Monday, April 30, 2018

A short survey of a rather long list

After I got off work this morning (last week of the p/t winter job, yay!) I was feeling particularly lethargic. Not tired, really, but kinda blah. Not much energy or enthusiasm. Yes, I'd been up all night, on my feet, cleaning and retailing. But I slept good yesterday, I didn't work very hard at all last night, and there's usually a lot more juice in the tank come 7 a.m.

What was the problem? I don't know, but I suspect a lot of it was in my mind. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I was feeling a bit resentful at my winter job for keeping me from enjoying the lovely spring weather -- and in particular -- from getting in the kind of workout I've been hungering for.

There's some pretty muddled thinking there, but there always is when it comes to resentment. "I need to get some rest so I can be up for working tonight, therefore I can't fix any fence or get in a hike today because that's not rest." The first part of that equation is sound, but the second part is not. You just don't need (and I can't even pull off) 16 hours of uninterrupted sleep in order to pull an eight-hour overnight shift. Is it even possible to fit something I want to do into those non-sleeping hours? The world wonders...

So why was I thinking my job was a big poopy-head meanie keeping me from doing anything fun and enjoyable?

Shit, I don't know. Sometimes I'm surprised I can dress myself.

One of the things (from the rather long list) that I take for granted is my Liberty. I am a grown-ass man, and I get to make my own choices. That's due in small part to things I have done to put myself in a situation where I have a lot of viable choices. But it's mostly due to the fact that I chose (ha!) to be born in a place where the First Principle was the first principle published by our nascent nation; where I am officially equal to all other human beings and where Liberty is codified as my unalienable right, granted not by the government or by my fellow humans but by my creator.

Yeah, I take that one for granted all the time.

So there I was this morning, all lethargic and whiny, but also suddenly and unexpectedly aware that I had choices to make because I bloody well have the unalienable natural right to make choices. Yeah! Firetruckin'-A! Choices! 'Merika!

So Nona the Wonder Dog and I went for a three-mile (2.81) walk. It wasn't an exercise walk, more of a leisurely amble with plenty of ball throwing on my part and ball retrieving on Nona's part. Took about an hour.

It did reveal through sore and tired muscles that I'm not in very good hiking shape at all. Doing the cornvenience store shuffle over the winter was better than sitting on my ass eating bon-bons and watching Oprah, but it wasn't anything like keeping in shape.

I weighed myself after the walk and the scale groaned and revealed that I'd gained 45 lbs over the winter. Yikes! Of course that's 65 lbs less than I weighed after the previous winter's bout with bone infection and surgery. That's a plus, but I really need to get off the dime, lose some lard, and get back in proper shape.

Which brings us to the second thing I take for granted -- my good health. Because of the overall excellent health the Lord has seen fit to bestow upon me, I have no doubt whatsoever that I can shed pounds and regain a level of fitness that stands well above that of most people in my age cohort. I take my good health so much for granted that I think nothing (or very little) of larding it up over the winter. There are countless people who would give or do anything to have good health like mine, because they have poor health and no possibility of ever attaining what I routinely take for granted. Kinda shameful, no?

After the three-mile (2.81) walk Nona and I went out to the ranch so she could caper and gambol and so I could treat Jeter and Red for ticks. I took a big North American Dog Tick nymph off of Jeter last evening.

That was just before I spent a few delightful minutes watching a PT-19 doing pattern work as sunset approached.

When I got home after treating for ticks it was still too early to hit the rack. I felt pleasantly tired after the morning walk, but I also had a hankering to go back out, enjoy the lovely weather, and get in some actual exercise. So I did. I went 4.1 miles in an hour, so my pace was 25 percent faster.

I also charged a steep hill five consecutive times. It's only 0.2 miles up the hill but it's got a progressive slope that starts at about 5 degrees and ends at about 40 degrees, so it's a good one for making the ol' ticker pound and the ol' lungs move lots of air.
Five times!

As I cooled down over the last half-mile I happened to notice a couple of people who do not enjoy robust good health. Good food for thought. Now it's off to bed, followed by a night of cornvenience store delight.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Range running

Really pretty day today and the first really nice weather of the season.

I took the opportunity to go for a bloody hard prairie hike and finish up with some range work.

It's been a long winter, and despite the fact that I spent 40 hours/week on my feet at the cornvenience store, mostly cleaning like a firetrucking white (yes, I are a racist and all the other ists too) tornado, I also spent too much time on by backside and enjoyed too many fine meals. So while my muscles remain strong my wind and endurance are sadly lacking.

Four-and-a-half miles with rifle, chest rig, and 240 rounds in eight mags was a very very hard task. The good thing, I guess, was that as hard as I pushed I only got my heart rate up to 160. I could have pushed a lot harder and really given the old ticker a bloody good gallop, but I didn't want to make myself miserable or even crap out before the finish line. So, you know, pretty good first workout of the season, at least for an old fat guy.

At the end of the hike I did some shooting; 200 and 400 yards, prone, sandbag rest. It's a good challenge to shoot when physically stressed. You really have to concentrate on fundamentals if you want to shoot with accuracy, and when you're tired and sore and breathing heavily and your heart is tripping along at 150-160, tiny little fundamental details are the only difference between hitting and making expensive noise.

The rifle I was shooting is my shorty AR in 5.56x45 NATO. Technically it's a pistol with a 10" barrel and an arm brace, but for all practical purposes it's a short carbine. It's a good shooter and I was running some very good ammo. The combination of rifle and ammo will shoot 2 MOA (2 inches at 100 yards, 4 inches at 200 yards, etc.) easily and I've proven that from the bench. So today, with a properly zeroed optic, I could expect 4 inch groups at 200 and 8 inch groups at 400. As long as I could do my marksman imitation properly!

To help me with that whole human interface part, I set up the camera and shot some video. It's a good technique to help you spot little (or big!) flaws in shooting technique. At 200 yards I managed 5.5 inch groups. Not bad, but there's plenty of room for improvement.

At 400 yards I was 15 inches high and 10 inches right. The group itself wasn't terrible, about 10 inches, but why the firetruck was it shooting way the hell and gone high and right? A real head-scratcher. Until I looked at the video.

And that, boys and girls, is why we train. Who can spot the problem? Free one-year subscription to the blog to the first five correct callers.

Being smart enough to realize that you're really pretty rock-headed stupid can be a real advantage.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Because they don't make a forty-six

"Please Br'er Fat Boy, don't throw me in them briar patch!"

Winter is trying to hold on, but spring is winning out.

Fringed Sagewort

Snow melting from decaying yucca

There's an old funny in shooting circles, and this is the way I heard it first.

"Why do you carry a forty-five?"

"Because they don't make a forty-six."

There's a lot of Fudd-lore and common-nonsense out there when it comes to the "best" handgun caliber. I suspect the argument began with the Chinese more than 2,000 years ago. It's a stupid argument because there are too many variables to narrow down an answer to a single caliber. It depends on what you intend to use the gun for. Under what circumstances and conditions. On how well you can shoot it. On weight and bulk and price and personal preference.

The hoary old story of the forty-five goes back to the 1890's and early 1900's, when U.S. soldiers found that they weren't getting close-range stops against Moro tribesmen in the Philippines with their issue .38 S&W revolvers. They could shoot a Moro six times with the .38, which would cause mortal wounds, but the fellow would not expire before he could close with and fatally stab the American soldier. The U.S. Army brought some old Colt .45's out of retirement and the hogleg had enough pop and terminal performance to get those close-range, one or two shot stops.

According to the theory which followed from the Philippine experience, the bigger the caliber the more effective the stop. There's some truth to that, but there are a lot of factors to consider, and as it turns out there's a lot more to it than bullet diameter.

I'm not going to go into any more detail, because I'm not even writing about a handgun today. Personally, I carry and rely on the .40 S&W, but that's fodder for a different day.

Today I'm talking about the .458 SOCOM. I have an AR-15 chambered for that round and it's fun (albeit expensive) to shoot.

The .458 SOCOM came out of a U.S. Special Operations Command (therefore SOCOM) project intended to get, you guessed it, more reliable one-shot stops. An analysis of combat in Mogadishu showed that U.S. M-16's chambered in 5.56 NATO weren't getting reliable stops. SOCOM wanted a large caliber, relatively high velocity cartridge pushing a heavy bullet, and they wanted it to fit into the basic AR (Nee M-16/M-4) platform. One of the results was the .458 SOCOM.

When it comes to close-range, one-shot stopping power, the .458 SOCOM is superior to the 5.56 NATO. The .458 pushes a 300 grain bullet to about 1,900 fps and generates about 2,400 ft/lb of energy. The 5.56 pushes a 62 grain bullet to about 2,800 fps and generates about 1,300 ft/lb of energy. Clearly, the .458 puts a lot more wallop into the target per shot.

So why haven't we gone whole hog and converted to the .458 SOCOM? There are a lot of reasons, actually. The .458 is harder to shoot accurately because it has a rainbow trajectory. The 5.56 will hit within 6 inches of point of aim out to 300 yards, while the .458 drops roughly 3 feet (36 inches) at 300 yards. The .458 ammo is heavier, so you can't carry as much, and bulkier, so you can't load as many rounds per magazine. Also, you can put an equal quantity of energy int the target by firing two 5.56 rounds, so in some sense you can achieve the same goal by adjusting training and doctrine rather than by introducing a new cartridge and teaching everyone how to shoot it out past 100 yards. Furthermore, new and better 5.56 bullets continue to be developed.

There are other reasons, but I've touched on the main ones. There's nothing wrong with the .458 SOCOM, it's just that it doesn't bring enough advantages to the table over the 5.56 to be widely issued.

In this part of the world, where the horizons are far and the trees are few, the .458 with its rainbow trajectory is far from ideal. That said, estimating ranges and aim-off to get hits is a challenge and very enjoyable. The big pop of that cartridge and the unusually heavy recoil (compared to the 5.56) is fun, too, and if you can figure out how to hit with it there's no denying the massive wallop you can put on a target. So it's not ideal but it's fun and challenging, so I like to take it out and shoot it.

Today I put a cheap Barska 4-power carry handle scope on the .458 and sighted it in. I was pleased with the way it shot.
100 yards, sandbag rest on pickup hood.

And the way it handles enemy melons.

300gr copper solid (extreme penetrator)

300gr jhp

Nebraska won today, 49-9. On the other hand, they lost, too, 9-49. Spring game sellout.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The loneliest rifle

After last week's storm had passed and the state department of roads democratic socialist workers union secured triple-doubletime pay ensured conditions were safe enough for crews to plow light snow on a warming and sunny blue-sky spring day...

I fired up the Lincoln and headed northwest for Guernsey, Wyoming.

I suspect I'll write about why last weekend and why Guernsey, but this is not that.

Guernsey is hard by the North Platte River, not far downstream from Guernsey Dam, which itself isn't far from the headwaters of the river.

The river is low in the winter and early spring before snow pack begins to melt.

The UP Railroad follows right along the old Oregon Trail.

Pretty country, no?

Precipitation -- largely in the form of snow pack -- flows off of the east side of the Rockies to form the North Platte. The water flows downhill to join the South Platte and become simply the Platte River, which flows across Nebraska and into the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi, and, eventually, into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Guernsey area was an important stop along the various trails pioneers took moving west, chiefly the Oregon Trail.

The Pony Express had a route station there, too.

A favorite stopping/camping place was Sand Point/Register Cliff.

When I was a lad of 16, and to my everlasting shame, I carved my initials in that cliff. Today it looks like my initials have been obliterated by the work of a later generation of dickheads. It's now a crime to mar the cliff, and the practice seems to have stopped.

In 1932 the people of Guernsey commemorated the pioneers by erecting a number of monuments, at the city park in town and out by Sand Point and Register Cliff. This one is in town, close to the visitor's center/museum.
To all pioneers who passed this way to win and hold the West, Trail and Register Cliff one mile south, erected by the people of Guernsey 1932.

Oregon Trail

Pony Express

I've no idea.
A saber and the outline of what might have been a rifle.
Which brings us to the title of this post and the curiosity I've decided to call The Loneliest Rifle. For on the other side of this plinth...

Fortunately, the serial number was legible.
Waffenfabrik Bern 121249

When I chased that down (yay, internet!) I found that the rifle is quite likely a Swiss Vetterli 1869/71. These rifles are pretty interesting. Fascinating, actually. They were really the first breech-loading, magazine-fed, bolt-action, metallic cartridge military rifles.

How exactly the rifle came to be in Guernsey and become affixed to the plinth I do not know. The museum wasn't open, and the few folks I asked had no idea. America is a nation of Immigrants, though, so it shouldn't be terribly surprising that such a rifle would find it's way to Wyoming.

Part of me cringes to see the rifle in this condition. It's not my place to judge, however, what the people of Guernsey did in 1932, nor what they have done in the intervening 88 years. And I do have to thank them for providing me with a mystery, even though I defaced their cliff back in the day, which has been quite enjoyable to explore.

Friday, April 13, 2018


And stuff.
As the storm faded this evening. In the morning I'll be travelling to Guernsey, Wyoming for a conference. That's smack in the middle of the colorful patch just below the "la" in "Wheatland." I expect the color to be gone by then.

Bit of a winter storm here today. According to the NWS, it was THIS CLOSE!!! to a blizzard. It had all the elements. Snow! Cold! Wind! But, gosh darn it, it wasn't snowy enough or cold enough or windy enough to be, well, an actual blizzard. A good analogy is this. The Nebraska Cornhuskers were THIS CLOSE!!! to being National Champions last year. They had a team! They had opponents! They played games! But, gosh darn it, they lost a lot of games to mediocre teams and didn't even qualify for a bowl game, and that's not close enough to be, well, actual champions. So yeah, it was almost a blizzard and we were almost undisputed national champs. And all like that.

Nevertheless, Nebraska played its games and they were no-shit division-one games, with plenty of smash-mouth and excitement and good solid effort.

Likewise, We did have a solid winter storm today, and my snarkiness aside, it was nothing to laugh about. It would have killed an unsheltered and typically asinine 2018 model human-type 'merkin in less than an hour. There was a lot of fury in that storm. It was magnificent, as such storms are. We got about 5-6 inches of wet snow on a day where the temperature hovered right around the freezing mark, and that snow was driven by northwest winds that averaged 30 mph all day with gusts that averaged 45 mph and touched 60 mph more than a few times.



There's a Muley doe and two fawns bedded down in that thicket to the left of the Juniper. :)



Awe inspiring

(.40 S&W Federal 180gr HST/25 yards/SIG P229C 3.75"bbl)

(5.56mm Hornady Black 77gr SBR BTPS/200 yards/AutoLok AL15 10"bbl (1/7twist))

(5.56x45mm 62gr Federal Mk318 SBR BTOTM/200 yards/AutoLok AL15 10"bbl (1/7twist))

In a few hours I'll get up, coffee up, fire up the Lincoln, and tool on up and over to Guernsey. The two-day rangeland conference should be filled with valuable information for my continuing and new ranch endeavors.

On a sad note, my brother's mother-in-law passed early this morning. Seemingly hale and hearty yesterday, she had a sudden onset of belly pain last night and underwent surgery just after midnight. No need to go into a lot of medical details, but they were unable to control her bleeding and she expired in the ICU a couple of hours later. The family was present when she passed, and though it's a terrible blow they'll someday be glad that they were there when Char departed for her next adventure.