Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chinese Horsebow, Part 2

I was able to shoot the Chinese horsebow again yesterday. I used the same arrows but this time was at a friend’s house, and his “yard” is about 8 acres, so we were able to shoot at about 28 yards. I am even more impressed with the bow now. We put about 50 shots through it at his crossbow target that’s about 3 feet square.

Twenty eight yards is further than I’ve shot a bow in over a decade, and I was able to keep about 2/3 of my shots on the target. The bow shoots very flat out to that range and hit with a pretty authoritative thump. Arrows which missed the target but hit the ground next to it skidded 10 yards or more up the hill behind it.

If I get to 1,000 shots with the bow without it showing any damage, I’m going to consider it to be a heck of a bargain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Chinese Horsebow

Ever since I got back into archery at the end of 2011, one class of bows which has fascinated me has been the Asian composite bow, AKA "horsebow." The first bow I bought upon resuming the hobby was a 40# Magyar-style horsebow made by Istvan Toth in Hungary. I purchased it online from Seven Meadows Archery. The modest draw weight of the Toth bow allowed me to get back into archery and eventually make my way up to heavier bows.

In April I picked up a 50# Samick SLB-II longbow at Lancaster Archery Supply. This has been the bow I've shot the most in the past few months.

Recently, I became intrigued with horsebows made in China and available at low prices on eBay. After hemming and hawing, I decided to give one of these a try. So, I purchased a 50# Chinese-style horsebow from eBayer "handmadebow". It seemed appropriate to buy a Chinese-style bow from a Chinese bowyer.

For what I guess are marketing reasons, the auction was titled as "USA Handmade Flagella MAGYAR Reiterbogen Recurve Horsebow 50 lbs". It's certainly not a Magyar-type bow. It's more of a Manchu, Chinese, or later Mongol style. For example, Magyar bows and early Mongol bows did not employ string bridges like this bow is fitted with. the I clicked the "buy now" button on 8/16/12, it was shipped from Anhui, China the next day, and it arrived today, 8/24/12. The cost was only $109.99, which included shipping.

The bow arrived in good condition. The packaging could have been better, had it been roughly handled the bow might have been damaged. As it was, the bow came packed inside a well made black nylon bow sock, with some newspaper taped around the ends, and inside of a cardboard box.

My initial impressions were favorable, especially given the very low price of the bow. The overall fit and finish is OK but definitely not as nice as my Toth or Samick bows. The pigskin covering seem to be glued on securely, and the twine wraps are neatly executed, with the ends tucked under and doubly secured with glue. The wood has some kind of a varnish or oil finish.

Some specs:
  • Draw weight: 50# at 28"
  • Bow length: 148 cm or 58.26"
  • String length: 142 cm or 55.9"
  • Construction: Fiberglass, pigskin leather, beech wood, nylon (?) twine wrapping the joints, and a multi-strand nylon string. (The auction listed a "tendon" string which may or may not be a translation error.)
Here are some pictures of the bow. As you can see in the first pic, the siyahs point almost directly away from the belly when unstrung, and the limbs also arc away. (You can see full-size versions of these pics here.)

Safely stringing the bow requires either the use of a stringer or an assistant. I don’t have a stringer that will fit this bow, so I had my daughter Amanda help me. While I bent the bow against my knees, she strung and unstrung it for me.

Here are some closeups of the upper siyah. The first shows how the string bridges hold the string away from the belly of the bow. When shooting, the bridges give the string a little “pop” at the end of the power stroke, improving speed.

Here are the only markings on the bow:

My initial shooting impressions are also very favorable. The only thing I did before shooting was wax the bowstring. The draw is smooth, and the pull weight feels constant throughout the draw, without feeling like it's stacking at my draw length, about 26" to 27". It feels lighter than my 50# longbow but part of this is due to the presence of the siyahs, which act as levers to give the archer some mechanical advantage. It almost feels like there's a slight letoff when the siyahs reach a certain point in their arc.

As shown in the accompanying pictures, there is no arrow rest so you must shoot off the knuckle. I find doing so without a glove is painful, so I use a leather shooting glove which covers my right thumb and index finger (I shoot left handed). To protect the fingers on my left hand I use a leather shooting glove rather than a tab. Originally, these bows were shot with a thumb release using a horn or metal thumb ring. That is a skill I haven't even begun yet to master, however.

I shot the bow 48 times tonight using the same Port Orford Cedar arrows I shoot in my longbow. They have three 5" helical fletches and are tipped with 125 grain bodkin points. ('Cause you never know when you'll need to take down a marauding armored knight.)

The bow does have some hand shock and vibration but it's really not too bad. It's a bit noisier than the Toth horsebow but that's not unexpected, since it has string bridges. I'm planning to add string silencers which should reduce both the noise and hand shock.

I was impressed with the speed of the bow. Since I don't have a chronograph I can't say just how fast it shoots, but it's much faster than the lighter Toth bow and on par with the Samick. The arrows zip downrange and make a satisfying "thump" on impact. For a good archer this bow should have plenty of power to bring down a whitetail.

I'm going to try to keep records of how many arrows I shoot with this bow and see how it holds up. Initially, the only thing I plan to do is add a nocking point to the string to ensure that I'm nocking arrows consistently. If this bow holds up to use, it’ll be a real bargain.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Voter ID and the Real Racists

Opponents of voter ID laws claim that they are intended to disenfranchise poor and minority voters by imposing unduly burdensome requirements on them.


Here's a non-exhaustive list of common activities that adults of voting age engage in and for which government issued ID is required.

1. Buy booze.
2. Open a bank account.
3. Cash a check or money order.
4. Board a commercial airplane (heck, you need it to just get past the TSA).
5. Get a loan from a bank.
6. Apply for welfare.
7. Buy a gun from a licensed dealer.
8. Buying pseudophedrine.
9. Securing employment.
10. Renting a place to live.
11. Buying a home.
12. Buying tobacco products (if you look like you may be under 21 years old).
13. Driving a motor vehicle.
14. Buying a hunting or fishing license.
15. Rent tools from a place like Lowe's or Home Depot.
16. Attend college.

Democrats don't seem to find the ID requirement unduly burdensome to minorities for these activities. Why all of a sudden is it such a burden then when voter ID laws are enacted? Do they really believe that poor minorities don't engage in any of these activities and have ID?

If so, then they are the real racists.

Solar Walk for iOS

Yesterday when I had iTunes open I ran across the iOs app Solar Walk by ViTO Technology as a recommendation. It looked neat and was on sale for only $0.99, so I grabbed it. I'm glad I did.

Solar Walk is a 3D virtual tour of the solar system. The graphics are simply gorgeous, the user interface is very intuitive, and it presents a lot of information in an easy to digest format. I showed my 9 year old daughter the app and she almost immediately grabbed my iPad away from me and started playing with it. She has the UI down pat in a couple of minutes and had I not told her to shut it off around 9:00 PM, she probably would have been up until midnight playing with it. I've never seen her so excited about a computer program or website.

Solar Walk will run on iPhones and iPod Touches, not just iPads, so we'll be getting it for the girls' iPods.

ViTO Technology has a couple of other interesting looking iOS apps, such as Star Walk and Geo Walk, which I'll check out as well.

If any reader knows of a comparable application that will run on Android tablets, please post a link in the comments.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Linux Mint 13 - Not So Fast

Last night after my previous post about Linux Mint 13 I started having problems streaming YouTube videos again. This seems related to the Flash plugin. While Flash seems to work fine on Windows or OS X, it's buggy in Linux.

What a PITA. I'll be glad when Flash dies.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Linux Mint 13 XFCE Edition

Last week in a fit of geekiness, I setup my PC at home to dual boot Linux Mint 13 XFCE Edition alongside Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. Although I've had various Linux distros running inside VirtualBox VMs, I wanted to run Linux natively.

I selected Mint since based on prior experiments, it's easy to install and provides a good selection of apps. I specifically chose the XFCE version because I like it as a desktop environment, being stable and light on resources. (The PC has a Core i5 and 8 gigs of RAM, so it's got plenty of horsepower, but I prefer simpler desktops anyway.) Ubuntu is most commonly suggested when Linux noobs are looking at potential distros to try, but IMO its current desktop is horrid. Unity is an ugly POS better suited to tablets than PCs, and I didn't want to mess with changing it. There are official variants of Ubuntu with other desktops (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc.) but I wound up with Mint.

Overall the install went smoothly and everything works, after a little tweaking to fix a problem streaming media. Specifically, the audio would frequently stutter when I streamed YouTube video -- something I do a lot. After doing some googling, I discovered that it's due to a bug in how PulseAudio interacts with some drivers, including the one for my RealTek sound card. I found the fix here.

The fix requires a slight config chance in the file /etc/pulse/ As root or using the sudo command, open the file in a text editor.

Then, find the line which reads:

load-module module-udev-detect

and modify it to read like this:

load-module module-udev-detect tsched=0

Save and quit the file. You then need to restart the pulseaudio service. You can do this either via a reboot or finding the process via ps ax | grep pulseaudio, killing it, then restarting it.

This was kind of annoying. The sound card I'm using is built into my PC's Intel motherboard, so it is a very common sound card and this sort of thing should be found before software is released.

Aside from the sound issue I haven't run into any other problems, and Linux Mint 13 XFCE Edition has been pleasant to use.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Romney, Ryan, and Churchill

So on Saturday Mitt Romney announced that he's picked Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan for his running mate. Of the available choices I think he was a good one. Ryan is known for his work as the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and this signals that Romney wants to focus the campaign on out of control Federal spending.

I've seen plenty of posts online over the past couple of days lamenting the choice, however. E.g., this will lose Florida for him, or basically that it didn't pander to some demographic -- women, Hispanics, or 3-legged paraplegic black lesbian transexuals. Whatever.

The Obama campaign has dossiers on all of the people who might have gotten the nod. I have zero doubt that regardless of who Romney picked, Zero's minions would have unleashed a torrent of hateful, mendacious invective.

One of the first rules of a fight -- whether a gunfight or a political campaign -- is that you have to "run with what ya brung." Just as a general on the field of battle has to fight with the army he has, not the army he wishes he had, we have to run with the candidates we have. The time for bemoaning the Republican choice of nominee is over. Now is the time to gather together as one and focus on firing Obama and Biden in November.

For those of you dismayed by our choices, I commend to you some of Sir Winston Churchill's wisdom:

Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Churchill uttered these lines in 1941 when Britain still faced the very real threat of Nazi victory and all the horrors that entailed.

The Fat Lady hasn't sung and it ain't over.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Thoughts on Organized Shooting Ranges and the RKBA

Over at the PA Gun Blog, Sebastian put up a thougthful post regarding the state of affairs at organized shooting ranges. If you're fortunate enough to have enough land of your own to shoot on, or live out West and can go shoot on public land, you may not be familiar with the restrictions us folks who have to shoot at a club must put up with.

In particular, many clubs have restrictions on how many rounds you may load in a gun, what types of targets you can shoot at, and how fast you can fire. Some clubs even restrict you to shooting rifles from a benchrest, with something overhead limiting how far you can elevate the barrel, in order to ensure no round passes over the berm. So much for offhand practice.

One of Sebastian's laments is that clubs with onerous rules and an aging membership will die out. This may be the case with some clubs, but of the two which I currently belong, to, their is a huge number of people clamoring to get in, many of whom are new shooters.

As Sebastian has pointed out in many of his other posts, we won the culture war, at least when it came to the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. I've been actively involved with the RKBA struggle for about 20 years, and cognizant of it for many years before that. I'm 44 years old, and for the first half of my life gun owners were made to feel like pariahs. Things started changing in the mid-90s. Several things contributed to this:

  1. The Clinton administration was very anti-gun and got a lot of people who otherwise may have sat on the sideline involved.
  2. The general realization that gun control laws are bullshit non-solutions to violent crime, and only result in unilateral victim disarmament.
  3. I can't point to any hard figures, but based on my personal observations, I believe the "Counterstrike Effect" is a contributing factor. Specifically, we've now had a generation of (mostly) guys who've been exposed to military guns and who developed a fascination with them via video gaming, and who as a result have gone out to buy AR-15s, AKs, and other military-style rifles.*

Nowadays you have shows like "Top Shot" and "Sons of Guns" on major cable networks. It's a refreshing change.

I posted a reply to Sebastian, which I'll copy here:

I belong to two clubs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I was on the board of directors for a year at Club #1. 
Club #1 went from about 800 memberships (a "membership" may be a family, so it may be more than 1 person) to about 1300 from 2008 to the present. At the same time, the types of rifle most predominantly seen on the ranges changed from traditional sporting rifles to military-style rifles, like AR-15s and AKs.** 
Additionally, we went from getting a handful of new members each month to getting 50 or 60, until we capped it at no more than 30 new members per month, and have since gone to requiring sponsorship. AIUI, we will not be accepting any new members after August until January at the earliest. 
Club #2 (which I recently joined) changed its membership rules in an effort to keep it from expanding beyond the range's capacity. They now require new members to be sponsored.
When both clubs were built they were in the country, but "progress" has resulted in homes being built nearby. In the case of Club #2 there are large developments of McMansions within a quarter mile. As a result, both clubs restrict rapid fire and strictly enforce shooting hours, due to noise concerns. Club #1 was actually shut down for a couple years by the township while the issue was litigated.
As I mentioned in my post, I was on the BOD at Club #1. Board membership is a pain in the neck and one of the most important duties you have as a director is handling stupid members who don't follow club rules. But if you belong to a club and are dissatisfied with some rules, don't just complain about it on the Internet. Get involved and bring about change from within.

* I hate the term "modern sporting rifle" that some shooters have bestowed upon AR-15s, et al., in seeking to come up with a politically correct euphemism. It kowtows to the belief that only sporting arms are protected by the Second Amendment, when in fact, it protects arms suitable for use by members of the militia. See United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), and see 10 U.S.C. Section 311 for the composition of the militia. Further, some state constitutions explicitly recognize that the people have the individual right to keep and bear arms. E.g., Article I, Section 21 of the PA constitution reads, "The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned."

**If you go into most gun shops, significant rack space will be devoted to semiauto, military-style rifles like AR-15s and Kalashnikovs. In handguns the M-1911 semiauto -- as made by many gun manufacturers and still going strong after 101 years -- and more modern designs like the various Glocks, S&W Military & Polices, and Springfield XDs dominate. Revolvers take up a much smaller amount of valuable shelf space.