Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Asus Transformer T100 Tablet/Laptop

My daughter Alexandra just got an Asus Transformer 10.1" tablet/laptop from Amazon. This post will offer my initial impressions.

A couple notes: First, this is the older model that comes with MS Office 2013, instead of an Office 365 subscription, which is a plus in my book. Second, she spent her own money on this. She already has an iPad but they use Windows in her school district.

Up until now I have not been a fan of Windows 8.x. Having used the Asus briefly, I can say that with a touchscreen it doesn't totally suck. If it was mine I'd still probably install Classic Shell so that I could have a Windows 7-like user interface, if my primary use involved the keyboard. Without a touchscreen, the Metro UI (or whatever MS calls it nowadays) blows.

During the initial setup I let it scan my home network, where it automatically detected my Brother HL-2270DW printer and installed it. Pretty slick.

You almost have to have a Microsoft account (e.g., hotmail.com, live.com, or outlook.com) to use the full features of Windows 8.1. I set Alexandra up with one and she got 15 GB of cloud storage for free. She's going to be using the Asus for schoolwork so by having her save everything to her OneDrive it will be automatically backed up.

I was able to set her MS account as a child's account. I'll get notified of her usage and they will filter inappropriate content. To do this I had to sign in with my live.com account and let them charge $0.50 to my Discover to confirm that I'm an adult.

Alexandra uses a GMail account and the Windows 8.1 Mail app was able to connect to it with no problems.

There's a USB 2.0 port on the tablet itself and a USB 3.0 port on the docking station/base/keyboard unit. The tablet has HDMI out, too. Network access is strictly via WiFi.

The machine seems to be pretty responsive. Considerably more responsive than my 2008-vintage MSI Wind U100 running Windows XP, 7, or Ubuntu. It came with Office 2013 Home and Student, and both Word and Excel launch quickly. The CPU is a quad-core Intel Baytrail and the tablet has 64 GB SSD, but C: shows a capacity of 49 GB, and about 35 GB free. It didn't come loaded down with too much bloatware, but there is a recovery partition.

The screen quality is excellent. Images are very sharp and text looks crisp.

It was about $350 after tax from Amazon. The combination of its size, light weight, and the ability to run most Windows apps is very appealing. It would probably make a good machine for portable ham radio digital mode use, or if you want something light for travel. Hopefully it’ll hold up well and the battery life will be good. Asus claims an 11 hour battery life, but I expect this varies widely depending on usage.

One caveat to be aware of with the Transformer is that if you put it in a case like this one and aren’t careful to reconnect the keyboard, you’ll have to reseat it firmly or you’re stuck with just a touchscreen. For that reason, for my own use I’d probably rather have a more conventional laptop if I could get it in the same size. It would be a great evolution of the netbook concept.

If the Asus develops any problems I’ll post a follow up.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mauser C-96 Disassembly Pictures

Last month I picked up a Mauser C-96 Broomhandle. I got it to the range after detail stripping it, cleaning out the last bits of the Western Front, lubing it, and replacing the hammer and recoil springs. Unfortunately, the bore is so worn that bullets keyhole and there's enough blow-by that the gun fails to eject empties. It will be definitely be sent off to Redman's for relining to the original 7.63x25 caliber.

While I had the gun apart I took pictures. If you right click on each pic and select View Image (or your browser's equivalent, you'll see a descriptive file name.

The Mauser C-96 is one of the finest examples of the machinist's art you'll ever find. It's remarkable how this was able to be mass produced on manual machinery.

Portable Vertical HF Antenna

Over on Survivalpreps, clickenzee here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I had my first QSO using my Yaesu FT-817ND QRP rig and the Ultimax-100 antenna on my roof. Transmitting on 5 watts using the PSK-31 mode, I was able to complete a QSO with W0TY in St. Charles, MO. That's 823 miles from me.

Before W0TY replied to my CQ, a couple other hams did but when I replied to them directly they didn't come back. Such is the nature of radio communication, especially at low power.

To control the rig I used my Apple iPad 2 running PSKER, connected using an Easy Digi interface from KF5INZ.

Clifford Wareham, KF5INZ makes the Easy Digi interface for more than just Apple iThingies, and will supply the correct cables to connect your device to your rig. Highly recommended. The interface I bought will also work with my iPhone. Using either my iPad or iPhone, Clifford's little box in combination with my FT-817ND makes for a very portable digital communications setup.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mauser C-96 Broomhandle

As Tam likes to say, "The Internet likes gun pics." So, here's a pic of my latest acquisition, something I've wanted since I was a kid, even before I saw Han Solo blow away Greedo*:

It's a wartime commercial Mauser Model 1896 "Broomhandle," AKA, "C-96," chambered for 7.63x25 Mauser. It was made around 1915 - 1916. How I acquired it is a bit of a story, but first, some history.

The Mauser C-96 is generally considered to be the first successful semiautomatic pistol. It was produced from 1896 up until 1937. About a million were made (not including copies). It saw service in numerous wars and copies were made in Spain and China, where it was especially popular. Unlike modern semiauto pistols, it had a fixed, 10 round magazine located ahead of the trigger, loaded with stripper clips. Most C-96s are chambered for 7.63x25 with some in 9x19. The first Broomhandles in 9mm were built at the behest of the German Army in WW1, when production of the standard P-08 Luger couldn't meet demand. Most of these 1916 Prussian Contract guns have grips with red "9"s on them, to differentiate them from the guns in 7.63mm. Many C-96s with shot out barrels have been bored out to 9mm and had Red 9 grips installed. A lot of these were done in the 1980s and '90s, when  thousands of very well used Broomhandles were imported into the US from China.

One of the most unique features was the C-96's construction, which contained only one screw -- the one holding on the grip panels. Everything else fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

While the gun looks a bit ungainly to 21st Century eyes, it actually handles pretty well. It's a little heavier than a full size 1911 but the balance is different.

Among the most well known users of the Broomhandle were Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. I also ran across of photo of a young Ritter von Leeb packing a C-96.

My dad bought the gun earlier this year. A couple weeks ago he was over at my house to share some Woodford Reserve bourbon and conversation, and I asked him when he was sending the Broomhandle off to get relined (since the bore is shot out). In reply, he asked me if I wanted it, in trade for a nice Polish Radom VIS-35 that he'd given me a few years ago. As nice as the Radom is, the Broomhandle is one of my grails, so I didn't hesitate even a microsecond before agreeing to the trade. (Odds are I'll eventually get the Radom back anyway.)

The exterior of the gun has some pitting and may have been reblued at some point in the past century.  As alluded to previously, the bore is in bad shape. It looks like the entire Heer marched through it.

I plan to shoot it. Before doing so I am going to replace the original springs with a kit from Wolff. (I'll keep the originals in a plastic bag along with the gun.) I have some Hansen (Prvi Partizan) .30 Mauser ammo to try in it. With the bore in such poor shape I am not expecting much in the way of accuracy.

Redman's Rifling & Reboring in Washington State offers a relining service for Broomhandles. I'll probably send the barrel and bolt off to them in early January.

Some thoughts on the correct ammo for Broomhandles in 7.63:

When I was younger the consensus was that 7.63 Mauser was loaded hotter than the dimensionally identical 7.62x25 Tokarev. At some point this reversed and nowadays, the common belief is that Tokarev ammo is loaded hotter than Mauser ammo, and is unsafe to shoot in Broomhandles. However, after doing a lot of research, my belief is that there isn't much of a difference between them, unless you are talking about post-WW2 Czech 7.62 SMG ammo or current Prvi Partizan high pressure 7.62 TT ammo. There is a good discussion of ammo on 1896Mauser.com. (And don't get me started on the myth that the CZ-52 pistol is stronger than Tokarevs. It's not.)

Another characteristic feature of the C-96 is its ability to accept a combination holster/shoulder stock. Normally, in the US, attaching a shoulder stock to a pistol with a barrel less than 16 inches long creates a Short Barreled Rifle, regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. However, certain curios and relics have been exempted from the purview of the NFA by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. What is sometimes unclear is whether one of these C&Rs is exempt if a replica of the original German stock is attached, rather than an actual original German stock. Being able to use a replica would be ideal because they are available on eBay and other places online for much less than original stocks, which start around $400. I have found scans of letters from BATFE saying replica stocks are OK to use, while there are other ATF letters extant taking the opposite position.

Here's a video from Iraqveteran8888 demonstrating how the shoulder stock is attached and used:

Since I have already invited The Man into my life by building a silencer on a Form 1, I felt that discretion was the better part of valor and emailed the ATF's Firearms Tech Branch, inquiring whether it was legal to attach a replica stock so long as it is substantially identical to the original design. Here's the reply I received:

Received from: Fire_tech@atf.gov
Date: 12/12/14
Dear Sir,
On page 38, in Section III of the Firearms Curio & Relic List, the Mauser Model 1896 is listed with the specific requirement that it be “accompanied by original German mfd. Detachable wooden holster/shoulder stocks…. (Bold in original email.)
ATF – Firearms & Technology Division
From: Dave Markowitz
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2014 9:46 AM
To: Fire Tech
Subject: Question regarding the legality of a Reproduction Mauser Model 1896 Stock
Dear Sir:
I own a Mauser Model 1896 (AKA "C96") pistol manufactured in 1915 or 1916. The pistol is chambered for the original 7.63x25mm cartridge and remains unmodified.
After reviewing the Curio and Relic list at <http://www.atf.gov/files/publications/firearms/curios-relics/p-5300-11-firearms-curios-or-relics-list.pdf>, I see that the Model 1896 manufactured before 1940, and fitted with an original German-manufactured holster/shoulder stock has been exempted from the provisions of the National Firearms Act ("NFA"). See Section III, page 38 of that list.
Can you confirm for me whether or not a Model 1896 manufactured prior to 1940, but fitted with a reproduction holster/shoulderstock that is substantially the same as an original holster/shoulder stock would also be exempted from the NFA?
Thank you in advance.
David S. Markowitz

Sigh. I guess I'm in the market for an original stock, rather than an inexpensive replica.

Wikipedia has a nice article on the C-96, but the best site I've come across about the Broomhandle is 1896Mauser.com. The Mauser C-96 is a significant development in small arms history and has made appearances in many movies, including From Russia With Love, not to mention the Star Wars franchise, as the basis for blasters used by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I'd love to see a modern made replica to get as a shooter, even if I had to pay a grand for it.

* Han did not shoot first. ONLY Han shot.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

CCI Quiet .22 LR

I got the chance to fire off a few rounds of CCI Quiet .22 LR yesterday. It's a 40 grain lead round nose bullet at 710 FPS. Last month I got 2 bricks of it from Midway.

From my daughter's Savage Rascal with a 16.25" barrel, it makes less noise than a high powered spring piston air rifle. Remington CBee loads are louder.

From my Beretta 71 pistol it's a lot louder and sounds like a gun. It did not have enough oomph to cycle the action. I'm looking forward to trying it in my Ruger 22/45 with suppressor. I'm hoping the can will add enough back pressure to allow the gun to cycle.

I didn't test for accuracy as we were in a friend's yard plinking.

If you can find some and you have a gun that shoots it well, the CCI Quiet should make a good load for discrete pest control or small game hunting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Survivor Library

This site has a ton of old books on everything from farming to Boy Scout manuals, engineering, chemistry, education, and radio. They can be downloaded as PDFs or ePub files.