Friday, July 31, 2020

Office Visit

Today I went into the office for only the second time since March 12th.

As with the first post-lockdown visit, my reason for going in was to download large virtual machine templates (OVFs), and then upload them to a different system. I couldn't vMotion them between clusters, because they are on different network security zones and running different version of VMware ESXi.

The other task I had was to setup a new PC that a coworker and I will use for this sort of thing going forward. It's configured to allow Windows Remote Desktop connections and hardwired to the company LAN.

Our local IT guy did a great job of quickly turning around my request for the PC. It's a new Dell OptiPlex with an Intel Core i7-800 at 3.2 GHz, with 16 GB of RAM and a 500 GB disk. I was surprised to see that it came with a DVD drive. The OS is Windows 10 Enterprise. It seems like a decent little corporate desktop machine and is on a network security zone that will allow me to access anything I need to.

I have an old Netgear 8 port Gig-E Ethernet switch on my desk that allowed me to connect both my MacBook Pro and the Dell to my network drop. After setting up the PC I just used Remote Desktop from the Mac all day to do work on the PC. After I got home tonight I confirmed that it's working over our VPN connection.

Going into the office was a nice change of pace but I'm happy working primarily from home. I expect that to continue into next year.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Black Powder Shotgun Go Boom

A few years ago I loaded up some black powder 12 gauge shotshells in Magtech all-brass hulls, that I bought from Ballistic Products. This exercise was inspired by a video on the Survival Russia YouTube channel, which has since been taken down in accordance with their rule prohibiting videos that show how to load ammunition.

(The picture is a frame grab from an iPhone video.)

I did a few variants:

1-1/4 oz. of #7.5 shot on top of a compressed column of sawdust (in lieu of a cushion wad)
1-1/4 oz. of #5 shot on top of sawdust.

Also, some of the same payloads on top of lubricated wool felt wads. (I have a supply of such homemade wads for use in my Euroarms Magnum Cape Gun percussion 12 bore.)

And a patched .690 round ball on top a couple lubricated felt wads. All were loaded on top of 80 grains of 3Fg.

I tested one each of the #7.5 and #5s, and 3 of the PRB loads.

From 10 yards the #7.5 penetrated one wall of an empty soup can. The #5s went through both sides. Patterning seemed OK for a cylinder bore gun.

Accuracy with the PRB would be good enough to take a deer out to 40 - 50 yards or so.

Because these shells were loaded with black powder, I ran a couple patches wet with a Ballistol/water emulsion through the bore when we finished shooting. I repeated this at home and left the bore with a good coat of Ballistol.

The empty shells got put into a soapy water bath overnight. I found that a 12 gauge tornado brush was perfect for brushing out the inside of the cases to remove residue left from the glue I used to hold the over-shot cards in place.

Tomorrow I'll punch the primers out of the spent shells and clean the primer pockets. I'll also use some acetone to remove the load info I'd written on the side of the shells with a Sharpie marker.

Shooting these BP shells was a lot of fun and the cases should be reusable more or less indefinitely.

One thing I like about the Magtech brass shells is that they use large pistol primers rather than 209 shotshell primers. I use LPPs for .38 WCF and .44 WCF, so that's one less component I need to stock. Also, in normal times, pistol primers are less expensive than 209 primers. (All bets are off in this election/pandemic/civil unrest year, however.)

Friday, July 10, 2020

RT Systems Programming Software for the Icom 7200

With my getting back into ham radio I wanted to update the memory settings on my Icom 7200. You can do so via the front panel, and it's good to know how, but it's tedious.

The popular open source program CHIRP will talk to the IC7200. However, functionality is pretty minimal with this radio. For example, it works with the rig in live mode with changes you make in the application immediately written to the radio. It also misconfigured some fields in the memories, as I discovered later.

Years ago, shortly after buying the rig, I'd purchased  RT Systems' WCS-7200 programming software on CD from the New Castle, DE Ham Radio Outlet store. That CD disappeared, along with the product registration info. So, I decided to drop $25 for a new digital download of the program. (What the heck, it's good to support small businesses anyway.)

Unlike CHIRP, it runs only on Windows, but it can use the same USB A-B cable used for digital mode operations.

The WCS-7200 software is more mature and full-featured than CHIRP. For example, I entered in a bunch of frequencies into the spreadsheet-like UI, and it then allowed me to select a group of them and move them up or down for organization. It also has a Comment field, which I used to identify which frequency is for, for example "20M PSK31" or "WWV."

Unlike CHIRP, it doesn't operate in live mode, so I could tinker with memory organization, save the file locally, and then upload it to the rig.

Before closing the app I exported the memory to a .csv file in the Ham Radio folder I keep on Dropbox, opened it in Numbers on my Mac, and printed out a copy for reference.

I still like CHIRP for programming my Baofengs and it seems to work fine with my Yaesu FT-7800R, but in this case, it was worth $25 for the commercial software.

Incidentally, a good source of frequencies to input into your radio for making contacts or just monitoring is Also check out and

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Radiowavz 40M Dipole Antenna

Today's vacation day activity was to put up a Radiowavz 40M dipole. I got it in trade several years ago for an AR15 lower receiver. :)

Hams know that antennas offer better performance when erected in crappy weather, ideally a New England winter day. Not having one of those handy, hopefully a hot-as-balls SE Pennsylvania day will suffice.

It's currently supported on both end but not the middle, which as you can see, sags a bit. The end supports are 5 foot lengths of schedule 40 PVC pipe with an eye bolt on the end. Braided dacron cord is strung through each eye bolt and then secured to the end insulators of the antenna with a bowline knot. The halyards are then attached to a large plastic landscaping stake in the ground.

The feedline is a 25 foot piece of RG-8X coaxial cable running to an MFJ-4602 window pass-through panel.

After it was up and connected I texted a couple friends and we tried it on 80M phone using NVIS propagation. I was able to hear them but they could not hear me, which wasn't surprising.

I'd like to get the middle up higher so I'm going to look into a military surplus fiberglass mast. If I get the center elevated the resulting antenna will be an inverted-V, which will give me better performance.

I haven't made any QSOs on this antenna yet, but this screenshot from shows the results of calling CQ with 50W on JS8.

And this one from shows the results of transmitting 50W on WSPR.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Removing Stubborn Screws from an Uberti 1866 Sporting Rifle

AKA, "When I said get out, I wasn't asking."

Earlier this year I bought an Uberti 1866 Sporting Rifle chambered for .38-40 WCF. Uberti build beautiful guns but unfortunately, many of them seem to be assembled by a gorilla who applies 87,000 pound-feet of torque to screws that are slightly harder than cheese.

This rifle is one of them.

I wanted to remove the sideplates from the action to inspect the inside and lubricate it with Ballistol. I also wanted to replace the loading gate cover (AKA ladle) with a stronger, aftermarket piece.

After weeks of soaking in Kroil, I was able to remove the lever screw. However, I still couldn't budge the sideplate screw. Even though I used a properly fitting gunsmith screwdriver bit, all I managed to do was booger the screw head.

A few weeks ago I ordered a set of replacement screws that are properly hardened from VTI Gun Parts. (Part # 220-H.)

So, today I braved the hot, humid Southeastern Pennsylvania weather and went out to my backyard shop so I could use my Grizzly G8689 mini-mill as a drill press.

First, I drilled into the sideplate screw on the end where it screws into the right sideplate. This relieves some pressure on the threads.

Note the use of a center drill for starting the holes. This is important because they are more rigid than twist drill bits and you don't want the bit walking off to the side and damaging the receiver.

Then I flipped over the rifle and drilled into the screw head, and then used a screw extractor held in a tap handle to back it out.

While I had the rifle open I also replaced the lever spring screws. A trick to reduce tension on these so you can move them is to slide the lever springs to the side. This worked for the right hand screw but not the left one. So, back to the mill.

This time I put the screw extractor in the drill chuck and manually rotated it (my mill cannot rotate to the left).

After reassembling the rifle I adjusted the tension on the lever so that it's a little easier to work than before but still holds the lever up.

I won't be disassembling the rifle regularly. Even when fired with black powder cartridges, the .38-40's thin brass seals the chamber very well. Virtually no fouling makes it into the action. (The same goes for .44-40, which I shoot in an 1860 Henry and 1873 Sporting Rifle.) However, I can now easily get into the action should it be needed for repair.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Podcast Episode 1 - Tips for Working From Home

It's hosted on YouTube but is audio-only. Hopefully you find this interesting.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

New Workbench

Ever since we decided to move my daughter downstairs and allow me to reclaim my home office, I've been considering putting a workbench in. Although I have a workshop out back, it's not climate controlled. So, it's often uncomfortably warm in the summer, and frigid in the winter. I could really use a space in the house to tinker with stuff and fix things.

So, last week I ordered a Seville Classics UltraHD workbench from Home Depot. (It's also available from Amazon.) It arrived around 7:00 PM last night. I mostly put it together last night and finished up this morning.

It's very solid and went together pretty easily. The frame, pegboard backsplash, drawer, and shelf are all made from steel. The work surface is 1.5" butcher block, well-finished, and heavy. It came with a power strip that has two USB ports and an LED light that's mounted under the top shelf. It came with an assortment of hooks to mount on the pegboard.

The dimensions are 65.6" high x 24" deep x 48" wide. The top of the work surface sits 37" high. It's really the only thing I'd change. Being short I would prefer it to be a few inches lower.

It came with two tools for assembly: a stamped steel wrench and a long Phillips head screwdriver, which is magnetized. That came in handy although I mostly used my drill with suitable screw driver bits. It also came with a few spare screws.

My first project was to clean my 1948-vintage Remington 550-1 .22 autoloader. I put at least 100 rounds through it on our last camping trip, including a bunch of CCI .22 CB Shorts, so it was filthy inside.

Next up will be my Uberti 1866 Yellowboy. Since getting it earlier this year I haven't removed the sideplates. Unfortunately, Uberti has a bad habit of over-torqueing the action screws on their rifles, which combined with their cheese-like hardness means that there's a good chance some will be destroyed in removal. I therefore have hardened replacements on order from VTI Gunparts. After getting the gun apart I also intend to replace the loading gate cover (AKA "ladle") with a stronger, improved one. For now, I have penetrating oil soaking into the screws.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Resources

I ran across this first link yesterday and thought it's worth sharing with the current State of the Union.

Bellingcat's Online Investigation Toolkit - Links to a variety of OSINT tools. If you have a Google account, you can go to File > Make a Copy and save it to your own Google Drive.

And this video is interesting:

Using Skiptracer to Gather License Plate OSINT Data.

(That channel, Null Byte, has a number of interesting videos.)

Scanner stuff:

Radio Reference - Site with information on frequencies, licenses, and discussion.

Broadcastify - Site to stream scanner feeds on your computer or mobile device.

Police Scanner and Radio on Apple App Store.

Police Scanner and Radio on Google Play.

Freescan - Free software to program and control many police scanners. Can also be used to record. I use this with my Uniden Trunktracker IV.

ProScan - Another piece of scanner software.

Chirp - Free software for programming primarily ham radios, but you can use it to easily add other common frequencies like FRS, GMRS, MURS, and NOAA weather to hand held radios like the ever-popular Baofengs.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

ATF Day 060720

Today I took advantage of a beautiful day here in SE PA with temps in the 70s to get some long guns out to the range.

First up was my CZ Scorpion Micro. Legally, it's a pistol, but whatever. I zeroed the Primary Arms red dot at 50 yards and confirmed function with Speer 124 grain Gold Dot JHPs. It's become my primary house gun so I wanted something more effective than ball.

Next up was my Keltec RDB-17. This was the first time I shot it further than 50 yards. Unfortunately, it's shooting a few inches high at 100 yards with the elevation turret on my IOR Valdada bottomed out. However, I may need to tinker with that since it has a bullet drop compensator. I shot it with PPU .223 FMBJ-BT and PPU 5.56mm 75 grain BTHP Match. Compared with my AR-15s accuracy is not impressive, about 3" at 100 yards. Function was fine, though.

One thing I love about the Keltec is that with its bottom ejection, all the brass lands in a nice little pile at your feet.

The last rifle I shot was my Ruger Gunsite Scout with Federal Fusion 150 grain JSP loads. I plan to use this for deer this year.

I only fired 10 shots through the Ruger because for me, .308 Winchester is not fun to shoot from the bench from a ~7.5 pound rifle if all I'm wearing is a t-shirt. It grouped under 2" at 100. I then took six shots at a 200 yard gong about the same size and shape as a man's torso. It was no problem hitting that with every shot.

The scope on the Gunsite Scout is a Leupold VX-2 Intermediate Eye Relief 1.5-4x28mm scout scope. I still vacillate on the scout scope concept. I like how it allows me to have backup irons but optically it's inferior to a conventionally mounted scope, especially if the sun is behind you. I am tempted to replace it with a low power variable mounted over the receiver. E.g., a Burris MTAC 1-4xx24mm with an illuminated reticle. I have a Burris TAC30 on my go-to AR-15 that I like quite a bit.

After getting home, cleaning the guns, and putting them away, I had a bit of Elijah Craig bourbon and a dash of Angostura bitters on the rocks, along with a Baccarat Rothschild cigar.

All in all, a pretty nice day.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Microsoft Office 365 for Mac Hung Updates

Last week I started having a problem with Microsoft Office 365 for Mac crashing when I tried to open one of its apps. I kept getting a message indicating that Outlook (or whatever) would open when an update completed. The app never did.

What was happening was that the Microsoft Office AutoUpdate app kept hanging. Here's what I had to do to fix it:

  1. Close any Office app that happened to be still open.
  2. Kill Microsoft AutoUpdate. You can do this with Activity Monitor or like I did, via the terminal.
    1. Open
    2. Do ps ax | grep Auto to find the PID
    3. Do sudo kill -9 <PID>
  3. Download the latest Microsoft AutoUpdate from here and ran it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

HP Laptop First Impressions

I've been getting back into ham radio lately and have a trip upstate planned for Memorial Day weekend. The two friends I am going with are also hams, so one of the activities we like to do in the evening is off-grid communication practice.

My specific interest is in digital mode communications, which requires either a mobile device or a computer to connect to the radio and run various applications. For field ops in the past I've used an iPad and an MSI Wind netbook. I traded in the iPad a year or two ago and the netbook is ancient at this point (plus has a small 10" screen) so I wanted something better.

My normal computer is an Apple MacBook Pro. However, I am not enthused about bringing a $3,000 laptop into the field, plus it seems like a lot of ham apps are better supported on Windows or Linux.

So, Friday after work I went down to Microcenter and picked up an HP 15-ef1072nr 15.6" laptop running Windows 10 Home for $400. The specs are decent for the price, IMO:

  • Dual-core AMD Ryzen 2.6 GHz CPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon 3 graphics

As expected, the hardware feels a lot cheaper than my MacBook Pro. The Mac's case is machined from billets of aluminum. The HP's case is plastic. The keyboard is mushy but usable. The screen is nowhere near that of the MacBook Pro. Overall, the HP is much lighter than the MBP, which is nice.

Battery life seems good. It was partially charged when I brought it home. I plugged it in while setting everything up but then rant it down to around 10% over the course of several hours with web browsing, YouTube, and email. I repeated that on Saturday and probably got a good 7 hours before it went into battery saver mode.

The huge trackpad on the current MacBook Pros really spoils you and it is missed on the HP.

The HP's space bar is annoying. Pressing it towards the right end doesn't do anything. I tend to press the space bar with my right hand so this is a PITA and hinders typing.

Of course, one of the things I had to do was get Windows updated. Compared with Apple's macOS updates, Windows Updates remains a major PITA with multiple reboots required. Overall, it takes a lot more time.

It has been quite awhile since I used a Windows PC for desktop computing although I ocassionally have to login to a Windows server at work so the UI isn't totally unfamiliar.

Anyway, after cleaning up some of the factory-installed bloatware I loaded a number of utilites to make life easier:

  • Notepad++ (In which I wrote most of this. On Mac, I use BBEdit.)
  • Piriform CCleaner
  • Piriform Speccy
  • Replaced the pre-loaded Office 365 with Office 2019 Pro Plus
  • Visio 2019
  • Google Chrome
  • iCloud for Windows so I can sync bookmarks with my Mac and iPhone
  • nmap
  • Wireshark
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux with Kali Linux installed
  • Signal
  • ZOC terminal

And these ham radio apps:

  • Fldigi
  • JS8Call
  • WSJT-X
  • Chirp (For programming my Icom 7200, Yaesu FT-817ND, and Baofeng HTs)

The two Apple applications I'll miss most when using the HP are Messages and Facetime, neither of which are supported on Windows.

Incidentally, Microcenter limited the number of people in the store at a time, you had to wear a mask, and before going inside you had your hands sprayed with sanitized by an employee. Also, they are not taking cash, only credit or debit cards.

Testing WSPR and a New Laptop

I picked up a cheap HP laptop at Microcenter on Friday to run ham radio apps on in the field. I'd rather not take my $3,000 MacBook Pro camping, plus it's a fact that a lot of ham radio apps are better supported in Windows. Should something bad happen, it'll be a lot easier to swallow with a $400 laptop.

Anyway, today I was configuring the HP to work with my Icom 7200 using Fldigi, JS8Call, and WSJT-X, and tried out transmitting using the latter in WSPR mode. The antenna was my Hawaii EARCH 40-6M end-fed, strung approximately horizontally out to my back fence. This is far from optimal.

I transmitted on WSPR at 50W a few times and checked propagation using WSPR Watch on my iPhone. Not bad.

Along with a couple friends I'm heaing up to Tioga Country next weekend. We're all hams and off-grid operations are on the list of activities. One thing I want to try is a random-length loop antenna using welding wire, connected to my antenna tuner using an LDG 4:1 balun. My friend did this a couple years ago and it worked great, allowing him to check in on a north PA/south NY 160M net.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

ATF Day 050320

Today I went to the range with the primary goal of zeroing the iron (plastic) sights on my Keltec CMR30 .22 WMR autoloader.

The CMR30 is a neat little rifle that weighs 3.8 lbs. unloaded. It fires .22 Magnum ammunition fed from a 30 round magazine located in the pistol grip. The receiver is an aluminum extrusion with Picatinny rails on top and bottom, in front of the trigger guard. The top rail is fitted by the factory with Magpul MBUS sights.

When Keltec announced it several years ago it immediately piqued my interest as a potential PDW that would be very compact, light, and reasonably effective for recoil-sensitive shooters. I finally picked one up last year in trade.

I've had the CMR30 out to a friend's place a couple times. It was in need of zeroing, which I finally did today at my rod and gun club.

I first put it on paper at 25 yards offhand and the fine tuned the zero at 50 from the bench. It's shooting about an inch high at 50 with either CCI 40 grain Maxi Mag FMJs or Federal 50 grain Game Shock JHPs.

I didn't take any pictures of the groups because, frankly they sucked. I attribute this to my not being able to easily focus on the front sight. When shouldered, the front sight is right at the distance where my almost 52 y/o eyes start to lose their ability to focus.

I did bring a Bushnell Trophy red dot with me and intended to mount it after zeroing the irons. Unfortunately, the Bushnell rings are intended for Weaver mounts and weren't compatible with the M1913 Picatinny rail of the CMR30.

After shooting the rifle the last time I field stripped, cleaned, and lubricated it with FP10. In spite of that, I had some reliability issues.

Specifically, on many magazines the second round down had a bolt-over-base failure to feed. Racking the action fed the round into the chamber and the rest of the cartridges fed OK. Keltec recommends using 40 grain or heavier ammo but I don't think the malfunctions were ammo induced. This didn't start happening until after about 50 rounds were down the pipe so I think it was a fouling or lubrication issue.

Another thing I noticed today (and which I experienced before) is that it spits unburned powder grains out of the ejection port. Right handed shooters may not notice this but as a lefty it's a bit annoying. If you're going to shoot one of these portside, glasses are absolutely required.

Both the reliability issues and spitting from the ejection port mean that until they are remedied, I wouldn't rely on the gun for defense.

I'm going to try and come up with some sort of brass and gas deflector.

All told, I put 150 rounds through the CMR30 today.

Aside from the Keltec I also brought along my Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk .357 Magnum. I put a few cylinders full through it at a 25 yard paper target, and some at 50 yard steel. Once I got the elevation figured out I was able to regularly bang a ~12" gong shooting two hands, offhand at 50 yards.

The ammo I shot in the Blackhawk were some of my .38 Special +P handloads, with a 178 grain Keith SWC on top of 5.2 grains of Unique.

After getting home I relaxed out back with a Yuengling Black and Tan beer and a San Cristobal Quintessen cigar.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Got in some shooting and ham radio today

I was able to get to the range today. My rod and gun club remains open and IMNSHO, an outdoor range is the perfect place to engage in some socially distant outdoors activity.

First up was my Uberti Bisley in .44-40. Uberti has taken to putting extra tall front sights on their single actions which is nice, because it allows you to file it to zero because it will almost certainly shoot low, as mine did.

Before leaving the house I used Dillon's online Sight Correction Calculator. First you need to measure your sight radius, then plug in how far off the point of impact is at a particular range. It will then tell you how far you need to move the sights, or in the case of my gun, how much to remove off the front sight to raise the point of impact so it coincides with the point of aim.

Whenever you're zeroing a gun's sights with a file, take it slow. It's easy to remove metal but hard to put it back.

Anyway, I filed the front sight at home and when I got to the range, found that it shot a little high at 25 yards with my handloads with an AM 43-215C 219 grain bullet on top of 7.0 grains of Universal. However, it was dead on with a 200 grain bullet on top of 7.8 grains of Unique. I'm going to leave it as-is.

Now I just need to hit the top of the front sight with some cold blue, and then the back face of it with high-viz green paint.

After shooting the Bisley I moved to the 50 yard line and shot 50 rounds through my Uberti Yellowboy in .38-40. These were black powder handloads consisting of a 180 grain RNFP from, a dental wax lube cookie, and 1.9cc (~30 grains of Swiss 3Fg), and a CCI large pistol primer in Starline brass.

Unfortunately, it's not an accurate load. At all. Groups were about 6" at 50 yards from the bench, which is terrible. I shot the final 30 shots at the steel gongs at 50 yards, hitting more than I missed. I need to bench the 7.8 grains of Unique load I tried last weekend.

On the bright side, cleanup of the black powder load was quick and easy. The bullets I used don't carry a lot of lube but the dental wax cookie seemed to keep the fouling soft. It only took about 10 wet patches until the bore was clean.

After getting home, smoking a Bacarrat Rothschild cigar and drinking a Yuengling Black & Tan, I hoisted my Hawaii EARCHI 40 - 6M end-fed antenna on my 30' Jackite pole to try and join an Arfcom 40m emergency communications drill.

The net was difficult because of the noise floor. After awhile I decided to change over to 40M JS8Call. Per, I'm getting decent propagation into the East Coast and midwest, and have even been heard as far away as Arizona, Portugal, and France.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Thoughts on Picking a .22 Handgun for the Lady of the House

Over on Bushcraft USA, the topic of picking a .22 LR handgun for a member's wife came up. The member's wife is adamant that she doesn't want anything larger than a .22. He was asking for input so I offered these thoughts:

First off, if at all possible get her to a gun store and let her handle a few different guns, to see which one is most comfortable for her. If you can rent some and shoot them, all the better.

Secondly, compact rimfire double action revolvers have hard trigger pulls which makes shooting them accurately much more difficult. This includes S&W J-Frames and Ruger LCRs in .22. (The one LCR I handled in .38 Special had a nice trigger.)
Thirdly, compact DA revolvers in general are tough to shoot well without proper training and a lot of practice. They are often recommended for women because they are small. But between the heavy triggers on the .22s and their general difficulty to shoot accurately -- which is doubly important with a .22 -- they are most often a very poor choice for the ladies, unless they have greater than normal hand strength and are willing to practice a lot.

Compact .22 autoloaders tend to have better triggers and are in general easier to shoot than .22 snubbies. They usually hold more rounds, as well. A good example is the Ruger SR22. I picked one up a couple years ago. My now-15 y/o daughter took to it immediately and shoots it well. It is a DA/SA semiautomatic pistol that uses 10 round magazines. It's very light and has a rail under the dust cover that allows easy mounting of a weapon light or a laser. Mine has been very reliable.

If relying on a .22 for defense ammo is critical for reliability. In my experience, CCI .22 LR is the most reliable. Bulk pack .22s give the most ignition problems. My choice for .22 LR defensive use would be CCI Mini Mag solids, for best reliability and penetration.
Keep the gun clean and properly lubed with particular attention to the firing pin channel, and feed it high quality ammo, and it will serve well for defense.

He also noted that she might consider a Ruger PCC Charger in 9mm, to which I replied:

If for some reason she won't go for the Charger version of the 9mm carbine, Ruger makes the 10/22 Charger. Setup as you suggested and with a Ruger BX-25, 25-round mag, that would make a formidable defensive weapon.

.22 LR is far from ideal as a defensive round but it beats harsh language and provides people who for whatever reason cannot handle a larger cartridge a means of self defense.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Paul Harrell : Top Tips for Pandemic Gun Buyers Video

This video is a good list of tips for people new to gun ownership.

His first tip in particular is especially valuable: Be skeptical of anyone promoting themself as an authority and giving you advice.

NOTE: The video title says that it's a list of 10 tips. It's really 5 plus a bonus. He acknowledged this in a pinned comment.

For what it's worth, I've recently started watching Paul's videos. He is not tacticool but served 20 years in the USMC and US Army as a marksmanship instructor and light infantryman, and was involved in a defensive gun usage in which he survived and the other guy didn't.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

A Simple No-Sew Facemask

I made one of these and used it yesterday when I ran out to Lowe's. I added a paper shop towel in it, since it provides much better filtration than the cotton bandana I used. I also used a couple paper clips to help keep the ends folded in.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Moved Into the Home Office

Yesterday after work I got my home office to the point where I was able to move my workstation there. The walls and trim are painted.

I removed the hutch from my daughter's old desk for more space. I'll be using it for a little while rather than spending more money right now.

Earlier this week I ordered a Steelcase Think chair arrived from Crandall Office Furniture. This is the same model that I've had at work since around 2008. For me, it's the most comfortable office chair I've ever used. The one I got is a refurb but it looks new. Some of the plastic parts even appeared to have been Armor Alled.

Tearing up the carpet and padding was a major pain. The worst part was pulling all the staples, which meant I had to be on the floor with a pair of pliers. The hardwood floor looks even worse than I remembered. It appears that the original owner of the house used different sections for trying out different stains. It looks like CRAP.

So, yesterday, I ordered an Oriental rug from Home Depot. It should arrive early next week.

Next up is to get a couple of shelves in the closet, a wall bumper for the doorknob, and some shelves for the wall. I'll also be moving a cabinet up from downstairs and eventually a bookcase or two.

In the new office I'm only about 20 feet from my Wifi router, but I don't yet have the ability to connect via Ethernet as I did downstairs. Everything else being equal, a hard connection is going to be better -- more reliable and faster -- than Wifi. I need to scrounge around in the midden to see if I have any CAT5 left and then I'll look into running an Ethernet drop.

The room is currently very sparse but it is a refreshing change from the laundry room.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

More Progress on the Home Office

Today I made more progress on the home office remodel.

The first thing I tackled today was sanding the spackling. I used a 3M N95 mask that was stored with my painting stuff and my nose is still a little sore from wearing it for maybe 20 minutes. It would suck to have to wear one on the regular.

After that I got the first coat of paint on. It looks like two will be fine. I'll do the second coat tomorrow after work, and the trim on Tuesday.

I should be able to move in by the end of the week, even though it won't be complete. I.e., it will still need shelves.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Progress on the Home Office

I made it out to Lowe's today to pick up paint, etc. so I can redo my old/new home office. They had a box of shop towels and also cleaning wipes by the carts, which I availed myself of. They had sneeze guards up between cashiers and customers. Everyone seemed to maintain social distancing.

After I got home we got most of my daughter's crap cleaned out and I was able to spackle where needed and got some primer on the trim. Hopefully, the paint I got won't take more than two coats to cover the previous paint -- light blue with one wall painted orange. (I call this decor scheme "eyesore.") I'm going with a light tan.

Did I mention that I hate painting?

After I'm done painting I'll be tearing up the pink rug. There's a hardwood floor underneath but I forget what it looks like. The previous owner of my house had painted the hardwood floor in our living and dining rooms with 4 coats of white paint. Stripping that was a bitch. IIRC, in my office there's some stain on it. I'm planning on an area rug.

I've decided to keep her old desk temporarily but I'll remove the hutch on top of it for more space. I figure once we're done with the Kung Flu I can pick a more permanent solution. My main goal now is to get the room usable and get her settled into the den.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Home Office Renovation

My 15 y/o daughter asked last month if she could move from her room upstairs to our den. We live in a 3 BR, 2.5 bath split-level. The den doesn't get used too much by anyone else and being the youngest, she has the smallest bedroom. My wife and I agreed but we were planning on waiting a bit before starting the project.

Yesterday, waiting went out the window. Today is the last day of my second full week of working from home and I could really use more space.

We pulled the old sectional sofa out of the den and put it out back under a couple tarps until we can dispose of it. We also gave away her old bed (maintaining proper social distancing) My wife ordered her a loft bed for downstairs.

I'm looking forward to getting her moved downstairs because it means that I can reclaim her bedroom, which used to be my home office. For the past several years I've been using a corner desk in our laundry room. It lacks surface area, so I can use only one monitor. I'm looking at buying or building an L-shaped desk with enough space for me to use my 27" monitor, have my laptop open next to it, and still have room for a ham radio or two.

Speaking of which, I'll have to reroute the feed lines to two antennas that are up on the roof, but it will be worth it because they will be significantly shorter. Ergo, less loss.

Aside from more desk space it will get me out of the coldest corner in the house, which will be a relief when next Fall rolls around.

Overall, this is a good project to undertake while we wait for COVID-19 to peter out.

Friday, March 13, 2020

7.62x39 AR-15 Range Report

Last month I posted about the AR-15 I put together in 7.62x39. Since then I've had the chance to shoot it a little, 40 rounds a couple weeks ago, and 20 rounds today.

Recoil of the rifle is noticeably more than a similar-weight AR-15 in 5.56mm. That's not to say it's punishing, however. Note that I replaced the standard-weight buffer that came with the AR-Stoner kit with an H3 buffer, and I'm glad I did.

The ammo I've shot in it so far has been Golden Tiger. It's weird smelling Russian 7.62x39 ammo fumes from an AR-15.

Today I mounted a Holosun HS-515C dot sight on it. I'd bought this RDS last year to mount on my CZ Scorpion Micro but decided it was too big for that gun, so it was sitting unusage. It goes well on a flat top AR-15 carbine.

(I took the picture at home after cleaning the rifle.)

Given the ballistics and most likely use of this rifle, a non-magnified optic makes a lot of sense.

I zeroed the sight at 50 yards. Initially it shot about 8" high although windage was dead on. I shortly had it zeroed and the rifle grouping into about 2".

The rifle only has 60 rounds through it but no hiccups so far.

Yellowboy Range Report

I took some time off today and got the chance to shoot my new Yellowboy rifle this afternoon.

Function was 100% with cowboy action shooting loads from Black Hills and Ultramax. Accuracy with them was poor. I expected this based on my prior experience with factory CAS .44 WCF ammo in my Henry and 1873.

The Ultramax actually shot a little better than the Black Hills loads.

I'm not sure if the commercial manufacturers use bullets that are too hard for optimum accuracy, or if they dont' shoot all that well since they are downloaded. In the case of .44-40, Black Hills uses bullets that are too small to shoot well in modern Uberti barrels (.427 vs. .429). Anyway, I get groups with BH .44 WCF like the one shown above, but the same rifle with group into 2" with my handloads.

On the other hand, function was very rough using some black powder handloads I had put together using an original 19th Century Ideal tong tool, with bullets cast in that tool's integrated mold. I loaded these a couple years ago intending to shoot them in my Winchester 1892, but never got the chance to before that rifle was stolen.

Anyway, the cartridge OAL wasn't correct on all of them so several times the action bound up, requiring excessive force to function. If I don't pull the remainder of them I'll load them singly. However, accuracy flat out sucked with those rounds so they'll probably just get pulled, rather than wasting components.

I'm planning to break in the Accurate 40-180E mold this weekend. I expect the rifle to shoot well with bullets cast in it.

The other thing hurting accuracy today was the rifle's trigger pull. While crisp, it's far too heavy, probably around 10 lbs. I'm going to look into some careful work with some slip stones to see if I can't get that down to an acceptable level (4 to 5 lbs. would be ideal).

Finally, I wanted to post this picture of a fired case next to a complete .38-40 cartridge. As you can see, the fired case is very much blown out. This is typical with guns chambered in .38-40. For some reason the specs for unfired cases are much smaller than the chambers. This results in a situation much like that seen with Lee-Enfields in .303 British.

In the case of the Lee-Enfield it was designed to allow military rifles to function with dirty or corroded ammo on a battlefield, but nobody seems to know why it's the case with .38-40.

New Uberti 1866 Yellowboy Sporting Rifle

After work on Wednesday I stopped at my local FFL and picked up an Uberti Model 1866 "Winchester" Sporting Rifle that I'd ordered from Dixie Gun Works.

The original 1866 was the first rifle to bear the Winchester name. Prior to its introduction, the company had been known as the New Haven Arms Company, known for manufacturing the 1860 Henry Rifle. Like the Henry, the 1866 was chambered for the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge.

The '66 was catalogued by Winchester all the way up to 1898 or '99, long after the introduction of its successor, the 1873. It was a bit cheaper and as long as it kept selling, Winchester kept it in the catalog. For a lot of folks in the late 19th Century, the 1866 was good enough even though its .44 rimfire round was less powerful than .44-40.

During the 1860s the Model 1866 was evaluated by the Swiss military, but ultimately not adopted due primarily to "not invented here" syndrome. Six thousand were sold to France for use in the Franco-Prussian War, and they were famously used by the Ottoman Turks against the Russians at the Siege of Plevna in 1877.

The .44 Henry cartridge pushed a 200 grain bullet to around 1100 feet per second, which is nothing to sneeze at for a defensive cartridge. It also worked ok for deer hunting at close range with careful shot placement.

Incidentally, modern Winchester Super-X .44-40 ammo is loaded to .44 Henry ballistics. Several years ago I chronographed Black Hills .44-40 cowboy action shooting ammo from my 1873 Sporting Rifle's 24.25" barrel at about the same velocity. (My full power .44-40 black powder handloads average over 1300 FPS.)

.44 Henry rimfire hasn't been manufactured since the 1930s, so modern reproductions of the Henry and 1866 are chambered for other rounds. Most commonly, these a .44-40, .45 Colt, .38 Special, and .22 LR. Some are made in .44 Special or .32-20, while the one I got is chambered for .38-40 Winchester.

At first, 1866 was known as the "Improved Henry", and like the earlier rifle had a receiver made from bronze. The replicas use brass. Bronze is stronger but brass will work fine with black powder pressure loads.

Like the Henry and later Winchester 1873 and 1876, the 1866 uses a toggle locking system. Compared with the Winchester 1886 or 1892 it isn't as strong, but it is strong enough for the cartridges for which it's chambered.

I generally prefer the toggle locked rifles over the stronger, 1886 and '92 for a few reasons:

  • They are smoother and can be run faster. The top shooters in cowboy action shooting all use tuned up 1866s or 1873.
  • They are simpler and easier to work on.
  • They have a controlled round feed, due to the cartridge being enclosed within the carrier block before it's fed into the chamber.

The downsides are that as mentioned above, they aren't as strong, and also that they are bulkier and heavier.

So why did I get this 1866 in .38-40 instead of .44-40 like I already shoot in my Henry or 1873? Mainly for something different. I was already setup for .38-40 from the Winchester 1892 that I had that was stolen. I had a bunch of brass, some ammo and components, and reloading dies laying around with no use for them until I got this rifle.

The Uberti 1866 is beautifully finished and due to the smaller bore, a bit heavier than my 1873.

After I ordered the rifle, I ordered a 40-180E bullet mold from Accurate Molds. It arrived yesterday and I hope to break it in this weekend. AM builds these to order and it took only 11 days from the time I placed the order until it arrived. Not bad at all!

I am hoping that will a full load of Swiss 3Fg it will drive the ~180 grain slug to about 1200 FPS from the Yellowboy's 24.25" barrel.

Range report to follow.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Winchester 1873 and M1911 at 2020 Desert Brutality 2-Gun Match

InRangeTV has a couple videos up showing Karl Kasarda's use of an Uberti 1873 Winchester Sporting Rifle and a 1911 in the 2020 Desert Brutality 2-gun match. They are fun, interesting videos which demonstrate what these old guns (especially the '73) can do.

Day 1:

Day 2:


The videos do a good job of how to run a levergun in a fight. If you're not shooting, make sure your gun is topped off.

Karl's rifle is chambered for .45 Colt, which is not authentic for original Winchesters but he does address that. He makes sure to note that his cartridges are loaded to duplicate original .44 WCF ballistics at the muzzle.

In the first video he mentioned that he secured the sling to the butt with hobnails. I have the same sling and used in when deer hunting 2018 with my Cimarron 1873. It wasn't all that secure, but it's a Leatherman sling intended for use on muzzleloaders. Last year I found a better option in a universal sling from October Country, which is securely laced to the stock and more easily adjustable.

Karl also mentions more than once the problems he had with powder fouling in the bore hurting accuracy. His handloads used a lead bullet on top of Black Horn 209 BP substitute. How much fouling BH209 generates in comparison to real black powder I can't say.

Based on my experience shooting my .44 WCF black powder handloads, he would have been better off with a different bullet that carries more lube. I've fired up to 100 rounds through my Cimarron/Uberti 1873 Sporting Rifle in one session with no loss of accuracy, because I was shooting bullets cast in an Accurate Molds 43-15C mold. That bullet carries a lot of lube; John Kort designed it to prevent 24" barreled rifles from fouling out when using Goex black powder. After that long shooting session it only needed about 9 or 10 wet patches to get the bore clean.

As an aside, Goex black powder is pretty darn filthy. Swiss BP is a lot more expensive but is much cleaner burning and more energetic. Goex Olde Eynsford is cheaper than Swiss but almost as good.

My rifle launches the 219 grain 43-215C bullet at over 1300 FPS when loaded on 2.2cc (~35 grains) of Swiss 3Fg, measured with a chronograph.

For my environment -- SE PA -- my Cimarron 1873 in .44-40 WCF is powerful enough to handle anything that needs shooting. It's not legal to hunt big game with a semiauto rifle in PA. The rifle fits me perfectly, almost as if it was designed for me. It's the absolute last rifle I'd ever sell.

COVID-19 Coronavirus Heat Map Dashboard

Johns Hopkins put out this heat map dashboard tracking the global outbreak. It's worth a look.


Saturday, February 22, 2020

AR-15 in 7.62x39

Today I finished building my first AR-15 that isn't chambered for 5.56x45mm. It was time for something different.

While I find the 6.5 Grendel to be very interesting, I didn't want to get into a new caliber at this time, so this one is in 7.62x39. I've maintained a good stash of that caliber since before I got into ARs, starting when I bought a Chinese SKS in 1988.

I used the following parts:

The enhanced firing pin is to improve reliability with foreign ammo with hard primers, while the bolt from BRA is supposedly higher quality. One thing 7.62x39 ARs have the reputation for is breaking bolts. I'm hoping to avoid that but in case it happens, I'll have a spare ready to go.

First impressions of the AR-STONER kit were good, except for the poor staking of the carrier key to the bolt carrier, so I restaked the screws.

Here's the assembled carbine on my messy workbench:

And a close up of the receiver. It's my first AR with a graphic on it:

I would have finished it last weekend but managed to shoot a detent spring into the unknown. To complete the rifle I had to wait for an order containing spare detents and springs to arrive from Brownells.

It will be interesting to see what the recoil impulse of an AR-15 in 7.62x39 feels like compared with an SKS, AK, or VZ-2008.

I really hope that eventually Pennsylvania will legalize semiauto rifles for big game hunting. We got semiautos legalized for small game and varmints so hopefully after another year or two the PA Game Commission will realize that it hasn't caused the sky to fall and they'll let us use them for deer. This would make a fine rifle for the ranges encountered in most of PA.

I should be able to put a few rounds through it tomorrow, after which I'll post a follow up report.

Video: Guns Rights Supporters Must Speak Up

Monday, January 20, 2020

Range Day, and Presbyopia Sucks

I was off today and went to the range with three wheelguns:

  • H&R Model 733 in .32 S&W Long, with a 2.5" barrel
  • Ruger GP100 in .38 Special, with a 4" barrel
  • Uberti Bisley in .44 WCF, with a 5.5" barrel
Under the florescent lighting, I had a hard time seeing the front sight of the H&R and even the Ruger. When shooting both outside I had better luck being able to see their front sights but today, the H&R's was all but invisible. I have the H&R's front sight painted white but it just disappeared in the range lighting today. I'm going to try hitting both with some hi-viz green to see if that helps.

One of the reasons I ordered the Uberti with a 5.5" barrel was because I thought it might be easier to see the front sight compared with a 4.75" barrel. It was the one gun I shot today with which I didn't have difficulties.

Yay, middle-age.

In other news, I shot some more rounds from the box of .44 WCF handloads I'd put together with 7.0 grains of Hodgdon Universal under a 200 grain RNFP Desperado Cowboy Bullets. Grouping was OK but I had two squibs that blooped the bullet out of the barrel but were definitely underpowered. In both cases the barrel had a lot of unburned powder left in the bore. I'm going to pull down the rest of those rounds.

The only possible causes I can think of are (a) bad primers, or (b) contamination of the powder charge by my case lube. I degreased the cases after resizing but I'm wondering if I didn't do good enough of a job, and the powder was damaged in those rounds.

Even with the aggravation it beat going to work!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Loaded some .44-40 for the Bisley

This afternoon I took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to spend some time out in my shop and load up another box of ammo to try in the Uberti Bisley. I used once-fired Starline brass from last night with the same powder charge, 7.0 grains of Hodgdon Universal. However, this time I used my home-cast bullets from the Accurate 43-215C mold.

It will be interesting to see if the heavier bullet affects the point of impact. I'm expecting it to be a bit higher. (At close range, handguns tend to have a lower POI with lighter projectiles, because they recoil less and thus the muzzle flip is less when the bullet leaves the barrel.)

Another thing that will be of interest is how well my homebrewed lube of 50/50 beeswax/mutton tallow works with smokeless powder. It works very well with black powder.

I also want to try this bullet with 8.0 grains of Universal, and 8.0 grains of Unique. I recently bought an 8 pound jug of Unique so I am hoping that it'll work well in the Bisley.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Uberti 1873 Bisley .44-40

This week I took delivery of an Uberti 1873 Bisley with 5.5" chambered for .44-40 WCF. I ordered it from Dixie Gun Works and had it shipped to a local FFL who handled the transfer for $30.

The fit and finish is very nice although I am not 100% thrilled with the varnish finish on the grips. I may strip them and finish them with Watco Danish Oil.

I didn't test the trigger with a gauge but it's crisp, and I'm guessing it's around 3 pounds, with hardly any creep.

The piece has Uberti's Cattleman II-type lockwork which includes a transfer bar and retracting firing pin, which allows it to be safely carried with all six chambers loaded.

Tonight I took it to the range with my father and brother. We shot three different loads:

1. Black Hills 200 grain CAS loads.
2. Handloads with 200 grain bullets from Desperado Cowboy Bullets on top of 7.0 grains of Hodgdon Universal powder.
3. Handloads with 219 grain bullets cast in an Accurate Molds 43-215C mold, on top of 1.9cc (~28 t0 30 grains) of Goex 3Fg plus 0.5cc of cornmeal filler. I'd put these together to mimic the ballistics of the .44 Henry Flat round, to shoot in my Cimarron 1860 Henry.

Even though the black powder load is a reduced load for .44 WCF, it had quite a bit more recoil than the smokeless loads, although it wasn't painful.

Some target pics:

I'm quite pleased with the accuracy. As you can see, it's shooting low. This was expected because several years ago Uberti started putting taller front sights on their revolvers. This allows the owner to zero it for elevation with his preferred load. Once I settle on a load I'll probably zero the piece for 25 yards.

This is my first Bisley-style revolver and I can say now that I am a fan. I found it to handle recoil very well.

I'm really happy with the revolver and look forward to putting a lot more rounds downrange with it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Harrington and Richardson 733 Range Report

Today I got to shoot the Harrington and Richardson 733 .32 S&W Long revolver I bought a couple of weeks ago.

As mentioned in my last post, a range report was delayed because I had to replace the original hammer spring/strut assembly with a plastic part that shattered. The replacement with a metal part on it dropped right it and the gun functions as it should now.

I went shooting on a friend's property with three other people and was able to put 30 rounds through the gun at an 8" gong. From about 10 yards I hit the gun if I didn't yank the trigger. The double action pull is pretty stiff, but smooth. The single action pull is quite a bit lighter. The front sight is a narrow blade, nickel plated like the rest of the gun. I'd painted it with some white out ahead of time so I could see it.

The ammo I used was Prvi Partizan (PPU) .32 S&W Long with 98 LRN bullets. They claim a muzzle velocity of 787 FPS from a 6" barrel on their website (figures converted from metric). Out of the H&R's 2.5" it's probably making about 650 FPS. All rounds functioned as expected except for the very first shot, which gave me the first problem I've experienced with PPU ammo (and I've shot a lot of 5.56x45 and 7.63x25 from them). That round required three hits before going off.

Recoil was very mild, as expected. The H&R has small grips so in a harder recoiling round it would be unpleasant to shoot, but not with .32 S&W Long.

I don't anticipate putting high round counts through the gun but between it and my Ruger Single Six Vaquero in .32 H&R Mag, I'll probably setup for reloading .32 wadcutter ammo.

Fro the about $160 I have into the gun, I consider it well spent.