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 (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:
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 <>, 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 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.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

ARRL Web Server Breach


Late last month, a security breach occurred, involving a web server at ARRL Headquarters. ARRL IT Manager Mike Keane, K1MK, said that League members have no reason to be concerned about sensitive personal information being leaked.


If you have a login at, I suggest you go change your password.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Free Book: Radio Monitoring A How To Guide

N2EI has made his book, Radio Monitoring A How To Guide, freely available under the Creative Commons License. Go download it here.

{Hat tip to Sparks.}

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New Mini CNC Mill from Defense Distributed

Cody Wilson, the guy who made the antigunners piss their pants with a 3D printed guns, is at it again. This time, it is a mini CNC mill that will retail for under $1500 and come ready to go out of the box. It's big enough to do 80% AR15 lowers and 1911 frames. Of course, it's not limited to making guns.

The hardware and software are open source. The website says that it'll be shipping for "Holiday 2014," and it's available now for pre-order.

This has the potential to be more significant for the right to bear arms than 3D printed guns. This will allow you to make the receiver (i.e., the part registered and controlled in the US) out of metal, from which the majority of guns are made. With many traditional designs you cannot simply substitute synthetics, due to engineering constraints.

Making gun control moot via technology will be one of the greatest advances for personal liberty that we see in the 21st Century.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Last year I posted about the 12th anniversary of 9/11, and find that what I wrote one year ago still reflects my feelings. Only now, we’ve gone further down the rabbit hole and are facing a new enemy in the form of ISIS.

Unfortunately, after Obama’s dithering of the past few weeks, and last night’s lackluster call to arms, I fear we are no closer to confronting and repulsing this threat. With our wide open southern border and “leaders” who inspire neither fear nor respect by our foes, it is probably only a matter of time before more major attacks happen on our soil.

A pox on everyone in the White House and Congress.

Baofeng UV-5RA Extended Battery

Up until recently one downside of getting the Baofeng UV-5RA HT was that the extra capacity batteries made for the other variants of the UV-5R did not fit it. At the start of last week I found a 3600 mAH battery to fit the UV-5RA. It’s from eBay seller radioshop8888 located in Hong Kong. This link should take you directly to the battery.

The cost was $21 shipped from HK to the US.

Here are some pictures, with a regular Bic lighter for scale. First, the UV-5RA with the stock 1800 mAH battery, then with the 3600 mAH battery, and finally the two batteries together.

Note that my radio is fitted with a Nagoya NA-701 2M/70cm antenna. It provides a little better performance than the stock rubber duck.

Aside from having double the capacity of the OEM battery, the extended battery makes the HT easier to hold, especially when you’re trying to work the buttons while holding it with only one hand.

Solar Flare and Incoming X-Class CME

As reported in the news over the past couple days, the Earth was hit by a solar flare on 9/9.  An X-class coronal mass ejection is following the flare and is expected to hit us with a glancing blow early Friday morning, 9/12. When the flare hit HF radio transmissions were severely disrupted, e.g., 20M was pretty much wiped out for awhile.

Other than HF disruptions and some better than normal auroras, any other effects are likely to be minimal. That said, I’ll be unplugging my radio antennas and power cords tonight, just in case the predictions are wrong. Likeiwse, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do things like fill the gas tanks in your vehicles and any spare gas cans, just in case.

Good sites to follow what’s going on with the Sun, solar flares, and CMEs are Solar Ham and Space Weather.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Using Fldigi on a Mac to Control an Icom 7200

Ray, W3PRR, asked me for help on configuring Fldigi running on a Mac with OS 10.9.4 so that it can control an Icom 7200 radio. Here’s how I did it:

1. Get yourself a plain USB-A to USB-B cable, as used with most recent computer printers. This one at Amazon will work fine. The IC7200 has a built in sound card, and the USB cable will provide both rig control and audio input/output through the one cable.

2. Make sure the OS is up to date by running OS X’s Software Update.

3. You need to install the driver for the Silicon Labs CP210 USB-to-UART bridge, which is what provides the brains for the USB-B port on the back of the radio. You can download that here.

Note: Do not connect the radio to your Mac when you install the driver. Connect the radio after you install and reboot the Mac.

4. Download and install the Hamlib radio control libraries.

5. Download and install the latest version of Fldigi.

6. Connect and power on the radio to your computer using the USB cable. Make sure that the radio is in Data mode, and make sure that Data mode is set to U, so that it accepts audio and CAT commands through the USB port. See page 43 of the Icom 7200 Instruction Manual for details.

7.In Fldigi, under Configuration > Audio > Devices, select PortAudio, then USB Audio CODEC for both Capture and Playback. Click Save before you move to the next step.

Note: If the radio is not connected and powered on, the USB Audio CODEC option will not be visible.

8. Under Configuration > Rig use these settings.

Click Initialize, then Save, then Close.

At this point you should be able to see activity in the Fldigi waterfall (ASSuming there is anyone on frequency), and you should be able to transmit from within the program. The 20M PSK31 calling frequncy, 14.070 MHz, is a good frequency to use for testing because it tends to be active.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

MacBook Pro SSD Upgrade

This morning I drove down to MicroCenter and bought a Crucial MX100 256 GB SSD (Amazon link), which I used to upgrade my mid-2009 MacBook Pro. The machine has 8 GB of RAM and a 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, so it was still useful, although before I replaced it with my current work MBP was starting to feel a bit pokey. My goal with the SSD was to improve performance, and especially battery life, for use with my ham radios while camping.

The SSD is smaller than the original Hitatchi disk (256 GB vs. 320 GB) but I don't plan on keeping multimedia files on the machine, so it should have enough space. While at MicroCenter I added a $5 USB 2.0 external enclosure to my cart, into which I put the old disk. I can bring it along for extra storage if need be.

The SSD went in easily and I did a clean install of OS 10.6 Snow Leopard onto it from a disc. I then had to update Snow Leopard to get the App Store, so I could then download and install OS 10.9.4 Mavericks. This all took a couple hours. After getting the OS configured like I wanted I installed the apps I need:

  • Fldigi
  • USB drivers for my Baofeng programming cable and for my Icom 7200's USB interface
  • LibreOffice
  • MS Office for Mac 2011
  • TextWrangler
  • Skype
  • Chrome and Firefox
  • Evernote
  • StatusClock (to display UTC time in my toolbar)
  • Various other utilities
The laptop is noticeably faster in both boot time and how quickly applications open. Excel 2011 in particular opens much more quickly.

Next weekend I'll be taking the MBP into the field, so I tested that CHIRP works with my Baofeng UV5RA and that Fldigi can send and receive PSK31 when connected to my Icom 7200.

As an aside, OWC sells a larger capacity battery to fit this old MacBook Pro. If I find myself getting significant use out of the machine I may invest in one.

I should note that I had considered upgrading the hard disk in my MSI Wind U100 netbook instead. It's certainly handier to pack into the field for use with ham radio ops, but I chose to upgrade the Mac because (a) it's way faster, and (b) the larger keyboard and screen and much easier to use.

Performance and battery life are already noticeably better with the SSD. If you have a laptop that's a few years old changing out the old spinning disk for an SSD is a quick way to give it a new lease on life.

The Baofeng UV5R 2M/70cm Ham Radio

The Baofeng UV5R and variants like the UV5RA have become popular with preppers because they are a very low cost way to get into ham radio. Back in June a friend who is a new ham and I both picked up UV5RAs, and for the money, we’re both impressed with them.

As handy talkies (HTs), the Baofengs allow you to have a small, light, and inexpensive two-way radio for communication on the 2 meter (144 MHz) and 70 centimeter (440 MHz) ham bands. They can be used in simplex mode or with repeaters, allowing you to communicate over longer distances.

The Baofengs will also receive FM broadcast band stations, NOAA Weather broadcasts, and can be programmed to operate on FRS, GMRS, and MURS frequencies.

Note that the Baofengs are not FCC type-accepted for FRS, GMRS, or MURS, so it is illegal to transmit on these freqs with them unless it’s an emergency.

There are a few accessories you should get with one of these little HTs in order to maximize their usefulness:

  • The stock antenna sucks. The Nagoya NA-701 offers improved reception and transmission without being too long.
  • For use in a vehicle you want an external antenna. The Tram 1185 is an inexpensive mag mount antenna that works well. You’ll also need this jumper to go between the HT’s antenna connection and the Tram’s SO-239 plug.
  • This Baofeng speaker-mic will improve audio for both transmission and reception. (I originally got a Pofung speaker-mic but it was DOA. I returned it to Amazon on their dime and got the Baofeng branded speaker-mic in its place.)
  • When I’m using the UV5RA in my truck I use this battery eliminator to power the radio. Note that this is not a charger, despite the Amazon product description. Rather, it replaces the battery with a regulator that powers the radio from your vehicle’s 12V outlet.
  • Finally, programming the Baofeng by hand is a tedious, frustrating job. Save yourself a lot of aggravation and use your computer and this USB cable. If you already have a programming cable for Icom radios it will be compatible. Check out for troubleshooting any issues related to driver installation. Don’t use Baofeng’s software, which sucks. Rather, use the open source, free software CHIRP, which supports both the UV5R and many other radios. CHIRP is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD.

Everything linked above, including a radio, can be bought from Amazon for under $100.

Although my friend and I both got the UV5RA, were I purchasing again I’d probably go with the plain UV5R. The insides of the two radios are the same but there are extra capacity batteries that fit the UV5R that don’t fit the UV5RA.

This thread on Arfcom is a gold mine of information on how to get up and running with a Baofeng UV5R radio:

Despite their popularity, the Baofeng’s are low end radios. HTs from any of the Big Three – Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu – will be sturdier and have better performance. But, they are a lot more expensive. E.g., even the relatively simple Yaesu FT-60R will run you more than three times the cost of a Baofeng UV5R. The Chinese radio is good if you’re on a tight budget or if you need to use a radio in an environment where it’s susceptible to loss or damage, and it’s cheap enough to keep extras on hand. If you have at least your Technician license or are looking to get it, the Baofeng UV5R is not a bad choice for an entry level radio.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

openSUSE 13.1 Linux

As you may remember, my primary computing platform for the past several years has been a Mac. I've also maintained Windows PCs at home -- one in my office and one out in my workshop. The office PC had been setup as a dual boot Windows 7 Professional / Debian Linux box for awhile, but I hardly ever booted into Debian.

A couple weeks ago I replaced Debian with openSUSE 13.1 and have been using it quite a bit after work. The install went smoothly with all of my hardware recognized. This included my Icom 7200 ham radio that is connected via a USB port, as well as the programming cable I use with my Baofeng UV5RA 2M/70cm ham radio.

The default openSUSE desktop environment is KDE, but Gnome is also available from the openSUSE repositories, as are several other desktops. After using KDE for a few days, then LXDE for a day, I settled on the XFCE desktop and have been pleased with it. It's lightweight but is a complete environment.

The primary applications I've been using:

  • Chromium for web browsing, including accessing Gmail via the web.
  • Firefox when a web page doesn't behave with Chromium.
  • Fldigi for digital mode ham radio operation on HF using the Icom 7200.
  • CHIRP for programming my Baofeng UV5RA.
  • Leafpad for text editing.

For system administration I've primarily been using YaST, openSUSE's GUI admin tool. I ran SUSE Linux as my home desktop for a few years in the early '00s and YaST is still a good tool.

Another program that I installed was VMware Player, so that I can run a Windows 7 virtual machine if I'm working from home. I'd built the VM at work on my VMware vSphere environment and brought it home on disk, and was using it on the Windows side, to keep my own stuff and my work stuff separate. I copied it to the Linux partition and it works just as well there. Now, if I'm working from home I can use the Windows VM to connect to work's VPN, while I my own stuff can access the Internet without going through the VPN.

Note: VMware Player is proprietary but free (as in beer) software, as opposed to VirtualBox, which is open source software and which would also let me run a VM. However, I've found VMware Player to give me better performance than VirtualBox.

Overall I'd say my experience so far with openSUSE 13.1 has been very positive.  I have my old MacBook Pro from work and I'm considering replacing the spinning hard disk with an SSD, then setting it up to dual boot OS X and openSUSE, for use as a portable ham radio laptop.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Backyard Small Pistol Penetration Tests

Over on The High Road, “marb4” posted a thread in which he tested the penetration and expansion of several different loads from small handguns.

The loads tested were:

  • 9mm Speer Gold Dot 115 grain JHP
  • Federal .380 ACP Hydrashock 90 grain JHP low-recoil
  • Winchester .380 95 grain FMJ flat nose
  • Remington .38 Special 148 grain wadcutter
  • CCI .22 LR 40 grain Mini Mag lead round nose.

The penetration of the two .380 loads and the CCI .22 LR Mini Mags is especially impressive. I load Federal 95 grain FMJ-RN in my Ruger LCP .380 because I’ve been concerned that .380 lacks penetration. It looks like some of the modern .380 JHPs may actually penetrate deeply enough.

I've always suggested Mini Mag solids for someone who must use a .22 for defense, because (1) solids penetrate better than hollowpoints, especially from a .22 rifle, (2) CCI rimfire ammunition has the most reliable priming in my experience, and (3) Mini Mags work reliably in every .22 autoloader that I’ve tried them in, something I cannot say for any other type of ammunition.

My Springfield XD9 is loaded with 9mm 124 grain Gold Dots.

With the popularity of the Kel-Tec P32, I’d like to see similar testing done with a few different .32 ACP loads. Many people, including myself, recommend a European-spec .32 FMJ load to get adequate penetration. It would be nice to see if any of the modern JHPs can penetrate at least 12”.

Kudos to marb4 for providing us with some additional data on with which to choose carry loads.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Hill People Gear Kit Bag Review

Yesterday I took a vacation day and went for a hike in French Creek State Park in SE PA. It was my first chance to try out my new Hill People Gear Kit Bag. It’s a great option for carrying a handgun plus some basic survival gear out in the woods. I posted a full review over on Survival & Emergency Preparedness.

Aside from the Kit Bag review, I’ve also posted some pics from the hike in my gallery at Linky.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Beretta M9 Pistol

One pistol that it’s taken me a long time to warm up to is the Beretta 92, AKA M9. Compared with more modern pistols like the Glock, Springfield XD, or S&W Military & Police, the traditional DA/SA trigger is obsolete. Further, the M9’s size is very large for the cartridge it fires. Many people with small hands have a difficult time comfortably gripping the piece due to the bulk of the grip. This last point had always soured me on the gun.

However, opinions chance over time. Back at the beginning of April I picked up a Beretta CX-4 Storm 9mm carbine which uses Beretta 92 magazines. I regard the CX-4 as a good choice for a defensive carbine and the idea of a pistol that would take the same magazines is something I find very attractive. So, I went over to my parents’ and took another look at my father’s M9. I wound up buying my own about a week later.

The pistol came in a blue plastic hard case with a manual, warranty card, lock, two 15 round magazines, and a Jello mold or shot glass.

(Actually, it’s there to help keep the case from getting crushed in transit.)

I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t come with a basic magazine loader. Double column/single feed pistol mags are a bitch to fill to capacity without a loading tool. In any event, I highly recommend the Butler Creek LULA magazine loader. It makes loading double column pistol magazines a breeze.

Note that in the pics of the gun above, it has a Mec-Gar 20 round magazine in place. Mec-Gar has made mags for Beretta in the past and currently make a flush-fit 18 rounder. Their 20 rounder is the bod of an 18 round mag with a +2 extension on it. Were I carrying the gun in the military or as a police officer, the Mec-Gar 20 would be my preferred magazine, with the 18 rounder as my second choice.

I bought the M9 at Surplus City in Feasterville, PA for $599 + tax. I immediately took it to the range, field stripped, cleaned and lubed it, and fired it alongside my Springfield XD9.

On the initial outing I put 111 rounds through the M9, including some Brown Bear with lacquered steel cases, PMC, and Federal American Eagle. The Brown Bear and PMC were 115 grain FMJ, while the FAE was 147 grain FMJ-FP.

One of the things that impressed me was how easy it is to shoot the Beretta accurately in SA. In the picture below, the left hand target is 50 rounds through the M9 while the right target is 30 rounds through the XD9. Distance was 10 yards.

On the target I shot with the Beretta all the fliers were my fault.

The other thing that made a favorable impression upon me is how pleasant to shoot the M9 is. It’s not an especially heavy gun because the frame is made from aluminum, but it’s bulky and the grip spreads out the already mild 9mm recoil across your hand, rather than concentrating it in one spot.

The following weekend I brought it with me on a camping trip to Tioga County, PA, where my friends and I ran a couple hundred more rounds of CCI Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ through it, shooting at steel plates.

As an aside, on this trip I also got the chance to do night firing for the first time. I used a Fenix LD20 flashlight held in my right hand while shooting the M9 with my left. The only ambient light was from a campfire. The hardest part about getting hits was acquiring the front sight, but when I was able to do so hitting a 10” gong at ~15 – 20 yards wasn’t too hard.

One of the valid criticisms (IMNSHO) of the M9 is the trigger pull. It’s flat-out heavy and long in DA. Combined with the weapon’s girth, this makes it hard for those of us with small hands to get off accurate DA shots. I’m not normally one to tinker with a gun until it’s got through a 500 round break-in period, but in this case there is an easy, cheap fix.

The factory hammer spring is rated for 20 lbs. This was specified so that the gun doesn’t have any problems firing ammo with even the hardest of primers, e.g., some SMG ammo. I don’t have to worry about that, so I replaced the OEM spring with a a Wolff hammer spring rated for 16 lbs. This drops the DA pull down several pounds and the SA pull a pound or two. The gun is now much easier to shoot, especially for the first shot in DA.

Last night I put another 110 rounds of CCI Blazer Brass through the gun. I’m now up to ~400 rounds down the pipe and it hasn’t had a single malfunction. My father shot his M9 last night, bringing the total in his gun up to 1100 rounds, and he has yet to experience any malfunctions.

Unfortunately, the M9 doesn’t have a rail under the dust cover, so for me to mount a light it will require an add-on. (If this is critical to you, the 92A1 or M9A1 come from the factory with a rail.) Brownell’s sells a rail section that can be affixed to the dust cover which I’m considering getting. Surefire also makes a no-gunsmithing rail that secures to the trigger guard.

The Beretta’s safety/decocker is mounted up on the slide and unless you have gorilla hands, it’s difficult to reach with your thumb, without radically changing your grip. There’s a simple solution to this: don’t use the safety. IMHO it’s superfluous on a DA autoloader anyway. If the gun is being carried in a proper holster the chances of an AD are pretty much zero. I use it strictly as a decocker.

I’ve done a total 180 on the Beretta M9. It’s a big, old fashioned DA/SA autoloader, but it’s accurate, pleasant to shoot, and reliable. If you’re in the market for a 9mm pistol it’s worth a serious look.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Diary of a Reformed Democrat

No, not me. Posted by "Breathe_Squeeze" on

I'm not sure how to best put this in words so bear with me please. 

I've been doing some thinking over the last few days on how I have changed in the last year and a half and I figured I would share, as these thoughts/observations may help bring more people to our side. 

First off, some back story. Or "how D's are made" 

I was raised by Democrats. Working dad, stay at home mom, hippy-ish types. At least for the first 12 years. Not hippies but live and let live, to each their own, myob types. I was raised to think this way and taught that this was the fundamental standing of the D philosophy. We weren't into talking politics much other than Republicans were all greedy, dollar worshiping idiots who only cared about themselves and couldn't give a shit about me. And that we were the opposite. Except my lessons that the Government will do what it wants and there's nothing you can do about it, so why bother worrying. Just go about your day. 

Public school education pretty well enforced this and most of my friends and classmates were taught the same. No emphasis on researching or learning anything further on the matter. Instead, subtle pushes to do the opposite, as they were taught by their parents, and they by theirs. This, I believe, is where the D's get their strength. The blind leading the blind and children trusting that their parents are teaching them the right things. As we all trust of our parents growing up. 

I was raised, however, with a love of hunting and shooting. Plinking and target with my father and later on hunting and larger bore firearms with my step-father. My first firearm was a Ruger 10/22 for my 9th Christmas. 

The first 28 years of my life were lead that way. Voting D because I didn't pay attention to the world outside of my little bubble or think that I could change anything if I saw something I didn't like or agree with. I went to work, paid my bills, and enjoyed myself. I've always held strong beliefs about and love for this country and the principles on which it was founded. I just never saw how those were being eroded by the very people I thought were the same as me. 

I caught a bug for black rifles around 2010 and bought one in 2011. 

Then came Newtown and Furer Cuomo's Unsafe Act. WTF?  I'm about to be a criminal overnight? By the swipe of a fucking pen and the changing of a definition? I started paying attention. I woke up. 

Fortunately I was blessed with a very analytical thought process. I just never applied it to this before, I never needed or wanted to. I began reading, here and elsewhere. Learning what I could. I realized that I had been wrong my entire life. My basic beliefs were flawed, some/most outright backwards. I was fucking pissed, enraged.  I had been lied to. I had been suppressed. No more. Unsafe Act, Obummer's try (and fail) at the same on a federal level (I do thank Andy for that though), Obama care, the NSA, the fucking welfare state, National debt, and so much more. 

I've spent the last year and a half doing what I can to open others eyes and point out the false logic they have come to accept as fact. I've realized it takes a soft tough. No one wants to learn what I did. They don't want to know that they've walked through life with blinders on. They resist. It requires small points to be made, subtle suggestions on topics to learn about or small facts to be given. Like the trickle of water that created the grand canyon, just a little at a time until there comes a tipping point and you see the light dawn in someones eyes. 

I make these points to maybe help you, my brothers and sisters, in your efforts to do the same. Having been the person that I'm trying to convert lets me understand them and do so better. 

Or maybe I just needed to get this out, my disgust, my hatred, my realizations and rebirth. I welcome any comments or criticisms but I probably won't check this thread till later tonight or tomorrow as I'm off to work soon. 

A good day to you all and GOD bless.

Link to original. (Edit: I just realized that to see the original you will need to be an Team member. However, the OP gave permission to foward his post.)

Welcome to the (less) Dark Side.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Beretta CX-4 Storm Carbine

Lately I've taken a shine to 9mm as a carbine cartridge. It's relatively cheap, easy to find, reloadable, and effective for defense out to at least 50 yards. Plus, it's relatively quiet from a carbine length barrel and has minimal recoil.

A couple months ago I got a TNW Suomi which is a blast to shoot, but weighs 12 lbs. and has a trigger nearly as heavy. Both factors would prevent my wife from ever shooting it, so I went in search of a lighter, more modern alternative. I settled on a Beretta CX-4 Storm in 9mm setup for Beretta 92 (M-9) magazines, and bought one from Bud's Gun Shop last week. I picked it up fro my FFL last Friday and took it to the range Sunday for the first time. I'm very happy with the purchase.

It is not obvious from the pic, but I set the rifle up for left side ejection, and left handed safety operation. I'm a southpaw, while my wife and one daughter who shoots are both RH but left eye dominant.

With me I had the two Beretta 15 round mags, plus four Mec-Gar 20 rounders. All worked just fine but I like the longer Mec-Gars a bit better, because they are easier to fully seat, since the base isn't recessed as much in the bottom of the pistol grip.

The gun digested 255 rounds without a hitch: 100 Federal 115 grain FMJ bulk pack, 145 Brown Bear (lacquered steel case) 115 FMJ, and 10 American Eagle 147 grain FMJ-FP loads. I shot at 50 yards and from the bench, I'm able to keep my group inside the black of an SR-1 target. The short sight radius and heavy trigger pull are limiting, IMO. Also, last night I opened up the apertures on the rear sight so that they now provide a ghost ring sight picture. The original factory apertures might tighten my groups a little but they are too small for anything other than target shooting, again IMO.

(I pulled the IDPA target out of the trash to use as a cleaning mat. I didn't shoot it.)

In the second pic above, the long bar under the top half of the gun is the bolt. It uses a telescoping design similar to that of the Uzi. This, combined with the magazine well location in the pistol grip, result in a carbine with an OAL under 30". The short OAL and light weight (under 6 lbs. empty) make it a very handy little gun.

Aside from the trigger it's a real pleasure to shoot. There is well-known hammer mod to reduce the trigger pull but didn't want to tinker with the gun's innards before I tested it.

After I got home I ordered a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight from Amazon to go on the Storm. I have a couple TRS-25s on other guns and IMHO, they are the best deal going in an inexpensive micro-RDS. I also have a light mount, rail mount sling loop, and tactical sling on order. Overall, I am very happy with the Storm and look forward to shooting it a lot more.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Suomi in the Rain

This month’s Practical Rifle match at my club was shot on the 50 yard range so I decided to shoot my TNW M-31SA Suomi. As a pistol caliber carbine, the Suomi is best suited to 100 yards and under.

The course of fire was three magazines of 5 rounds each from behind 5 different barricades. The first barricade was a picket fence. The toughest stage required a very low prone that had me canting the rifle to the left so I could shoot under the barricade. The one stage each strong side and weak side, and finally, one through a window.

032914_LRGC_2 (1024x576)

The coat is a German surplus Sympatex (similar to Gore-Tex) rain coat, which is about the best deal available in a breathable membrane rain coat. At $30 or less it’s a steal. I bought it several years ago specifically for shooting in matches where I’d be getting muddy. I’ve also used it when camping and hunting. My hat is an old REI Explorer, which is similar to a Tilly Hat. I treated it with Tectron waterproofing spray this week and it kept my head dry in today’s light rain.

To carry my 36 round sticks mags I used a French MAT-49 pouch that I bought from

The targets were IDPA targets with yellow duct tape on them to simulate the spine and brain. Only hits on the tape counted, because they represented zombies. ;)

We had some drizzle early on and then it started a light steady rain towards the end of the match. My groups were good but the gun shoots several inches high at 50 yards so my score was only OK. It was a lot of fun though.

The ammo I used was Brown Bear 9mm 115 grain FMJ. The Suomi eats it like candy. Zero malfs except for when I charged the gun for the first time a live round ejected. I've had that happen with the same magazine previously so it needs some tweaking. I didn't use it for the rest of the match and had no more issues other than that it's awkward to cock left handed, which slowed down my reloads.

I had a friend shoot some video with my iPhone on my final stage.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

TNW Suomi Video

TNW Suomi

Here’s a short video of me shooting my TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi. This is a  9mm Parabellum semiautomatic carbine based on the Finnish KP/31 Suomi submachinegun. This TNW reproduction is an inexpensive way to experience a cool piece of history.

My TNW Suomi functions perfectly when using 36 round box magazines but my 72 drum needs some fitting. The ammunition used in this video was Russian-made Brown Bear 9mm 115 grain FMJ. I've also shot it with Federal 9mm 115 grain FMJ.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The TNW M-31SA Suomi Carbine

For several years TNW Firearms of Oregon has made the M-31SA carbine, which is based on the KP-31 Suomi submachinegun adopted by Finland in 1931. The KP-31 gained famed during the Winter War of 1939 – 1940, and saw extensive use during the Continuation War of 1941 – 1944.

Click the pic for full size photo.

The KP-31 was a very influential weapon. Before being exposed to the Suomi, the Soviet Army didn’t employ SMGs in significant numbers. They were regarded as “gangster guns.” However, being on the receiving end of fire from Suomi SMGs wielded by Finnish troops changed Soviet leaders’ minds. For example, the drum magazine of the PPSh-41 is a nearly straight copy of the Suomi’s 71 round drum.

The specifications of the KP-31 are:

  • Operation: Blowback, selective semiautomatic or fully automatic
  • Weight: 10 – 11 pounds
  • Cyclic rate of fire: 750 – 900 rounds per minute
  • Barrel length: 12.6”
  • Feed: 20 round box (“stick”) magazine, 40 round drum magazine, 71 round drum, or 36 round stick.

Specifications of the TNW M-31SA are:

  • Operation: Blowback, semiautomatic only
  • Weight: Approx. 12 pounds unloaded
  • Barrel length: ~16”
  • Feed: Same as the KP-31

Because the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 amended previous Federal laws, no new fully automatic weapons for civilian, non-law enforcement ownership may be brought into the United States. Therefore, when Finland sold off their stock of Suomi SMGs in the 1990s, they had to be demilitarized into torch-cut parts kits before being sold on the US market.

18 U.S.C. Section 922r also restricts the number of imported parts that may be used in the construction of a new semiauto firearm for American civilian use, so when building new rifles from the Suomi parts kits, TNW had to use the following US-made parts:

  • Receiver
  • Hammer
  • Trigger
  • Disconnector
  • Barrel

As a shooter with a background in military history and a long time interest in the Winter War, the Suomi has long held a fascination for me. TNW’s semiauto version caught my eye several years ago. Their primary online dealer, Centerfire Systems, has been out of stock for a little while now but the M-31SA remained available directly from TNW. Not wanting to miss my chance of owning this piece of history, a couple weeks ago I decided to pull the trigger (sorry) and order one.

A note on purchasing firearms over the Internet:

There has been much misinformation spread about buying guns on the Internet. I.e., calling it a “loophole.” In fact, unless you have a Federal Firearms License, the only way for you to buy a gun online is to have it shipped to a local FFL, who will then have you come in and complete the same paperwork and go through the same background check as if you go into a gun shop and buy something from their stock. The Internet merely gives buyers access to a wider variety and better prices. The local FFL will charge a fee for processing the paperwork. The FFL I use charges $30.

I already own a Suomi parts kit for another project, so I was already familiar with the quality of these guns as originally made. What was done to them was a crime from an historian’s perspective. They are a product of a bygone era. The metal parts were machined from large pieces of high-grade steel. The steel was given a nice, blued finish. The wood stock was well-crafted and fitted.

My initial impressions of the TNW M-31SA are as follows:

  • Suomis are heavy sumbitches. Twelve pounds for a gun shooting 9mm Parabellum ammunition, by current standards, is excessive. But remember, the KP-31 was originally adopted 83 years ago. Manufacturing methods were a lot different.
  • As a corollary to the weight, the Suomi feels solid in your hands. Holding the M-31SA gives you the impression that no matter the abuse that it suffered on the battlefield, a soldier armed with a Suomi could rely on his gun.
  • TNW’s semiauto trigger mechanism gives a heavy trigger pull. Parkerized parts don’t help this. In fact, the trigger pull is more than weight of the rifle. It arrived bone dry and copious lubrication helped this, and I’m hoping it improves as the finish wears. I did some careful polishing inside the trigger group to improve it, however. I think I have figured out a way to reduce it further, and will do a follow up post with details once I’ve tried it.
  • Instead of bluing, TNW parkerized the outside. This is a more practical finish in that it’s more protective but it isn’t as attractive.
  • Other reviews have mentioned that TNW also parked the bolt and inside of the receiver tube. They should have left it bright, as with the originals. This would make the gun easier to cock and reduce break-in period. The bolt on my rifle appears to have been matte blued, which is an improvement over Parkerizing for this application.

TNW included with the rifle one 36 round stick magazine. This is actually a post-WW2 design, originally made for the Swedish m/45 Carl Gustav SMG. During the Winter and Continuation Wars, the Finns used 20 round stick, 50 round “coffin,” and 40 and 71 round drums with their KP-31s. The 36 round mag wasn’t adopted by the Finnish Army until the 1950s. It is one of the best SMG mags ever made. Because they are a double column, double feed magazine, it is easy to load. They are very well made. This 36 round stick was later used in the S&W Model 76 SMG, which itself was a copy of the m/45.

The 71 round drum is the magazine most associated with the Suomi. I have one, which required fitting to the rifle before it would latch in. As I understand it, the Finns individually fitted and serial number drums to their KP-31s, so this wasn’t a surprise.

The rifle was shipped with the barrel and shroud removed so the package would be shorter. Removing and installing these pieces is easy. To remove them, rotate down the latch that’s in front of the magazine well, then rotate the barrel shroud and pull it off. You can then pull the barrel straight out. Reinstalling these parts is simply the reverse of this procedure.

To remove the bolt and clean and lube the inside of the receiver, first remove the trigger group. This requires removing the screw behind the trigger guard. Then, with one hand pull the cocking handle back a couple inches and hold it, then unscrew the receiver cap. Make sure that you have a good hold on the cap because it’s under a lot of pressure. (Note: Early M-31SA’s made by TNW were striker fired and had two springs in the receiver. The later, hammer-fired guns have only one.)

Reassembly is basically the reverse but you need to be careful that the cocking rod doesn’t jump over the bottom of the bolt. Getting mine back together took a few tries. I don’t anticipate removing the receiver cap after each range session. I generously lubricated the bolt and it should be good for quite a while.

My rifle’s stock has evidently seen a lot of use. It was rough sanded and has several repairs. The sling swivel on the left side of the butt is in a different hole that it originally was. It looks as if the swivel somehow got torn from the stock at some point. The length of pull would be considered short by most Western shooters, but this is for good reason. It allows you to properly shoulder the rifle even if you’re wearing a thick winter coat. Given Finland’s climate, this is important. The stock from my parts kit is in better shape and has nicer grain, so I’m going to swap them.

TNW also included an original Finnish sling made from leather. It was in fair shape. I gave it a healthy coat of Sno-Seal to preserve it. The sling is a simple carry strap about an inch wide.

The front sight is a simple blade. It isn’t protected but it’s thicker than many other military blade sights and looks sturdy. The rear sight is an open tangent. The notch on mine was a little buggered so I cleaned it up with a file and widened the notch a little to make it easier to use with 45 year old eyes.

Today I took the TNW Suomi out to my friend's place to shoot it. We put 150 rounds through the gun with only a couple of issues:

  1. After the first shot the trigger failed to reset. This may have been related to my tinkering with the trigger group yesterday in an effort to reduce the trigger pull. A nudge on it with my finger reset it, and this problem did not recur.
  2. Two or three times we failed to properly seat the magazine and it fell out when we charged the gun. This is purely operator error and can be prevented by firmly seating the mag, then pulling on it to verify that it's latched in. Because I haven't finished fitting my drum magazine to the gun, we used 36 round stick magazines.

We shot from about 10 yards in my friend's yard. Recoil is like a .22 and the report isn't much louder. We put 100 rounds of Federal 9mm 115 grain FMJ from a Walmart bulk pack, and 50 rounds of Russian Brown Bear 115 grain FMJ with steel cases through the gun. There were no function issues other than what I mentioned above. It fed, fired, and ejected as expected.

SMGs may be obsolete for the military, but shooting this was just plain fun. Assuming it'll feed JHPs and continues to be reliable, it would work fine as a home defense gun, albeit a very heavy one.

If you’re interested in historic military arms, the Winter War, or Finland’s military history, the TNW M-31SA Suomi carbine is a fantastic buy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Making a Wool Blanket Capote

Over on Survival and Emergency Preparedness, I’ve started a series of posts on making a wool blanket capote. Parts 1 – 3 are up.

Check it out.