (has bad vision and therefore has trouble getting a good sight picture)
  • Novice shooter (still trying to find a grip and stance that feels natural to her)

When we got on the firing line, the first thing I did was to run the paper target out to 50 feet to check calibration because the manual said that the laser came sighted in at that distance. Unfortunately, it was not.

While elevation was good, windage put the dot several inches to the right of the point of aim as perceived by the pistol's fixed sight. I do not know if this was a failure of quality control, or if the laser's point of aim drifted due to shipping, or any other reason. However, every other laser I have used needed to be calibrated to the firearm, so I do not count this against Crimson Trace. It is simply noted as a discrepancy between the instructions and reality.

I then moved the target forward to the 25 foot position, because my mother doesn't have the best eyesight in the world. I informed her that the laser would be showing to the right of the point of impact, and that she should adjust accordingly.
Her first shot was approximately 2 inches to the left of the center of mass.
This is especially noteworthy when you consider that the last time she shot this pistol -- which was also her first time shooting it -- she performed so poorly that she forbade me from taking pictures of her target. She doesn't have any problems with me posting her target this time, though!

She shot 12 times, and there are 12 holes in the "critical zone" of that target. All are righteous hits. She stopped after shot #12 because the recoil was making her arthritic thumbs hurt. I asked her if she felt a difference between the recoil using the original soft grip of the LCR and the rigid plastic grip of the Crimson Trace. She said yes. When I asked her to rate it on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, she said:
"With the laser, recoil was a ten. With the original grip, it felt more like an eight."
It is worth noting that mom was shooting 125 grain FMJ, whereas the last time she was shooting 130gr FMJ*. I am not enough of a ballistics wonk to correctly speculate if the lighter bullet made for snappier recoil or not. All I know is that I was worried that the harder plastic would be less comfortable than the squidgey-soft grip, and in this case it was true. Despite all of this, however, my mother was enthusiastic about the performance of the lasergrip. She says it makes a huge difference to her and gives her amazing confidence with her gun. With 9 out of 12 shots within a three-inch grouping, I have to agree, especially since prior to the Crimson Trace she could (barely) hit a 12 inch target.

Mom's Verdict:  A+

I'm not sure if I would be quite so generous. From the perspective of an experienced shooter, yes, the design and operation of the product are flawless. However, from the admittedly limited perspective of an elderly novice shooter, I have two very specific nits to pick.
  1. The documentation said that the laser came pre-sighted at 50 feet, and in my experience it was sighted for a much further distance. As I said earlier, I am not taking points off for this, I feel this is worth noting because, absent my presence, my mother would have assumed that the laser was properly calibrated and become frustrated that the bullets weren't hitting where they were supposed to. 
  2. Absent any ballistic data that suggests the Blazer 125gr cartridge is somehow snappier than a Remington 130gr cartridge, I have to state the the different grip increased felt recoil. A difference of 2 points on an 1-10 scale is significant, especially to someone with arthritis. I don't know if Crimson Trace is capable of making a grip that keeps the soft, recoil-absorbing texture of the stock LCR grip, I don't like my mother being asked to choose between comfort and accuracy. 
Would I still recommend this product to shooters? Absolutely. It's well worth the money. However, I promised Crimson Trace that this product would be reviewed from the perspective of a senior citizen, and I think both of my points highlight this distinction.

* Yes, to maintain scientific rigor we should have used exactly the same ammo. We grabbed the wrong box. Mea culpa. 

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: I was given this product for free and without monetary compensation. I am neither required to return it, nor was I instructed to give a good review in exchange for this item. I have no personal affiliation with the manufacturer, and my professional relationship is purely that of a reviewer and as a customer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Helpful Hint of the Day

If you have a small, easily lost tool in a dark, hard to see color -- such as the tiny allen wrenches that come with lasers for adjusting the elevation and windage --before you put them in a tool box where they will gravitate towards a dark corner and be lost forever, take a moment to acquire some nail polish in a bright color such as mirror shine or shocking pink and paint the body of the tool. (If you are worried about precision fit, you may leave the working part of the tool unpainted.)  This will dramatically increase your chances of finding that dark, tiny tool in whatever crevices it manages to lodge itself. It also makes it easy to find on the floor should you accidentally drop it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

This thing that happened

Pretty much everything that needs be said about the theater shooting in Aurora, CO has already been said by others -- and in some cases, said better than I could. Still, I feel the need to say something. So:

As a gun owner, I find the mass shooting in Colorado to be monstrous, abominable and inexcusable. My thoughts, prayers, and sympathies are with the victims and their families.

However, I have less than zero empathy for the shooter, because I am actively hoping someone beats him to death in jail tonight. If that makes me callous, I'm okay with that. I'm not going to waste my sympathy on the damned; I'm going to save it for the deserving.

If someone you know was killed in Colorado, all I can do is tell you that I'm terribly sorry, give you a virtual hug, and hope that this eulogy poem will help make things a tiny bit better. 

For my thoughts on generalized human-on-human violence, see this post which I wrote in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

As for me, I'm going to try not to dwell on the evils of the world and concentrate on the good. Today is my mom's birthday, and we took her to the pistol range where she used her Crimson Trace lasergrips for the first time. She had a blast and showed incredible improvement; the full writeup will be the subject of next week's Monday Gunday post.

After that, we stopped by the gun store and she bought the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380. We're both looking forward to another range trip to test it out.

This weekend, I'm going to do some product testing. I've received a number of small camping/survival stoves, and I'm going to set them up, start a bunch of fires, and see how well they all boil water and fry eggs. I may even do something silly like put a stove inside of a stove and see how well that works.

And when that's done, I'm going to go see The Dark Knight Rises. Because fuck you, death.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WNW: Fluttergun

Behold the AAC Honey Badger Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) in tactical Fluttershy camo.

This is just simply full of passive-aggressive carnage.

Sadly, it isn't a real gun, but it should be. The skin was designed by TheBadPanda2, the same artist who made the Rainbow Dash AA-12.

I've all but begged him to make a Pinke Pie version of the Kriss Vector. This is close but it's not quite the same.

However, this is a real thing and is incredibly awesome.

Military ‘bronies’ love their rifles and their My Little Pony


From one of the many awesome comments:

I’d MUCH rather have a brony watching my six than someone who was self-absorbed and thinking of little more than his image. Someone saying openly “I like this show” has conquered a fear of rejection and has faced down a few inner demons. Someone criticizing that person lacks courage, is pretty much guaranteed to have medical-grade skeletons in his closet, and is therefore a prime candidate for desertion under fire or is blackmail fodder.

No question about it, a brony in uniform is a far greater asset to this country and will do greater things than a poseur.

Also, this happened at BroNYCon 2012:

"Semper Filly." Have I mentioned how much I love this fandom?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dirty Laundry

This is making the rounds on the intertubez, and due to family aggro I haven't been able to accomplish anything today. So watch and enjoy. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

More gunbrony humor

For the 90% of you who don't understand why this is gunnie humor, go here.  And before you go off on him for his "ruining cool things" statement, please note that Uncle's "hate" is a pose. He's actually a remarkably good sport, as proven by the fact that I emailed him this image over the weekend and he posted it here.

Monday Gunday: The Folly of Gun Restriction

Why I get upset by gun restriction, simplified edition:

Let's say a law is passed -- oh, let's call it the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, just for giggles -- preventing civilians (meaning: non-military personnel) from owning military-style weapons. I would expect most people to think that law only affects "army stuff":  assault rifles, machine guns, etc.

But here's the problem I have with that law, aside from its dubious constitutionality: poor definitions that lend themselves to slippery-slope enforcement.

You see, officers and members of the military police are regularly issued carry pistols. The regulation pistol of the US Armed Forces is the Beretta M9, a 9mm semi-auto magazine that uses a 15 round detachable magazine. It is also immensely popular in its civilian version, the Beretta 92 (probably because veterans, having returned their issued sidearm and wanting to own one for private use, decide to purchase a pistol identical to what they have trained with). 

So when legislation says that "military style weapons" are forbidden for civilian ownership, it suddenly becomes a non-trivial point of legislation if this pistol is restricted because it is, in fact, issued and used by the US Armed Forces.

Is this pistol restricted because it's military issue? If not, you need a better definition than "military-style weapon".* Perhaps something like above a certain caliber, or fully automatic as opposed to semi-automatic, or any number of other things --  at which point I refer you to the 1934 National Firearms Act. **

If it is restricted, why? Is it just because it's used by the military? If that is your argument then please say yes, that I may laugh at you as I point out the large variety of pistol types used by militaries around the world. You might as well just outlaw every pistol above 9mm and .40 caliber.

Or are you going to try to stretch your definition to mean "any magazine-fed semi-auto weapon", i.e. the evil features argument? Because if you go down that road you're basically saying that civilians should only ever own revolvers, pump shotguns, and bolt-action rifles -- in which case just come right out and say THAT. I would at least appreciate your honesty in the matter.  You'd still be wrong, of course, because my five-round, bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifle was -- guess what? -- the primary infantry rifle of Russia/USSR from 1891 until 1936 or so, and still sees action to this day:
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mosin–Nagants are still commonly found on modern battlefields around the world. They are being used by insurgent forces in the Iraq War and the current war in Afghanistan. Separatists have also used the rifles alongside more modern Russian firearms in the Second war in Chechnya.  

How about shotguns? They're okay, right? You'd be wrong, because the pump-action 12-gauge Mossberg 590A1 is used by the US Army.

In conclusion: The term "military-style weapon" is an arbitrary definition that means absolutely nothing. The bolt-action hunting rifles of today were (in design, if not in actuality) the infantry rifles of a century ago; pistol calibers as small as .32 have been military issue; and even manual shotguns are military-issue.

So when people say that they want to "keep military-style weapons out of the hands of civilians," please note how that definition can be stretched to encompass basically everything that doesn't fall into the very narrow category between .17 HMR and .25 ACP for pistols and rifles, and possibly single-shot shotguns in the .410 to 20-gauge range. 

In other words, they want us effectively disarmed; they just don't have the courage to say so, and instead of doing it by force (which will backfire) they will attempt to do it through creeping legislation that outlaws firearms by slices as they constantly define what is "military".

* This phrase should be read in such tone of voice as to imply an unspoken "you idiot" after the main clause.
** See above.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Morning Ponies

Fresh from San Diego Comic Com come two videos from season 3 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

I've mentioned before that it seems like The Hub had my games of Unknown Ponies bugged, because it seemed like elements of them -- Derpy flying backwards, the Timber Wolves, etc -- kept cropping up throughout season 2. But this video has convinced me that a writer from the show really IS reading my blog, because it might as well be the theme song for Failure is Awesome.

Please note the mathpony cameo around the 0:50 mark. I believe The Jack has found his pony avatar...

I call upon the... wait. Crystal ponies? Man, this throws everything off!

The thing is, they don't look like they're crystalline -- of course, we're only going by book illustrations and not an actual picture of one from the show. But it seems more like they're earth ponies with crystal architecture/technology than anything else.

Dang it, I still want sea ponies!

That'll do, sea pony. That'll do.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Unknown Ponies playtest reports

Wow, I talked a lot about guns last week, didn't I?  It makes sense, seeing as how it was Independence Day and all that, but I think it's time for a break. Let's talk about ponies instead!

So, in the wake of Mike Pondsmith's previous playtest of Unknown Ponies: Failure is Awesome and his request that I revamp the game engine, I got together with math guy and fellow gunbrony The Jack to help me come up with a better dice mechanic.

Using his suggestion that sixes and threes are recurring numbers in MLP: FiM  (six mane characters,  six elements of harmony, three types of pony,  three Cutie Mark Crusaders, etc) I decided that it would be amusing if we used three six-sided dice (that's 3d6 in nerdspeak), with the picture of a pony on one of the faces. That way, there would be a pegasus die and a unicorn die and an earth pony die, and if you got your pony type on a roll it would result in critical success, and maybe friendship bonuses if you got other ponies, and a super-duper mega awesome success if you got all three types of pony on your roll.

Jack took this idea, did MATH AND SCIENCE! to it, and eventually came up with the following:

The ponies replace the 1 pip on the dice. Each die represents a separate type of pony.

Skills and abilities range from Zero to Five, with 6 being "god-like". Ponies level up in increments of 1/2 (half levels not shown):

6     "God-like"
5     World Class
4     Master Class
3     Skilled
2     Average
1     Novice
0     No skill

(There were also some dice mechanics but many of them didn't survive playtest. The improved version will be listed later in order to prevent confusion.)

I sent all of this on to Mike, who declared it a step in the right direction and easy enough to implement. He said he'd run a game with it and get back to me with the results.

Well, it took him a couple weeks, but here are the after-action reports.

Episode 1: (No name given)
I'll give you a full analysis later, but in general it worked much better. Of course, by the end of the episode, Rarity and Sparklemane had divided Ponyville into one faction while Wintermayne and Forest Moon had broken off into a rival faction, with the rest of the Six forced to choose up sides. Meanwhile, the Windigoes are swirling around and Justice Colt is getting into a froth warning everyone about the "EVIL" that is looming! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!

Just another day in Equestria...

Episode 2: The Worst Babysitter
Winter Mane decides to go back to Stalliongrad. However, Pumpkin Cake has learned how to teleport to wherever WM is, and so teleported onto his head as the train is halfway there. So WM comes back. He decides that since he can't get rid of the Cake twins, he will train them in the proper rough Stalliongrad way, which means taking them out into the Everfree forest and watching them fend for themselves (holy Dragon Ball Z!). They are all attacked by Timberwolves, which leads to the rest of the party (and most of the Mane 6) saving them. However, Rarity, who has been feuding with both Winter Mane and Forest Moon all along (it's mutual), uses the incident as an excuse to rouse the citizens of Ponyville against them (aided by PC Jacques Sparklemane). With all Ponyville divided and fighting... harmony is destroyed—and the Windigoes arrive!

Episode 3: Thawing Hearts of Ice
Ponyville is getting buried under snow. Most of Rarity's faction are holed up on one side of town, while the Six try to reason with the other sides. Forest Moon travels into the strangely untouched Everfree to talk to Zeccora, while Winter Mane and Sure Shot (a player “photographer” character), trek back to Ponyville, picking up groups of stray ponies trapped by the sudden blizzard. With his knowledge of arctic survival, Winter Mane easily leads the freezing ponies to Ponyville, becoming a hero in the process. A showdown ensues between Winter and Rarity's supporters, ending when Princess Celestia shows up and calls them both to task. She tells them that since her hooves will be full dealing with the Windigoes they have summoned, they will have to take Twilight's balloon and travel to Stalliongrad to borrow Mayor Joseph Stallion's magic Staff of Windigo Banishment. Contrite at the mess they have caused, both Winter Mane and Rarity apologize to each other and set out on their mission.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about the fact that Mike's games of Unknown Ponies are for more awesome than my own. On the one hand, I'm happy that his players are having a good time and he's using the system to make epic adventures. On the other, I feel like I've been shown up in that someone is a better Pony GM.

Anyway. What did your players think of the new rules, faithful student?
1) Players liked the new “three pony system.” But actual play in Episode 1 showed that there was a flaw in the dice spread; exceptions happened far too often. So in Episode 3, we tried using D10s instead of D6's. Game play evened out. Much better results.

I asked Mike to explain this in detail, because math and I don't get along. He clarified:

With a D6 spread, you had two out of 6 values that could drive a "pony" special. So a 3rd of the time, something massive and unpredictable had to happen. With a D10 spread, it's down to 2 out of 10. That means only 20% of the time weird things happen. Pony specials should BE special. That's what makes them fun. Players need predictability. 80% of the time, they would get it. 20% of the time, it's wacky.

Okay, I get it. Kind of. I sent this off to mathbrony and he replied
The frequency of specials was a worry of mine. Glad that the fix was easy. It's hard to gauge how often you want to have special events go. That's why playtesting's so handy. The resolution setup is nicely streamlined too. Give Mike kudos on that, he got a much faster and simpler way that got the mechanisms I was aiming for.

Speaking of resolution (that's a segue if I've ever heard one),
2) We also reduced the number of resolution steps in the process in Episode 3. You now just roll your 3 dice and have to get enough successes to match the level of difficulty set by the PM (there's a table now). A success is any number equal or greater than your Attribute+Skill. Any “pony” dice you roll are added/subtracted to your success pool, with the number of total successes over the PM's requirement equaling how well you do. In PVP situations, both sides roll their 3 dice and the pony with the MOST successes wins. This system was fast and very easy to use.
3) Added a “damage table” for fighting. Your Pony has Physical HP equal to 5x Body and “Spirit” HP equal to 5x Soul. Physical attacks obviously are taken from Physical-- Magical and Emotional attacks come from your Spirit. Going to 0 on either one means you “faint” until your friends revive you.

If you're confused -- and I imagine that you are -- you can see what he's talking about by looking at a PDF he kindly sent me. I think the charts explain a lot better than words would. Moving on...
4) One of the players pointed out that the Earth Ponies get extra Skills rule was similar to the Human bonus in D&D 4th, , then proceeded to show me how to game it. Eventually balanced all classes by giving each THREE special skills:
1. Unicorns: Unicorn Magic, Ponykinesis & Ponyport
2. Pegasi: Flight, Weather Control and Zephyr (the ability to manipulate small objects with directed wind currents)
3. Earth Pony: Pony Tail (ability to pick up small objects with your tail, demonstrated in series by Applejack), Crafter (ability to make simple items, build things, grow plants, cook, as demonstrated by the fact that Earth Ponies tend to be the “makers” in the society) and Earth Sense (ability to perceive things about weather, animals and general environment, as demonstrated in show by Pinkie's “Pinky Sense” and Applejack's danger perception at the cliff during the Element Quest.
Notice that each pony now has a way to manipulate small objects, which players really wanted.
Now this, dear reader, is where I had what is politely called a "shit fit." To say that I vehemently oppose this patching of rules is to strongly understate my passion, which is akin to the intensity of a thousand blazing suns. Basically, my rebuttal was this:
  1. I have only ever seen one unicorn teleport and that is Twilight Sparkle. While I am certain other unicorns could teleport, it is not an across-the-board ability or we'd have seen Rarity do it. 
  2. I have never ever seen anything like Zephyr in the cartoon. Ever. 
  3. After much back and forth, I finally conceded that Earth Ponies needed to be looked at, and that their ability of skill bonuses wasn't the simple and easy fix I thought it would be. However, "Pony Tail" is not an exclusively earth pony ability, because we saw Rarity do it in Party of One.  That said...
  4. ... this fascination with making sure everypony has an ability to pick up and manipulate things is going overboard, as it is never an issue in the cartoon. It's over-analysis of the variety that MST3K* addressed and so unless it's really, really fine or especially dexterous work, just assume all ponies can do it. Okay?

5) Players liked the Attribute System, but wanted it simplified a bit. Now you get one Poor (1) Attribute, one Good (4) Attribute and the rest are Average (3). If you want to get another Good, you have to take an extra Poor. If you want to get an Exceptional, you have to take two extra Poors. The Class Bonuses worked fine with this system.
I'm cool with this, especially since I hadn't worked out a decent conversion from UA to UP anyway.
I need to ask him if he stacked pony-type bonuses (pegasi getting a boost to their Speed attribute, etc) or if this was used in place of. Based on his last sentence I'd say it sounds like you do your stats and then pick your pony type (calling it "race" or "breed" just sounds wrong) but I want to make sure. It's how I would do it.

Part of me wants to object to blank flanks having Average stats, because I do want stallions and mares to have a definite mechanical advantage over fillies and colts, but perhaps I am worrying too much over perceived balance at the risk of making the game less fun. I'm not sure. If you're still reading this, I welcome your feedback on this issue. (Especially you, mathbrony.)

The next big step, if we're going to keep using this system, is to determine how skills improve. Stats can still be bought up by spending Magic points (though I may need to increase the amount of Magic used to bump a stat) but I'm not immediately sure how best to implement the Failure is Awesome mechanic with the current skill setup.

Although it looks like we changed a lot, we actually didn't—mainly filled in some holes here and there (like a damage system, which came up when Winter Mane and Ariel Hooves fought the Timberwolves in the Forest.) Also, in general I've found it is much cleaner to even out the number of Class bonuses than to allow the players to get extra points that they can use to game the system. I hope that this letter will be useful to you and that your games will be as fun as ours have been, thanks to YOU, Princess Erin, and all your hard work!
You know,  I could get used to being called "Princess Erin" on a regular basis. ;)

Anyway, the upshot of all this is
  1. I haven't been neglecting Unknown Ponies;
  2. Try these rules and see how you like them;
  3. If you have any questions or house-rules or suggestions for improvement, please chime in.
Thanks! Everyone (everypony?) who contributes is helping make a better game!

* Then repeat to yourself, "It's just a show, I should really just relax."

WNW: Crappy humor

This kid appears to be... (puts on sunglasses)... pooped. 

(I've had a rough couple of days. Expect proper updates to follow soon.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Crimson Trace Lasergrip for Ruger LCR, as reviewed by my 73 year old mother

My mother owns a Ruger LCR. Through me, she received a Lasergrip for her pistol from Crimson Trace for test and evaluation. My mother is also 73 years old this month and, while she has shot before, is still a novice to shooting. This test is being done to see if Crimson Trace products are so easy to use that an inexperienced grandmother can install and implement them without issue.

Unless otherwise indicated, all of these thoughts and opinions belong to my mother, the reviewer. I am simply reporting them.

Part 1: Unboxing and Installation

The package arrived in the mail. I removed the tape around the box and she removed the product, wrapped in a smaller box. She opened the smaller box and removed the contents.

"Where are the instructions?" she asked. It took her a moment to realize that they were still inside the box, at the bottom. I observed that the manual has approximately the same dimensions as the inside of the box, and therefore presented some slight difficulty in removal.

Suggestion One: Cut the manual to slightly smaller dimensions so that it comes out easily. A tight fit, arthritic hands,  and nothing to grab onto for removal make a frustrating combination.

The instructions stated that the old grip on the revolver was to be removed. This resulted in some momentary confusion as my mother did not immediately know how to do this.

Suggestion Two: Indicate that there is a screw on the bottom of the stock LCR grip, either in the instructions or as an illustration. Either way, err on the side of "more clarity."

Inserting the batteries posed no difficulties. When I informed her of Crimson Trace's "Free Batteries for Life" program, she was pleased and impressed with their dedication to customer service.

Assembling the Lasergrip around the pistol frame also posed no difficulty. However, my mother was annoyed that her default go-to screwdriver would not work in this instance and I was tasked to retrieve the set of precision screws from the toolbox.

Suggestion Three: Include a small screwdriver of the proper size in the box.

The warning labels were met with a "Oh, how cute!" from mom and speculation if it was strictly necessary to put them on and detract from the appearance of her pistol. The general consensus was that they were included for the sake of product liability.

Finding the Master On/Off Switch took more time than expected, but my mother quickly noted, upon re-reading the instructions, that it was "on the map" (the annotated illustration) and that she was at fault in this instance. The laser was activated without further difficulty and the action proved quite natural to her.

The phrase "Confirm that laser and iron sights are in alignment" confused her greatly. She had never heard the term "iron sights" before and could not find reference to them anywhere in the illustration. I eventually had to inform her that the term referred to the fixed sights on the pistol. Similar confusion occurred with the term "front sight post."

Suggestion Four: Replace "iron sights" with "fixed pistol sights" or similar term; label the front sight post as such in the illustration. 

Having now installed her lasergrip, mom was concerned by the remaining pieces (two allen wrenches for adjusting elevation/windage and two swabs for cleaning the lens) and was worried she had somehow skipped a step or performed the task improperly. That the instructions did not mention them at all was a source of anxiety, and was only resolved when I finally stepped in and told her that there was another manual -- the Owner's Handbook -- for her to read.

The mysterious items.

Suggestion Five: Reference these items in the instructions with directions to consult the other pamphlet for information on what they are and how to use them. 

Reading the Owner's Handbook resolved this issue although it raised another concern. The phrase "Remove laser sight before cleaning gun" was met with dismay. She did not like the idea of removing the grips every time, and then cleaning the pistol without a proper grip. I informed her this caution was to prevent solvents from damaging the lens, and that if she covered the lens with a protective barrier, like a Band-Aid, and then cleaned the gun with the Boresnake I had bought her, then it would likely not be an issue.

Suggestion Six: Mention alternate strategies for cleaning that do not involve removing the grip. Old people do not like constant disassembly and reassembly, especially if they have arthritic hands. 

Overall, mother was very happy with this product, despite what she called "lack of clarity" in the instructions. She mentioned that activating the laser was quite natural, and that even though she had not practiced with it, its mere presence gave her confidence and made her feel more competent. She loved the immediate feedback of knowing where she was aiming, and when I demonstrated that it was also useful in overcoming trigger-twitch during dry fire practice she proclaimed that it was even more useful. (The long trigger pull of the LCR has been a minor impediment to her.) She would not hesitate to recommend it to other seniors who are interested in armed self-defense. In short, she loves her Lasergrip and cannot wait to put it to the test.

Granny Rating:
Instructions:  C+ to B-
Ease of installation: B+ to A-
Product: A+
Ease of use: A+

Editor's Note:  When mom removed the old grip, I was reminded of how soft it was, and how good it was at absorbing shock. I'm worried that this new grip, being all plastic, will transmit more of the recoil to my mother's hand and wrist. I'm also not sure how well a sweaty or nervous hand could hold on to it. Would a Hogue Handall work with a Lasergrip? Or would it constantly exert pressure on the laser switch?  Some of these questions may be answered when I take her shooting.

The old grip, made of a squishy, knobby rubber.
The new grip, made of a hard plastic.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Range Use!

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: I was given this product for free and without monetary compensation. I am neither required to return it, nor was I instructed to give a good review in exchange for this item. I have no personal affiliation with the manufacturer, and my professional relationship is purely that of a reviewer and as a customer.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence (from fear) Day

Not to brag, but while y'all were having cookouts and watching fireworks and generally sweltering in the heat, I was helping my young Texan friend find a trainer.

So here's the short version: not a day after I'd posted my request for gunnies in the Houston area, I was contacted by a gentleman known as Steve Griffiths who said "Erin, I may know someone who might be able to help. I have forwarded a link to your post to them. Sorry I can't be of more assistance."

Well, he shouldn't have been sorry, because the person he was talking about contacted me that afternoon. Her name is Lori Townsend, and she's had a CHL for 10 years now. She also lives in Houston and, as you might have guessed, is female. Not only does this alleviate the "stranger anxiety" that might occur with meeting an unknown male, Lori will also be able to address female-specific concerns such as pistol weight and grips for girl-sized hands.

Want to know what's ironic? Both Lori and Steve are friends of Oleg Volk -- the same man who helped me get my own carry pistol and permit. I swear, Oleg is the social center of the gunnie world.

At any rate, I introduced YTM and Lori and they got along like gangbusters. They've exchanged phone numbers and are making arrangements around work schedule and child care to go out to the range. Lori is going to bring her mini-arsenal of pistols of shoot so that YTM can experience difference models and calibers. And, of course, she's going to get the basic lessons of gun safety and operation. Hopefully her husband, too, who is completely on-board with her owning and carrying a gun.

So right now, the plan is this: Lori and YTM (and Mr. YTM is possible) meet, learn proper firearms safety, squeeze of a couple hundred rounds, and hopefully our gal will have a good idea of what kind of gun she wants. Then Lori will help her with the paperwork of getting a CHL. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to chip in some money so that she can afford that pistol and permit, and god willing, maybe a shotgun for the house and some extra ammo and training and whatever else.

Donations may be sent via PayPal to [email redacted]. As soon as I can get a button set up (most likely, I'll have to have her set it up and then send me the code) I'll post it front and center on my blog.

And if you're in the area and are willing to donate training, range time, ammo, or anything else, that's also great. You can either leave a comment here or email her directly.

Let's help this young lady be independent from fear and welcome her into our ranks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Calling all Texans, Okies and other gunnies

Any Texas CCW holders out there?

How about gun store owners or trainers?

I know a young mother who needs a carry pistol and training to defend herself and her child from violence, but cannot afford either. In her own words:
I work in downtown Houston where there's a large homeless population. Some of these people are crazy, some are people who just got out of Houston county jail (they're dropped off at the greyhound two blocks from our store) and I get into work sometimes at 4:45, or leave at 7pm. Both times have me coming and going when there's no one around. I get SO paranoid about someone trying to attack me, and I'd feel better carrying a gun.

Also, we have issues with my "sperm donor", whom I'm thinking may get stupid one day and show up and try to take E. If he does...

My husband met me when I was 4 months pregnant, and we've been together ever since. My "sperm donor" is an asshole who only contacts me when he's pissed or off his meds. When he's off his meds he's really aggressive and, well, an asshole. Again, another reason to keep a gun.

Money is really tight right now, so getting a gun soon (within 90 days) won't happen, but I'll live. I have a "war club" that I keep, and I have people walk me to and from my car/garage.
I realize I may be pushing my luck in asking for donations not three months after you folks helped me buy my pistol, but this is a really good cause. If anything, she needs a CCW more than I do.

I plan to run a fundraiser to help her buy a pistol (unless someone wants to step forward and donate, which while highly unlikely would be amazingly awesome) but right now I'd like to find out if there's anyone in the area who is willing to donate time and energy to help her through the paperwork of CCW, find out which gun is right for her, and offer her training for free or at a reduced rate.

I'd appreciate it if folks linked to this on their blogs in order to get maximum coverage. Wouldn't it be great if we could get her carrying by the end of summer?

Either leave comments here or email me at erin dot palette at gmail dot com.

UPDATE: More information, as well as a donation address, may be found here

I am now a product reviewer

Thanks to the kind efforts of Linoge over at Walls of the City and his relationship with Crimson Trace, I was able to score a laser grip for my mother's Ruger LCR for test & evaluation (T&E).

What will set this review apart from other reviews is that I will not be testing the product. In fact, the only thing I will be doing in any official capacity is writing about it. No, the actual testing and evaluating and opining on it will be done by my 73-year-old mother.

Now, mom has fired a gun before, but she is very much a novice at it -- as an example, she never heard the term "iron sights" before and didn't know what it meant -- and so therefore her use of this product will be the ultimate test of "Is it user-friendly? Are the directions clear? Is this product, in fact, so easy that a grandmother can install and use it?"

Part 1 will cover the unboxing and installation, and will appear later this week.
Part 2 will cover her actually using it at the range, and will occur whenever I can take her shooting.

Stay tuned!

Obligatory FTC disclaimer: I was given this product for free and without monetary compensation. I am neither required to return it, nor was I instructed to give a good review in exchange for this item. I have no personal affiliation with the manufacturer, and my professional relationship is purely that of a reviewer and as a customer. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Gunday: Holsters 4 Heroes

(This should have published yesterday. My bad.)

I am proud to be one of "the girls" Michael talks about in his latest venture, Holsters 4 Heroes:

The girls pushed me into this. Jennifer likes to brag about nice thing that I do way more than I like to. Anyway, it’s no secret that I have done my craft for the benefit of the troops at one time or another. More and more often, I have our men and women overseas contacting me to inquire about a custom holster for their issued M9 pistol. I hear the issued holsters are pretty crappy. Anyway, I would really like to be able to not charge these brave people who are serving – I’d like to make them a holster and ship it. Unfortunately, not operating at a loss is more important in my business model than supplying holsters to the troops. Bills get paid better anyway. I was chatting with Erin and bemoaning this very fact. Currently, I’ve been working with several individuals in our armed forces who are looking for new rigs. I was telling her about a woman in particular in Afghanistan who needs a different holster. Erin said that as generous as people have been to her, she would be more than happy to help pay for this young lady’s holster. And then, an idea was born. I ran the idea past A Girl, as this is kind of up her alley. She loved it. And the idea became a plan. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to have to do legally, but my plan is to offer the custom M9 holsters for sale, but treat the troops like their money is useless. I’ll accept donations from anyone who cares to sponsor an M9 holster, and I’ll keep a list of those who are serving that have expressed interest in a holster, and basically have a random draw for the next recipient if the list of interested gets too long. Is that too vague, or too specific? Is there anything I should be thinking of differently about this? Any of you law savvy people know of anything that I need to be careful about with this thing? I want your input. So, bring on the flames. And the advice. And start donating.

I suggested that should put this on Kickstarter or Indigogo so that he could build a fund before the orders come in, as a kind of "monetary buffer."  That way when a soldier asks for a holster, he could start making one right away and deduct the cost for it from the fund. Then he'd let us know that he'd removed X amount and ask folks to donate more once the level got a bit low.

But this was just off the top of my head, and I'm no expert. If anyone has a great idea about this, or if you just want to show your support, go to his website and post!

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.