Sunday, November 19, 2017

Black Powder Shotgun Shells in Brass Cases

Note/Disclaimer: This post contains loading data believed to be safe in my guns. It may not be safe in yours. Do your own research before you try this. I'm not responsible if you get hurt or your gun gets damaged.

A couple of weeks ago on Survival Russia, Lars posted a video about loading brass 16 gauge cases using minimal tools. He followed up with a second video in which he shot his reload and got what I considered pretty good results.

In the past I have experimented with hot glue slugs* using minimal tools, and as I've posted about before, I have muzzleloading smoothbores. I also have a few break open shotguns that I've been wanting to try black powder loads in, since I have a good stock of black powder and you can reload brass cases with minimal tools that you can make at home.

So, I put in an order with Ballistic Products, Inc. for a few items, including:
  • Two boxes of Magtech empty 2.5" 12 gauge brass shotshell cases, and
  • A 500 count bag of 10 gauge over shot cards.
Magtech brass cases have a larger internal diameter than the equivalent gauge plastic hulls, so they recommend using 11 gauge nitro cards and fiber cushion wads, and 10 gauge over shot cards.

I use home made cards and felt wads in my 12 gauge Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun, cut with a 3/4" punch, which is about 11 gauge. So, I decided to save a few bucks and use these in the brass cases. As it turned out, I would have gotten a better fit with 10 gauge components all around.

Most references I've seen indicate that one should use FFg when loading 12 gauge black powder shotgun shells. However, Goex's load data specifies FFFg (PDF), so that's what I used. (Goex recommends FFg in muzzleloading shotguns.)

Yesterday, I took one box of the Magtech hulls and loaded a few different recipes, as follows:

  • 1 oz. #7.5 shot using sawdust in lieu of a fiber cushion wad (a la the Survival Russia video).
    1-1/8 oz. #7.5 shot using a sawdust "wad."
  • 1-1/8 oz. #7.5 shot using the same 1/8" thick lubricated felt wad that I use in my 12 gauge muzzleloader.1-1/4 oz. #5 shot with sawdust.
  • 1-1/4 oz. #5 shot with felt wad.
  • Patched .690 round ball.

All shot loads were primed with Federal No.150 large pistol primers and charged with 80 grains of FFFg Goex black powder, and a home made cardboard over powder wad.

The round balls have two over powder cards, a lubricated felt wad, and a lubricated 0.020" patch, and 90 grains of FFFg.

All shot loads are sealed in place using one of the BPI 10 gauge over shot cards held in place with silicone RTV sealant. I used Gorilla Glue gel super glue for the ball loads because I ran out of RTV.

Some pictures:

The 3/4" oak dowel I used for seating components. I drilled a hole in one end to fit over the primer pocket that protrudes into the case. Yes, the Magtech hulls are balloon head cases. I used my lathe to slightly turn down the dowel so it would go all the way into the case, and to drill the hole.

 Some cases waiting to be primed, a case with the dowel inserted, and a primer sitting on a 1/8" piece of aluminum. To prime the cases, I placed the primer down on the aluminum, centered the case with the dowel in it over the primer, and gave it a few good whacks to press the case down over the primer.

If this makes you cringe, consider that it is exactly how you prime cases in a Lee Loader.

A primed and unprimed case:


Make sure the primers are seated flush with the case head. You don't want to accidentally set off a high primer by closing your shotgun.

Next up I poured a powder charge into the case and topped it with a card. For the sawdust shells, I then filled each case to the top with sawdust. I have a No.10 can filled with it that I've been saving to make fire starters.

Then I used the flat end of the dowel to compress the sawdust.

This was topped with another card and then the load of shot poured in.

And here's one of the patched round balls in place:

By using the drilled end of the dowel I was able to keep the sprue centered, facing up.

Finally, it's topped off with an over shot card and glued in place. (This one hasn't been glued yet.)

Advantages of this method include that you don't need any tools you can't find or make at home, and the shells should be reloadable pretty much indefinitely, especially since the case mouths aren't being crimped. Because I'm using black powder, small variations in powder charge aren't dangerous the way they would be with smokeless powder, especially when shooting them through nitro-proofed shotguns.

The main downside compared with loading shotshells with modern components is inferior performance. Modern shotcup wads that protect the shot from deformation in the bore result in better, more even patterns.

Special safety note about the round balls: Before Foster slugs became widely available in the 1930s, "pumpkin balls" were the most common type of single projectile load in shotgun ammo in the US. After the introduction of choke barrels, they were generally loaded with balls significantly under bore size so that if they were fired through a choked barrel, the barrel would not be damaged. They don't compress as easily as Foster slugs. For this reason, I would not fire a patched .690 ball through anything tighter than improved cylinder.

For example, I have an H&R Model 1905 made sometime between 1906 and 1915 with the barrel marked "12 GUAGE CHOKED." I measured the muzzle last night with calipers and it came out at about .695, which is extra-full, or even a turkey choke. I'll shoot the balls through my chopped, cylinder bore H&R Topper.

Hopefully, I'll get to try out these loads in the next few weeks, and will post a follow up.

*Hot glue slug: A field-expedient slug which you cut the crimp off a bird shot load, pour out the shot, then add the shot back after mixing it with hot glue. When the glue hardens you have a slug that's useful at short range. Very similar to wax slugs. Do a lot of research before you make and shoot any, so you don't do anything dangerous.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Reaction to the NRA and NRA-ILA's Joint Statement of October 5, 2017

Yesterday, Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox issued a joint statement, which contained, inter alia:

In Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.  The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.


We should know by now that when gun banners say, "We want a conversation about gun control," they mean we should shut up while they lecture us. We should also know that when they say we should compromise, they mean for us to give them something while we get nothing in return.

It is not acceptable conduct to this NRA Endowment Life Member for the organization to preemptively surrender any part of our rights by endorsing any new gun regulation. The NRA needs to protect all of our right to bear arms. 

Suggesting that the corrupt and incompetent BATFE get another chance to evaluate the legality of bumpfire stocks is particularly galling. Including a sentence in the press release calling for Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity doesn't balance giving in on one iota of other elements of the RKBA.

NRA, withdraw this statement. Do your damn job.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reduced .308 Winchester Loads

Last year I tried out a couple batches of "The Load," in my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle in .308 Winchester.  The first patch was 13 grains of Alliant Red Dot under a 170 grain cast bullet, although I forget exact which one. Accuracy of that was abysmal, on the order of 4" or more at ~50 yards. The bullets were originally sized .311 and had been purchased by my dad for use in Mosin-Nagants. I sized them down to .308 for use in the Ruger. I may have gone a little too far. Afterwards, used a chucking reamer to to open the Lee sizing die up to .309 in my lathe, but I have not yet tried it out. It's one of the many items on my round tuit list.

The second batch was again 13 grains of Red Dot, but this time I loaded the cases with 152 grain FMJ flat base .30 caliber M2 projectiles. Groups were more like ~2" from prone, with the factory irons.

Recoil of "The Load" in the GSR feels like you're shooting an M1 Carbine.

Today, I ran across this article, linked by Brownell's on their FaceBook page: Reduced 308 Winchester Loads with Trail Boss. This looks pretty interesting, any may be something to try.

Friday, September 08, 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

Instapundit reports that Jerry Pournelle has passed.

Ever since I was able to join the Daynotes Gang I've felt priviledged to be included in a group of writers with Jerry at the masthead. I had several great email exchanges with him.

We are diminished.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Range Day with the Kel-Tec RDB and Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle

Today I was off and was able to get to the range with the Kel-Tec RDB and my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle.

The IOR Valdada 3x25mm scope on the Kel-Tec needed to be zeroed, along with shooting the rifle for the first time. Due to limited time, I was only able to get the scope zeroed at 50 yards, and put only 60 rounds through the rifle. The ammo I shot was 20 rounds of Federal American Eagle .223 55 grain FMJBT and 40 rounds of Prvi Partizan 5.56mm M-193 Ball (55 grain FMJBT, but loaded hotter than .223-spec rounds). I fed the rifle from the Magpul Gen 3 20-round P-Mag that was included with it, and a Gen 1 20 round P-Mag.

The Kel-Tec's manual states that it comes from the factory with the gas system setup to function with M-193 spec ammo. I tested this by initially loading one round, to see if it would lock the bolt back after firing. It did so, and thereafter while I was sighting in, I loaded 3 rounds per magazine.

Sixty rounds isn't anything more than a basic function check but the rifle did work perfectly. The RDB has a 1:7 twist and doesn't seem to care for 55 grain ammo, however. Groups were about 2" to 3" at 50 yards, reminiscent of an AK. I plan to try it with 69 to 75 grain bullets to see if it shoots them more accurately.

The recoil impulse of the long-stroke gas system reminded me of an AK. Unlike an AR-15 or AK, I got absolutely no gun-schmutz in my face, since the top of the action is sealed.

Ejected cases fell at my feet.

Again, 60 rounds isn't much of a test but I was curious to how much fouling got into the gun. When I field stripped it, what fouling that existed was concentrated at the face of the piston and the gas head. (Part 156 in the diagram in the owner's manual. PDF document.)

After getting the RDB zeroed and finishing up 60 rounds, I turned my attention to the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, which is chambered in .308 Winchester. I'd mounted a Leupold 1.5-4x Intermediate Eye Relief scope in low Warne QD rings on the factory rail back in April, but today was the first time I got to try the combination.

Yes, it's a lefty, the picture ain't reversed.

I put one 20 round box of old Hansen (made by Prvi Partizan) 147 grain FMJBT through the rifle to zero it, and a few shots of Prvi 165 grain JSPs through the Ruger. I was very pleased to see that the scope was almost on right out of the box.

Ruger GSRs have the reputation of shooting 165 grain and heavier bullets better than 150s or lighter. At 50 yards the 165s were all touching.

I especially like the Leupold IER scope. It permits mounting it far enough forward to allow plenty of space for bolt manipulation while not suffering as much from the annoyances of a long eye relief scope, such as limited field of view or susceptibility to glare if the sun is behind you. It's also mounted quite low to make quick acquisition easy.

I definitely need to get both rifles back to the range for final zeroing at 100 yards, and of course to see if the RDB continues to function well. I'll be carrying the Ruger this year for deer hunting.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kel-Tec RDB Field Stripped

This afternoon I took a few minutes, field stripped the Kel-Tec RDB, and took some pictures. The rifle's design is different enough so that I think you'll find them of interest. Clickenzee to embiggenate.

Slightly closer view of the barrel and bolt groups:

Bolt, bolt face, and extractor. Note the dual ejector plungers on the bolt face.

Piston head. It's a little hard to see but there is a weld blob on the top of the piston. Some earlier rifles left the factory without the weld, which leads to malfunctions.

The gas system.

Bottom of the handguard, showing the molded-in M-1913 rail. I have a Rogers Rail Light mounted.

Disassembly to this stage requires you to push out three takedown pins, plus one pin in the bolt carrier group. If you take down the BCG be careful. The firing pin is spring loaded and if you fail to contain it, it will launch itself several feet. (Yeah, it happened to me the first time I stripped the BCG.)

Scoped the Kel-Tec RDB

Yesterday I decided to move a scope I already owned over to the Kel-Tec RDB I bought Friday night. My Colt AR15 6721 has been relegated to backup status and was wearing an IOR Valdada 3x25mm CQB scope.

The IOR scope is built with Schott glass from Germany, has very clear optics, and a nice reticle. The 3x magnification works well from close-up to my club's longest range, 200 yards. It's also built like a brick shithouse, so I am not going to worry about BUIS.

Range report to follow as soon as possible.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kel-Tec RDB Rifle

I did some trading last night at Surplus City and came home with a Kel-Tec RDB 5.56mm bullpup rifle. (I actually went there with the intention of ordering an FN PS90. Maybe next time.)  SC was asking $950. I traded in my CZ-52, Bulgarian Makarov, Ruger SP101, Pietta SAA, and Springfield XD-9, none of which I'd fired in years. He gave me $1000 trade in value, so I also got 500 rounds of CCI .22 Short HV to run through my Remington 550-1.

Kel-Tec gives the OAL as 27.3" with its 17.3" barrel. The weight unloaded is 6.7 lbs. The barrel is 1:7" twist. There's a long, T-marked M-1913 Picatinny rail on top but it comes without any sights. I am debating what kind of optic to mount, but it will probably be something along the lines of a 1-4x variable, not just a red dot.

The RDB is a new design, although the bolt itself is very Stoner-ish and it takes AR15 magazines. It came with one 20-round MagPul P-Mag, an owner's manual, and a sling.

There are numerous sling mounting points for the hook-style attachments. In the pic above I had it mounted as a 2-point sling but I later switched it to a single-point using the swivel located in front of the middle takedown pin.

It's a long-stroke, gas piston design. The gas is adjustable to account for variations in ammo or the amount of crud in the gun. However, reviews I've seen state that very little fouling gets into the action. Empties eject out the bottom, through a port behind the magazine well.

The action is very simple and breaks down with only something to drive out the takedown pins. (They may loosen up over time.)

As a southpaw, the best part to me is that it's totally ambidextrous except for the HK MP5-ish charging handle. It can be reversed without tools. All I had to do was field strip the rifle and then put it in the other way when I reassembled. My initial impression of the rifle is that the ergonomics are outstanding.

Because of the long linkage between the trigger and the rest of the firing mechanism, most bullpups have lackluster trigger pulls. Not so in the case of the RDP. It's actually pretty good with some takeup but it's only around 5 pounds.

Between the adjustable gas system, the lack of fouling in the action, and having the ejection port on the bottom of the rifle so gas gets vented downward, it's supposed to be an awesome suppressor host.

In typical Kel-Tec fashion, they are scarce as hen's teeth, though. Kel-Tec announced it a few years ago but they just started shipping in 2016. They are still really hard to find in shops although there are a bunch on Gunbroker.

MAC posted a nice, in-depth review of a pre-production sample on YouTube in 2015:

I should be able to take it out in the next week or two and will post a follow up after I am able to shoot it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nazis vs. Communists: Who's Worse?

In the wake of the protest/riot last week in Charlottesville, I am seeing a lot of condemnation of the Nazis and people denying that the Antifa counter-protesters are just as bad.

How about we look at some history and numbers?

First of all, we need to understand that Antifa are avowed communists. Let me repeat that, they are COMMUNISTS. You know, the people we fought the Cold War against. We allied with the Soviet Union during World War 2 against a common enemy, but let's not delude outselves that they were any better than the Nazis. The numbers doesn't lie.

The top five murdering governments of the 20th Century were:

1. People's Republic of China (1949 - 87): 76,702,000
2. USSR: (1917 - 87): 61,911,000
3. Colonialism (1900 - ?): 50,000,000
4. Nazi Germany (1933 - 45): 20,946,000
5. China under the Kuomintang (1928 - 49): 10,075,000

So yeah, communists are not just as bad as Nazis when it comes to people killed, they are actually worse.

But, the Nazis are racist!!!!! No shit. So were a lot of communists. Google "Holodomor," the Soviet genocide of Ukrainians in 1932 - 33.

If you're wearing your hipster cool Che shirt, you're wearing the face of a racist, homophobic, murderer who helped establish a dictatorship on your chest. Knock that shit off.

Look, does it really matter if you were murdered because you were Jewish or gay or if you were a member of the bourgeoisie? YOU'RE STILL DEAD.

Nazis are scum. Communists are scum. When they are fighting, stand back and avoid aligning yourself with assholes on either side.

Here's the source for my numbers above:

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Mossberg 500 Super Bantam Shotgun

My 13 year old daughter wants to come hunting with me this year and needed a suitable shotgun. Today, we went to the local Dick's Sporting Goods and picked up this 20 gauge Mossberg 500 Super Bantam for ~$325 + PA's 6% sales tax.

I actually had her try out the Mossberg 510 youth model in .410 bore but she's already outgrown it. That's good because the 20 gauge will throw significantly more shot and 20 gauge slugs are adequate for deer.

Both the stock and forearm are synthetic. The stock is currently setup with a 12" length of pull but it included a spacer to increase it to 13". If she needs a longer LOP it will accept adult-sized stocks. The stock has a good, thick recoil pad on it.

The 22" barrel is threaded for choke tubes. It came with the modified tube in place. Using the included wrench, I swapped that out for improved cylinder. It also comes with a full choke tube. The barrel is topped with a white bead up front and a brass middle bead.

At 5.25 lbs. unloaded it won't be hard for her to carry afield. Heck, that weighs less than her school bag on most days. The stock has a place to attach a sling swivel but the gun didn't come with a stud for the front. So, I found one on eBay and it should hopefully be here by the end of the week. It will thread into an existing hole on the barrel mounting screw. I also ordered an inexpensive sling with swivels and an Outers cleaning kit.

The magazine came plugged so that the only way to load it was singly through the ejection port. The manual states that once your new shooter learns gun safety you can shorten the plug (a dowel) to 9", to allow up to two shells in the magazine. I did so, since my kid is not new to shooting. (Frankly, if they aren't safe to handle a manually operated gun with 3 shells in it, they aren't safe to handle a single shot.)

The unplugged magazine capacity is six 2-3/4" shells. I have some Federal 20 gauge #3 buckshot with which I'll pattern it. It would make a nice home defense shotgun.

Aside from hunting, this will be a good shotgun to introduce my daughter to trap and sporting clays.

Of note, Mossberg has a similar gun in their economy-oriented Maverick line. However, spending more money on the 500 was worth it to us because the Maverick uses a right-handed cross-bolt safety instead of the Mossberg's ambidextrous tang safety. I'm a lefty and my kid is left-eye dominant, and hence shoots portside.

I'll post a follow up after we get the chance to shoot it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Did A Little Air Rifle Shooting Yesterday

Yesterday I went to my friend Nick's place, outside of Pottstown, PA to do some shooting. Nick owns about 8 acres and we're able to shoot pistols, shotguns, .22s, and airguns without disturbing the neighbors.

After running some buckshot and slugs through my home defense Mossberg 500 Mariner, we changed over to air rifles. Nick has an RWS Diana Model 50 .177 underlever that he bought when we were in high school or college, 30 - 35 years ago.

The Diana Model 50 is a really nice shooter. It cocks via an underlever and you load the pellets via a rotating tap at the breech. Nick used to have a peep sight on it, but now that we're both closing in on 50 irons aren't nearly as easy to use as a scope, so he put a Hammers airgun rated scope on it. It has a mildot reticle and the optics seem decent, but as a cheap scope I'll be interested in seeing how well it holds up. I shot the Model 50 a little and once I determined where it was hitting for me, I was able to plink empty 12 gauge hulls from a rest at about 30 yards.

I brought along my RWS Model 34 .177 that I got in the mid-90s. It came as a combo kit with a POS 4x32mm RWS scope. I had replaced that with a Bushnell Trophy 6-18x50mm scope but was never really pleased with the combination. With the big Bushnell installed it's a heavy beast. A year or two ago I'd zeroed the rig for about 28 yards, the distance to my back fence when shooting out the window from my dining room table. (I had a problem with birds eating the grass seed on a bare patch in my yard. They needed discouragement.)

Anyway, when shooting yesterday my rifle was shooting really low and when I tried to raise elevation it didn't seem to work, so I'm thinking the scope may have bit the dust.

Last night I went to Amazon and ordered a UTG 3-9x32mm Bugbuster compact, air rifle rated scope, along with a UTG 11mm rail to Weaver adapter that compensates for barrel droop. The rail is intended for the RWS 34 and has a part that hangs over the front of the factory rail, to prevent rearward movement.

From reading reviews of the scope on Amazon and Pyramid Air it looks like it'll work out well, and the rifle will handle a lot better without the ginormous Bushnell mounted on it.

I should have them this week and hope to go back out to Nick's to try it next weekend.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Restored Knight Kit Ocean Hopper Radio

I posted a few years ago about this receiver originally built by my father in 1967.

A co-worker of mine with better soldering skills than me replaced the main capacitor and brought it back to life.

The round white thing with wire wrapped around it is a tuning coil. To switch bands you swap out the coils. I currently have one for 40M in the radio but have others around here somewhere that I need to find.

I fired it up tonight for the first time since getting it back and was able to pull in a shortwave station from South Carolina, some Spanish language broadcasts, what must've been distant AM stations (judging by them playing Phil Collins and Manfred Mann), and finally, China Plus News from Beijing. Tuning in a station required you to futz with all the knobs on the front. It makes you appreciate modern digital tuning. Heck, it makes you appreciate superheterodyne receivers!

The antenna I have it connected to the Ultimax-100 40-6M end fed on my roof, which is setup as a N-S sloper. I cut a piece of lamp cord, stripped the ends, and put an alligator clip on one end. I connected the bare end to the Fahnestock clip on the radio and the alligator clip to the center conductor of my antenna feed coax.

Fun stuff.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Saturday Night Range Report

Last night I hit the range with Dad and put some more rounds through the Ruger SR22 along with my CZ P-09.

I put around 75 Remington Golden Bullet hollow points, 100 Golden Bullet solids, and about 60 Federal 550 bulk pack hollow points through the Ruger. The gun didn't have any malfunctions that weren't related to ammo. To wit:

--Four of the Golden Bullets required a second hit to ignite.
--Three of the Federals required second hits.
--One of the Golden Bullet cases split and needed to be pushed out with a cleaning rod.

This batch of Golden Bullets seems especially bad. Previous range trips in which I've shot a couple hundred rounds of it had no more than one misfire per trip.

That's the most problems I've ever experienced in one range session with .22 ammo. When folks point to the unreliability of rimfire ammo as one reason .22s aren't suitable for defense (ballistics aside), this is what they're referring to.

In contrast, I've experienced exactly one misfire with CCI .22 rimfire ammo, among thousands fired.

The Remingtons seemed loaded hotter than the Federals, something I've noticed before. They also spit a lot more -- after virtually every shot I felt unburned powder granules on my face. I won't be using it when teaching my daughter to shoot.

I continue to be pleased with the Ruger SR22. The SA trigger is smoothing out, although the DA pull remains long, heavy, and has a lot of creep.

My round count through the CZ was much lower. I ran one 50-round box of Speer 124 grain Gold Dot JHPs through it as a function check. My dad also put 30 rounds of Fiocchi 9mm 115 grain ball through it. As expected, it worked fine. The pistol has over 500 rounds through it so far without any issues.

Dad brought his S&W Model 67 with some .38 Special 158 grain LSWC handloads and his S&W SW9VE, aka the "Smegma." The SW9VE is an economy gun but gets a bad rap because it isn't as refined as the M&P. Dad's has been trouble free for over 1,000 rounds.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

More Range Time with the Ruger SR22

My daughter and I hit the range yesterday and brought along "her" Ruger SR22. I put 20 CCI SV rounds through it.  She shot it unsuppressed, so I had her use Remington Golden Bullet high speed brass-plated hollow points.

Golden Bullets don't have a very good reputation for quality but as of a couple years ago Remington seems to have improved them. They run well and give good accuracy in my Remington Nylon 77 and 550-1, so I wanted to see how the Ruger would handle them.

My kid put at least 150 Golden Bullets through the Ruger. We had one failure to go into battery that was resolved by bumping the back of the slide, and one misfire. After trying a second hit, then ejecting the misfire and rotating it 180 degrees, it went off. This isn't unusual with cheap bulk .22 ammo.

I'm happy to see the Ruger function well with the Golden Bullets. They were one of the few types of .22 ammo I was able to lay in a good supply of during the 0bama years.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Ruger SR22

I've recently been considering acquiring a second compact .22 autoloading pistol. A few years ago I picked up an Israeli surplus Beretta Model 71 Jaguar, which is a really nice shooter. However, factory magazines are unobtanium and if something breaks, I'm probably SOL.

This Father's Day I was given $100 in Cabela's gift cards, which I used last week towards the purchase of a Ruger SR22. The specific model I got is the 3604, which sports 3.5" threaded barrel.

About 5 or 6 years ago, Ruger introduced the SR22 which is a small DA/SA .22 semiauto pistol styled much like the Walther P22 (which in turn looks like a scaled-down P99). The Ruger has a much better reputation for reliability and durability, according to what I've seen online.

First some stats, then shooting impressions.

  • Action: Semiautomatic, blowback, with double action/single action trigger.
  • Safety: Combination safety/decocker
  • Hammer: External
  • Barrel: Stainless steel, 3.5" long with muzzle threaded to accept a 1/2x28 coupler*.
  • Sights: Three-dot dovetailed into the slide. Rear is adjustable for windage and elevation.
  • Weight: 17.5 oz.
  • OAL: 6.4"
  • Height" 4.9"
  • Width: 0.97"
  • Frame: Polymer with interchangeable grip sleeves.
  • Slide material: Aircraft aluminum, anodized black.

From Ruger's North Carolina factory, the pistol shipped with a chamber flag in place, two 10-round magazines, two extra magazine baseplates to replace the pinky rests installed on the mags, a lock, the thread coupler, and a wrench for the coupler. A thread protector was screwed onto the barrel. It came off with moderate force using the wrench.

It also shipped with two interchangeable grip sleeves. Mine was fitted with the one that has a palm swell. I have fairly small hands and it fits me well. My 13 year old daughter also liked how the gun felt.

And of course, it came with an owner's manual, literature about the NRA, and a couple Ruger stickers.

Before shooting the Ruger I field stripped and lubricated it with some FP-10, since it was bone dry.

Field stripping and reassembly is straightforward. Certainly a lot easier than my Mark III 22/45 Lite. To field strip, unload the pistol, drop the hammer using the decocker, and then open the takedown latch in front of the trigger. The slide can then be pulled up and to the rear, off the frame rails, and then slipped forward over the muzzle. Note that the thread coupler has a flange around it that will prevent the slide from slipping forward over the barrel. If the coupler is installed it must be removed prior to field stripping.

The magazines are easy to load. Each has a thumb button to aid depressing the follower.

I haven't shot it for groups yet but did get a couple hundred rounds through it while plinking at a few old hard drives and a self-healing rubber target. The first 95 were CCI Standard Velocity rounds shot through my Form 1 suppressor. I also put a lone CCI CB Long through the can, which as you'd imagine was very quiet. The remainder were Federal Automatch high speeds shot unsuppressed. The gun had no malfunctions.

A primary reason for buying the Ruger was to get a pistol that my 13 year old daughter could comfortably hold and shoot. It excels at that and she's trying to claim it as her own after shooting it this weekend. Even with my silencer she's able to hold it steady and frequently hit our plinking targets. My next step will be to get her shooting at paper.

Incidentally, being able to shoot it suppressed is a major advantage when training a new shooter. My can is hearing safe when fired outdoors with standard velocity ammo. Being able to give instruction in a normal conversational voice instead of having to shout to be heard is damn nice. Contact your reps and let's get the Hearing Protection Act passed!

My initial impression, along with my daughter's and that of my friend who shot the SR22 are all extremely favorable. I hope to run a few more different kinds of ammo through it soon, and shoot it on paper to check group size and fine tune the zero (which is pretty much on already).

*Most modern shooters insist that they be referred to as "suppressors." Their inventor, Hiram Maxim, named them "silencers." Under the National Firearms Act, they are "silencers," even if "suppressor" is a more technically accurate term.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pi-Top Raspberry Pi Laptop

Earlier this year I learned about the Pi-Top, a kit for turning a Raspberry Pi single board computer into a laptop, from a friend's post on Facebook. A portable RPi-based system is something I've been interested in for awhile, because if it has enough horsepower to run Fldigi, it would make a neat, relatively inexpensive system to run digital modes on ham radio while in the field with low electrical power requirements.

Last weekend I was down at Microcenter in St. David's, PA to return a cell phone car mount that didn't work out for me*, when I wander over into the DIY section. A few years ago, Microcenter decided to cater to the maker movement and has been carrying a lot of neat stuff. Its what Radio Shack should've done instead of trying to be another cell phone hawker.

Anyway, I saw that they had the Pi-Top kits for sale so I decided to get one. The Pi-Top kit does not include an RPi, so I also got a RPi 3 Model B, which included onboard Bluetooth and WiFi.

The Pi-Top was about $265, while the RPi 3 was on sale for $30.

Laptop guts on my dining room table:

The kit was well packaged in a cleverly designed box and came with an 8 GB microSD card pre-loaded with a version of Raspbian customized for the Pi-Top hardware. The instruction booklet that came with it was pretty good but lacked any info about the OS, except a pointer to the Pi-Top website. It didn't even include the default login info.

Closeup of the USB hub (left) and the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B:

The Pi-Top case is molded from plastic and feels about like what you'd expect from a $250 laptop. Assembly was pretty straightforward except that I initially mounted the RPi too far to the right in the case. The cables that link the RPi and the USB hub aren't long enough. This results in the RPi being inset to the left inside the case, which makes using the USB ports inconvenient. The case also blocks access to the Pi's onboard Fast Ethernet port.

Click on any of the pics to embiggen.

Boards mounted in the case:

The Pi-Tops 13.3" screen is decent. It's nothing to write home about, especially after one is used to a MacBook Pro with Retina display, but it ain't bad.

The keyboard is OK. I wouldn't want to do any extended writing or coding on it, however.

The shiny plastic cover at the top of the keyboard slides in and out from the right side of the computer. This helps when trying to connect something to the USB ports.

Side-by-side with my mid-2009 15" MacBook Pro:

Because of the plastic construction and a lot of empty space within the case, it's very lightweight.

The Pi-Top doesn't ship with a speaker, so as it comes there's no audio unless you buy the $20 add-on speaker, or run a cable from the RPi's audio jack to a set of external speakers.

After getting it up and running I naturally ran apt-get update and apt-get upgrade to bring the system up-to-date. Normally this wouldn't cause any issues but something related to dpkg got munged and I had to do about an hour's worth of troubleshooting to fix it and restore the ability to install or upgrade packages. Unfortunately I don't recall the specifics and didn't take notes.

Last weekend was ARRL Field Day, so I dragged my Icom 7200 and the Pi-Top out back on Sunday to see how it would fair as a portable digital mode laptop. It decoded PSK31 well, but the screen wasn't bright enough to use without a lot more shade than I had available, so I kept losing the cursor.

There are buttons on the keyboard to adjust screen brightness but they aren't working. I'm not sure if they would have worked pre-update, but they aren't post-update. Such is desktop Linux. Flakiness like that is why I normally run macOS as my desktop UNIX.

The manufacturer claims a 10+ hour battery life and from my testing so far, it sips power.

So, would I recommend the Pi-Top? It depends. If you're an experienced Linux user in search of a portable machine with low electrical power requirements, it's worth considering. Keep in mind that it's also a low computing power device. Web pages render relatively slowly. The OS includes Libre Office. I have not putzed with it yet but based on prior experience with that suite, it's going to run slowly on this hardware.

* Don't try to use a magnetic mount with an iPhone 7+ in a MagPul Field Case. The first bump in the road that you hit, and the phone will fall.

Some Job Updates

Back when I started blogging, first at and then here on Blogger, I wrote a lot about my job. For the first few years I wrote about supporting my employer's commercial cable modem customers and our optical transport network. After that I blogged some about doing ongoing engineering related to the cable modem service. After that, my focus shifted, in part because I didn't feel that I had much of interest to write about.

Seventeen years later, I'm still with the same company but several jobs later. For the past few years I managed the product engineering lab at our corporate headquarters in downtown Philadelphia. That was good data center management experience but I got burned out by the end of last year. Towards the end of 2016 we underwent yet another reorganization and I found myself in a new group with some opportunity for advancement.

As of a few weeks ago I'm no longer a lab manager. I'm now Service Operations Lead for our lab operations team. A big part of this is to help craft our new operations model in compliance with the ITIL best practices. I also have a supervisory role over a few very talented senior-level engineers. So far, I've been extremely busy and I've been enjoying it.

One thing I like in particular about the new position is its location. From 2004 up until earlier this month I commuted into Center City Philadelphia. Now I'm going to our office in Downingtown, PA, about a 25 mile drive. Yeah, I have to drive, but I'm not dependent on the SEPTA Regional Rail lines. And I never have to sit next to some fat guy who smells like cheese, or listen to obnoxious obliviots prattling on their cell phones while riding the "quiet" car during my commute.

Also, back in April I got my fourth US Patent, which was a nice feather in my cap. (I'm a co-inventor on all four.)

Not dead yet, and an update on my newest Mac

Tonight I pulled ye olde blog and realized that I haven't posted anything here since February. Yikes. I have posted over on Survival and Emergency Preparedness, which if you don't read you should check it out. (I might be a bit biased in that regard.)

Anyhoo, in my last post I mentioned that I had a new 15" MacBook Pro on the way. I've been living with it now for several months so I thought I'd offer some subjective impressions:

  • It's fast as hell, even with several large applications open, e.g., Excel, Outlook, Chrome, Slack, and Skype for Business.
  • The screen is beautiful.
  • The keyboard is different from earlier Macs but I got used to it quickly.
  • I love the huge trackpad when I'm not connected to an external keyboard and mouse.
  • With 16 GB of RAM I am able to allocate 8 GB to a Windows 10 VM running in Parallels, and have decent performance in the VM. I most commonly use Windows to run the vSphere Client (still a better UI than VMware's web client) or Visio 2013.
  • Having only USB-C AKA Thunderbolt 3 ports is a pain in the ass. I have to use an adapter to connect to my 27" Thunderbolt display, or connect most common USB drives, or to Ethernet if I'm not using the Thunderbolt display with its integrated Gig-E port.
    • I got one of these Anker USB C to USB 3.0 and Gig-E hubs. It has worked well for me although I haven't tried pounding on an external USB drive with it, just flash drives and Ethernet.
    • The Anker hub worked with my FTDI chipset USB to Cisco console cable. (And of course the point of buying the latter was to minimize the number of dongles attached to my laptop. Grr.)
  • The Touch Bar is a gimmick. Most of the time I don't even see it because I run an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard, so the machine's lid is closed anyway.
  • Battery life is very good.
  • It's super thin and not too heavy.
  • Apple no longer includes the power cord extension with the machine. Just the wall wart and a single USB C cable. The older power cord extensions are compatible with the new power supply, however.
  • I fucking hate that it doesn't have a MagSafe power connection. The MagSafe connection on my other Mac laptops, and my daughters' MacBook Airs, has prevented damage more times than I can count. This is a massive step back.
Overall I am happy with it but would have preferred the retention of at least one USB 3.0 port and I want my damn MagSafe connector back. (Griffin sells a USB C to MagSafe adapter but it's rated for only up to about 60W. The 15" MBP uses an 87W power supply.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Solution for Broken Time Machine Backups and a New Laptop on the Way

At work I use a late 2013 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display. Most of my files are kept in our corporate account, which is a handy way to ensure that they are backed up. However, I was using Time Machine to ensure application settings were also backed up, and in general for a "belt and suspenders" approach.

Unfortunately, Time Machine stopped functioning back in October. I kept running into this problem.

I tried all sorts of fixes, including disabling application throttling for it, to no avail.

I have a new 15" MacBook Pro on the way and want to be able to move all my old settings over to it, so I revisited the issue yesterday. After trying several of the fixes I found online, again with no positive results, I decided to upgrade from OS 10.11 El Capitan to 10.12 Sierra. That fixed it.

My laptop is bound to our NT domain and I found that after the upgrade my NT account was locked. It turns out that there was a known bug with Sierra causing this. Applying the OS 10.12.3 update fixed that. I also had to upgrade to the later versions of the Symantec VIP soft token app and the Pulse Secure VPN client. The older versions I had weren't compatible with Sierra.

Other than fixing my Time Machine backup and requiring a couple application updates, Sierra isn't dramatically different from El Capitan. I deleted the Siri icon from my dock -- I don't use it even on my iPhone.

Hopefully, I'll have the new MBP by the end of the week, but at the rate our IT department is working it may not be until next week.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Some More Range Time With the C96 Broomhandle

Yesterday I took my Mauser C96 Broomhandle out to a friend's place and we put another 50 rounds through it. As with the first 100 rounds it ran flawlessly with the Prvi Partizan 7.63 Mauser ammo.

Our target was an 8" steel gong from about 15 - 20 yards and it wasn't any problem keeping the rounds on it. We shot it both without and with the stock. I'm not sure if was the natural lighting or that my eyes weren't as tired, but I found it easier to focus on the front sight this time when it was stocked, vs. the first trip when I shot it indoors under florescent lighting.

Compared with a lot of other semiautos, recovering the brass was easy because it ejects the cases almost straight up. By laying out a tarp on the ground we didn't have to do much searching for them.

New Router

A couple years ago I installed an Asus RT-AC66U 802.11ac router at home. A few weeks ago it started acting flaky, requiring frequent reboots, and finally crapped out entirely yesterday. To get our home network back online I took my Comcast XB2 Arris TM862G gateway out of bridge mode, enabling routing and WiFi.

The performance stunk, largely because it's 2.4GHz only and I'm in a subdivision, so I get a lot of interference on that band. The fastest I could get on was about 20 Mbps down, totally unacceptable for what should be ~100 Mbps service.

So, yesterday afternoon I ordered a Linksys WRT1900ACS router from Amazon, selected one day delivery (I have Prime), and it was dropped off this morning while I was eating my oatmeal.

My initial impressions are generally favorable and setup was straightforward. Performance is plenty acceptable. After installing it I ran a test and got about 96 Mbps down. I just ran a test and got this:

I can certainly live with that.

The Linksys offers some features I'm unlikely to take advantage of, e.g., USB ports to serve files or a printer. However, it does support DynDNS and NoIP, so I may setup OpenVPN on it for remote access and possible as a private VPN for when I travel.