Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MacBook Pro Upgrades

Three years ago I bought my wife a 13" MacBook Pro (mid-2012, MacBook Pro 9,2). For the time it was an excellent system, with an i5 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB hard drive. However, she's been complaining lately that it runs slowly.

I checked it out yesterday morning and sure enough, it felt sluggish, even more so than my mid-2009 MBP with a Core 2 Duo CPU. However, my machine has 8 GB of RAM and, most importantly, an SSD. It was time to upgrade her laptop.

Based on my experience upgrading several older Macs and PCs, a solid state drive (SSD) is the single best performance-enhancing hardware upgrade for an older machine. SSD's have vastly better read/write times than spinning disk. In laptops, SSDs also improve battery life because they draw less electricity.

My plan was to first cleanup the hard disk, then upgrade the OS on the machine, clone the hard disk to an SSD, then upgrade the hardware.

To clean up the disk I ran OnyX. Next, I upgraded the machine from Yosemite to El Capitan. In my experience, Yosemite was a real turd, giving me a lot of grief on my work machine. When I was stuck with it I had a lot of instability issues that I didn't have with earlier versions of OS X. El Capitan seems to have fixed that.

While the upgrade to El Capitan was proceeding, I went to microcenter.com and ordered a few items for in-store pickup to complete the upgrade:

(The links go to Amazon. I bought them from my local Microcenter because I wanted to get this done in one day.)

I installed the RAM first and fired up the machine. It still felt a little slow so as expected, the spinning disk was the main reason.

To clone the OEM disk to the new SSD I downloaded and installed SuperDuper, which I have used previously to clone Mac disks. My wife had less than 150 GB used on her disk, but even using a USB 3.0 interface, cloning it took one hour and 16 minutes.

The physical swap was straightforward, although I had to grab my precision screwdriver set with Torx bits, because Apple used T6 screws to hold the hard disk in place.

The machine performs much, much better now. Cold boots are much faster and applications launch with very little lag. My wife should get several more years out of it.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shot the Samick Sage A Little More Today

This morning I took my daughter to go see Star Wars Episode VII. No spoilers, just go see it. It's awesome. After lunch I took the Samick Sage out back for a little shooting.

It continues to impress, especially with how fast it shoots my 600 spine, 6.4 grains/inch carbon arrows.

The bow is noisy, though. Most of the noise seems to come from the limb pockets, where each limb is  held in an aluminum tray to the riser. I've read where this can be quieted down by lining them with moleskin.

After I was done shooting I added two nocking points to the string. This setup is like how my Samick SLB II longbow came. When shooting, you nock the arrows between the two points.

My daughter hasn't shot the bow yet but I hope to remedy that by next weekend.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Samick Sage Recurve Bow -- Initial Impressions

My 11 year old daughter was ready to move up to a "real" bow from her kid's bows. After doing a good bit of research, I bought her a Samick Sage 62" long takedown recurve with a set of 25# draw limbs.

Ever since getting back into archery about four years ago, the Samick Sage has the been the bow that I've seen recommended the most for beginners. It's reasonably priced at $139 and available in a wide range of draw weights. Additionally, since it uses ILF limbs, one can easily buy additional sets of limbs for a heavier or lighter pull. The limbs are laminated, with a maple core and fiberglass on the back and belly. The limbs are Fast-Flight string capable.

Each limb attaches to the riser with a single bolt, with a large knurled head. The bolts and the inserts they screw into are finished with a matte blue, and came bone dry. A couple of these parts had signs of surface rust. I wiped down the bolts and placed a drop of Tri-Flow on each before assembling the bow.

The riser is made from laminated wood with a radiused shelf. It has inserts for a stabilizer, bow quiver, and plunger rest.

I bought the Sage from Archery Pros on Amazon. They included a Hoyt/Easton stick-on arrow rest. This afternoon I strung the bow, marked a temporary nocking point on the string using some dental floss, and took it out back for its first shots.

At first I used several fiberglass youth arrows my daughter had. Half are rated at up to a 30# bow, while the others are for up to 40# bows. They flew quite well from the Sage, although shooting conditions weren't good due to wind gusts.

I then tried the Easton 600 spine carbon arrows I've been shooting in my Chinese takedown recurve. They also shot well from the Sage. The arrows had no problems sticking in my bag target from about 40 feet. The carbons fitted with Saunders bludgeon heads flew well, too.

The Sage draws very smoothly with no stacking at my draw length of about 26 - 27". There's a bit of twang on release, but string silencers will take care of that.

Even though it was very windy during my first range session, I shot the bow well. It's very smooth on draw and release. It's very tempting for me to buy a second one with 40# limbs and a Fast Flight string for myself.

As we get more chances to shoot the Samick Sage, I'll post follow ups.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Backyard Archery Plinking

Shooting arrows at a regular target is a lot of fun, but sometimes it's nice to mix it up. Previously, we've used plastic cups, balloons, and small cardboard boxes as alternate targets. This morning I cut up the cardboard tube that my last batch of Chinese bamboo arrows came in, and set them up downrange.

Last week I placed an order with 3Rivers Archery for several items, including a half dozen 125 grain Saunders screw-in bludgeon points. (Also available on Amazon here.) They are made of a hard rubber with a flat point, with several small cones protruding from the face. They have a metal core with a protruding threaded stud to screw into standard arrow inserts. I used them with my Easton carbon arrows and shot them from my 45 pound takedown recurve.

The bludgeon points are designed for shooting small game or stump shooting. The latter is basically wandering around in the woods shooting at targets of opportunity such as stumps, clumps of dirt, pine cones, etc. It's a great way to improve your field shooting skills.

Since I don't have woods on my property, cardboard tubes about the size of a Guiness pub can are a decent substitute. The arrows make a nice loud pop with a solid hit, and frequently the impaled tubes bounce around dramatically with a good hit.

I'm sold on the Saunders bludgeon points. They fly the same as my 125 grain bullet points, but prevent arrows from snaking under the grass. They do penetrate foam broadhead targets a few inches however, making a big hole in the process. They bounced off my bag target.

If you're shooting wooden arrows without inserts, 3Rivers has "Bunny Buster" small game blunts that slip over the end of your arrow.

Please note that these are not suitable for LARP use. A headshot with one of these from the 45 pound bow I was shooting today would result in a concussion or death. I wouldn't want to take a hit from one of these even from a 25 pound bow.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Receive My Second Batch of Bamboo Arrows

Today I received the second batch of bamboo arrows that I ordered from Chinese eBay seller arrowmaker2013. I ordered a full dozen this time. The appear to be identical to the first batch of 6, and shoot to the same POI at 40 feet (the longest distance I feel comfortable shooting at in my yard).

Brightly colored fletching would help me find them when I miss my target. I may raid my wife's makeup drawer to see if she has some really loud nail polish, and use it to paint the shaft from behind the feathers back to the nock.

There's a lot of cheap crap made in China, but you can get pretty darn good traditional archery equipment from there at modest cost, if you're willing to wait a little while for delivery.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Shot the Chinese Recurve Some More Today

I worked from home today and shot the new recurve bow some more during my lunch break.

I also tried the bamboo arrows that I got for my 50# Manchu bow in it. They are heavier and stiffer than the 600 spine carbons I've been shooting in the new bow, and it showed. They fly noticeably slower and POI is to the right. I'll stick with the carbons in this bow.

The grip needs a little work to better fit my hand. There's a spot that rubs the top of my right thumb when I shoot, that gets annoying. It should a few minutes with a file or rasp, and then I can touch it up with some tung oil.

But overall, it continues to impress.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Lever Action Carbines for Defense

Recently I was able to get some shooting in over a friend's house (he lives in the country). One of the guns I shot was my Rossi 92 lever action in .357 Magnum. It's a replica of the Winchester 1892, designed by John Moses Browning. Shooting the R92 got me to thinking about the practical application of this 19th Century design in late 2015, especially in light of current events.

Those of us who live in free states have unfettered access to modern defensive rifles like AR-15s, with full capacity magazines. However, if you live in a ban state such as New York, unless you're willing to break the law, no more standard capacity magazines will be available. If you're just now looking to get a defensive rifle, modern semiautos and acessories may be limited in availability.

In my opinion, a lever action is a viable alternative, even though the basic design is a century and a half old. If we're looking at a rifle for defense against bad guys (as opposed to dangerous animals) the ones to look at are those which fire handgun cartridges. Although there are several other options, if buying a levergun for social purposes I suggest that you choose one in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, or .45 Colt. These are currently the most common such cartridges and are easy to reload for.

Of these three, my first pick is the .357 Magnum. Ammunition is widely available at less cost than .44 Magnum or .45 Colt, it provides effective terminal ballistics, and recoil is mild.

From rifle length barrels, magnum revolver cartridges get a big performance boost. For example, a .357 Magnum 158 grain bullet that leaves a 4" revolver barrel at about 1250 FPS will probably be doing at least 1700 - 1800 FPS from a 20" carbine. .357 loads with 125 grain bullets can exceed 2,000 FPS from a rifle! The muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum round fired from a rifle can be double that of the same load fired from a handgun.

Compared with a shotgun, lever action carbines have less recoil, smaller and lighter ammo, and greater magazine capacity (generally speaking).

Currently, the Rossi 92 is probably the most commonly available pistol caliber levergun. The Marlin 1894 is still around, but 1894s in .357 seem to scarce as hen's teeth. There are also Winchester 1894s in .357, .44, and .45 available on the used gun market, if you can find one.

Some features that I like about the Rossi 92 include:

  • The 20" barreled models hold 10 cartridges in the under barrel magazine. The 16" models hold 8, while the 24" rifles hold 12 rounds.
  • In the 20" barreled version, it weighs in at about 5 pounds. Even my 11 year old daughter is able to shoulder it.
  • The .357 Magnum carbines have very mild recoil, even with full power loads. I've single loaded .38 wadcutters, which recoil like and sound like a .22 when fired from the 20" barreled carbine. This is great for familiarization firing for new shooters, and can also be used for small game.
  • The design includes a built-in gunlock incorporated into the hammer. It is unobtrusive and is locked/unlocked with a key included with the rifle. If you want to secure a loaded rifle outside of a safe, it's one of the better solutions I've seen. IMO, it's safer than gun locks that go in the trigger guard.
  • Rossi 92s are reasonably priced and readily available, although you might need to order one through a local FFL or from an online retailer. 
  • While my rifle is blued steel, Rossi also makes the 92 in stainless steel. If you need a rifle for a boat or other humid environment this is definitely a big plus.

Some things I don't care for:

  • There are some rough edges inside the loading gate that I need to debur. They can chew on your fingers when loading the magazine.
  • Several years ago Rossi added a manual safety on top of the bolt to John Browning's original design. It feels cheap and cheezy. I removed mine and replaced it with a plug from Steve's Gunz. The gun still has the original half cock on the hammer.
  • The magazine follower is a cheap piece of plastic. I replaced mine with a steel follower from Steve's Gunz.
  • The finish on the wood was not only bland, but it didn't seal the wood well, either. I gave it a couple coats of Watco Danish Oil to better protect the stocks. Boiled linseed oil, tung oil, or a sprayed on polyurethane would also work well.
  • Browning's design does not lend itself to easy takedown. The good thing is that takedown is rarely required. Marlins are much better in this regard.

Steve's Gunz has a good DVD on slicking up the Rossi 92s.

As an aside, Rossi's quality control can sometimes be a little spotty. Years ago I had an 1892 Short Rifle in .357 made by Rossi for EMF. It had a 20" octagonal barrel, crescent buttplate, and no barrel band around the forearm. It was a beautiful rifle but when I first got it, it gave me extraction problems. Rossi had me send it in and they fixed it, but this was a hassle. At some point I traded it off but I do regret that.

The pistol caliber lever actions give you a light, fast handling rifle that fires an effective cartridge, can be operated quickly, and especially in .357 and .45 Colt, has mild recoil. It's worth a look for home or property defense if you can't have a modern rifle.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Hanukkah, Jihad, and Gun Control

Tonight Hanukkah begins, in which we celebrate not just the miracle of the one night's worth of oil lasting for eight, but also the triumph of the Maccabees over their pagan Seleucid Greek oppressors.

Today, Jews in the West face a threat far more dangerous than the ancient Greeks, namely Muslim Jihad. After the events of the past few weeks -- the terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, only those Jews with their heads in the sand can feel safe from this threat.

The United States has historically been the safest place for Jews but with the Obama administration, this safety is being compromised every day. In his quest to "fundamentally transform" the US,  he is not merely failing to protect our borders, he is actively importing radical Muslims from the Middle East. As we saw with Paris and San Bernardino, it's not just fighting age males (who make up the bulk of the refugees) that we need to worry about. Indeed, many of their women are just as committed to Jihad as their men. These people are steeped in a culture in which they are taught from early childhood to hate Jews. They don't lose that by crossing a national border.

Jihad presents an existential threat to the West. Its adherents demand submission (which is indeed the meaning of "Islam") and do not differentiate between military and civilian targets. There is no compromise with a foe who believes that we must submit or die.

Although the US is not the only Western country which allows its citizens to be armed, it has the most robust gun culture. Jewish Americans should learn to embrace it. In doing so, they will find that many of its members are also staunch supporters of Israel.

I would remind you that "turn the other cheek" is not a Jewish concept. Western Jews must cast off their shtetl mentality and be willing to defend themselves with force, for Jihad may visit at any time, without warning. American Jews must get training, arm themselves, and get a license to carry so they can be armed at all times.

Jewish Americans also need to stop supporting politicians who actively work to make us more vulnerable. Even before the blood dried in California, Obama called for more gun control. His water carriers in the media, notably the New York Times, echoed this call, including for actual confiscation of those weapons most suited to home defense. Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley called for gun control via executive fiat, including confiscation. Hillary Clinton doubled down on her calls for gun control. So did Bernie Sanders (someone who I am ashamed to note comes from a Jewish background).

Thankfully, the American people have as a whole soundly rejected the idea that gun control = crime control. This past Black Friday broke all previous records for gun purchases, based on the number of background checks performed. It is past time that Jewish Americans get more in tune with their countrymen and arm themselves for defense, since it's been repeatedly demonstrated that the state cannot do it for them.

Jihad presents the greatest threat to the survival of the Jewish People since Nazi Germany. If we are serious when we say, "Never Again!," we'll need more than words to secure our survival. Jews must be armed and willing to fight for our freedom and our lives.

For my 2004 and 2010 Hanukkah posts, click here and here, respectively.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Chinese Takedown Recurve Bow

Continuing with my archery theme, I present for you consideration this 45 lb. draw takedown recurve bow that I bought from China Archery Supplies. It is their "Yellow Diamond" takedown recurve.  I ordered it on November 20th and it was delivered last night. (Actually, DHL dropped it off 4 houses down the block. Thankfully an honest neighbor brought it to me this afternoon.)

I decided to get this bow instead of something like the more easily available Samick Sage, because I was intrigued with the idea of a takedown bow that has limbs styled after a traditional Asian bow. In my experience with my Toth Magyar bow and my Manchu bow, the siyahs almost give you a let-off when you draw.

The bow came nicely packed in bubble wrap in a small box, along with the string and an Allen wrench to attach/detach the limbs.

As you can see in the closeups above, each limb is held on with two bolts with brass washers. There are threaded brass inserts that the bolts screw into, along with one on the back of the riser for a stabilizer or fishing reel, and two on the left for a quiver.

The riser and siyahs are some kind of lightweight wood, while the limbs are fiberglass covered with faux yellow snakeskin. It's kinda pimptastic but should be a decent natural camo.

I've been fighting off a cold the past couple of days but got out back today to get some fresh air. I'd shot my Samick SLB-II longbow and my Manchu bow earlier in the day so my arms were a bit tired, but after my neighbor brought me the new bow I had to give it a try. After assembling and stringing it I used my bow square to find a nocking point 3/8" above level to start with.

The arrows I used were some Beman 600 spine carbons that I'd bought awhile ago from 3Rivers, and they turned out to be a good match. I put about two dozen shots through it and was able to keep most of them on my small foam block target at about 12 yards. I'll probably set the nocking point on the string at 1/2" above level, since at 3/8" I got some porpoising.

The bow slings the carbon arrows at a pretty good clip and should make for a nice informal target shooting and field bow. As a takedown, it can fit into a nice small package, so it'll make a good choice to take car camping. At 45# it's powerful enough to take a deer with a sharp broadhead placed in the right spot.

I'll post more about it after I shoot it some more.