Economic Personal Armory

I mused a bit of a thought experiment with Jennifer over the weekend. When we purchased the vast majority of our guns, we were cumulatively making fairly decent money. We weren’t at all wealthy, but we had the bills paid off and there was enough left over to play. As such, each of our first guns were revolvers out of Smith & Wesson’s custom shop. Indeed, we invested in some very nice defensive and sporting pieces. It’s no secret that things have been significantly tighter over the last few years. I posited that if we started now instead of then, our accumulation of arms would look significantly different. I thought that this was interesting enough to write up here. The three major defensive/utility gun configurations are commonly accepted as the handgun, either semi-automatic or revolver; a repeating rifle, usually in a carbine length, and a repeating shotgun, usually with a barrel length between 18 and 22 inches. In a life or death fight, we use our handguns to get to our long guns. If the fight is a close-range one, use the shotgun. If there’s some distance in the fight, use your rifle. Rule one in a gun fight is have a gun. A hand gun is the gun you have on you, and is therefore the beginning of the conversation.

When I made the decision to carry concealed, I decided that my 6.5-inch .44 Mag with factory hand engraving was ill-suited to the task. So, I picked out a S&W 586L-Comp as my carry piece. Since I tend to be an ambidextrous shooter, I bought a second 586L-Comp to carry as a backup, in a mirrored holster. Were I to arm up today, there is no way that I’d purchase a matched pair of Performance Center revolvers for concealed carry. That much money can be spread over entirely too many bills and debts for that. I did wind up with a M&P45c for daily carry, but I’d likely go with something more economical than that even. I’d more than likely pick up a used Glock 22 or 23. Jennifer asked me, “why .40?” This is an excellent question, as we don’t have anything in the house chambered in .40S&W. The primary reason we don’t, is that we have 9mms and .45ACPs. No matter how careless you (or your guests) are, you will never get a 9mm cartridge chambered in a .45. There are things one caliber is good at that the other isn’t, but there’s not a whole lot you can do with .40 that you can’t with either 9mm or .45ACP. However, if you could only have one gun, .40S&W is a longer-range cartridge, is far more compact gun frame than .45ACP, and is deer-legal in Oklahoma from at least a four-inch barrel. Glock models in .40 have been so ubiqutous that used varieties can easily be found for less than the $500-mark with a lot of life left in them. They’re cheap and easy to get accessories for, and their magazines are interchangeable with some non-Glock models.

This leads us to defensive carbines. Jennifer and I each have name-brand AR-pattern carbines in 5.56 NATO. Even though we love our little M4geries, I would not purchase one on the budget that I have today. Frankly, they are overpriced. Sure, a basic model doesn’t command $3,000 as it did for a weird four months or so of the Obamascare, but even what is commonly sold as a $800-$1,200 rifle is often an assortment of parts that should cost more like $500-$600 in a fair and unbiased market. This goes for AK clones as well. If a decent gun could be had for $300-$500, then everyone should have one. With the prices they command, I believe I’ll still pass. If I were purchasing my defensive carbine in today’s market, I’d be looking at Kel Tec’s Sub2000 in .40S&W, or perhaps a Hi-Point carbine also in .40S&W. Either one will happily share magazines and ammunition with the aforementioned Glock models. *01/22/2014 – EDITED FOR CORRECTION – Cyberludite points out in the comments that Hi-Point carbines do NOT in fact use Glock magazines. I’m not sure why I was thinking that they did, but I was indeed guilty of being a guy saying something wrong on the internets. Thank you Cyberludite and I’m sorry world.* I would most likely stock up on a few of the 22 or 29-round magazines, as well as shave the grips down on both guns so they would be short enough to accept Glock 27 magazines too. Although .40S&W isn’t the long range shooter that 5.56 or 2.23Rem, out of a 16-inch barrel (or 17.5, in the case of the Hi-Point), it’s producing more energy than 9mm, and it can reach out further than .45ACP. Again, this rifle configuration would be legal and effective against Oklahoma white tail.

Jennifer and I love our Winchester pump actions. This is like being a Studebaker fan. Most sane folks justifiably choose a current offering from Remington or Mossberg, or perhaps one of the high quality semi-automatics. I wanted an old Defender, and when I couldn’t find one, I basically built one out of a 120 Ranger, which is a variation of the Winchester 1300 platform. I left the vent-ribbed barrel at 22-inches and added a magazine extention. After the fact, we managed to find a lightly used Defender for Jennifer. These things tend to be relatively inexpensive, and also tend to be pretty solid guns. Expect to see workable examples in pawn shops for $200, give or take $50. If I didn’t have my Winchester, and was looking to score a house gun, I’d probably get the cheapest used Mossberg pump I could find that was still serviceable, chambered in 12-gauge. Jennifer suggested a police retired Remington 870 as an option. Remington’s 870 is a fine gun in my opinion, at least as good as the old Winchester 1912, 1200, or 1300 pump actions, but even used and beat up, they tend to command a price that would buy two or three similarly worn Mossburgs. Indeed, I’ve seen Mossies in pawn shops priced close to $100 if not less. If it has a long barrel on it, chop it down within the legal minimum limit of 18-inches. I like my shotguns at around 20 to 22-inches, because this seems to be a pretty good compromise between payload velocity and keeping the gun maneuverable. Whether it has plastic or wood furniture, it will still put lead downrange. Whether it has a super long eight-round tube magazine, or a four-rounder with a plug limiting it to two rounds, training and practice will make it work just fine. When you practice and get good at feeding rounds in through the ejection port, you’ll find that the missing two or three rounds of magazine capacity will not be your bottleneck on shooting speed over the course of 25 to 50 rounds of ammunition.

In such a hypothetical situation, I probably wouldn’t worry so much about a backup handgun, but would focus my attention on making sure that my primary was in excellent working order at any given time. However, if I were to add one as a fourth gun, I’d probably be just as likely to choose either the cheapest, serviceable, used Glock 27 (for magazine and ammo compatability), or a .38Spl snubby in whatever brand was available. Although I do love my S&W revolvers, they tend to be expensive, pulling in close to $500 for even the cheapest of the J-frames. Conversely, I’d be looking at whatever used examples I could find from Taurus, Rossi, Charter Arms, and probably a few others, just as long as the timing was right, and the cylinder locked up satisfactorily. But even then, this would be way low on my list of must haves, as I feel that the expense would be better spent on practice ammunition and training.

Previously, I would have said that a .22lr, either rifle or a high-quality pistol would be a must-have in such a setup, for practice, training, and for small game hunting. But recently, it’s been so hard to come by .22lr ammunition, that I’m not convinced it would be well-advised. For the going rate of .22lr when you can manage to find it, you can hand load any common centerfire handgun cartridge for less money, so there’s not a significant cost savings if you have access to reloading equipment. Small game that can be taken with a .22 can also be taken with lighter 12-gauge loads, or even some centerfire handgun loads.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation but you started out with a revolver instead of a semi-auto, you might consider a lever-action carbine in the same chambering as your wheel gun. There’s something about ammunition commonality that is quite charming and useful. Frankly, it’s kind of weird that Jennifer and I have not wound up with any lever actions in .357 or .44 Magnum yet. Just as the pump action shotgun, with practice, these can run really fast and accurately. A .357 Magnum load out of a carbine-length barrel can get close to actual, rifle cartridge velocities, which puts it at an advantage over the .40S&W as discussed above. Plus, your .357Mag lever gun will shoot mouse-fart .38Spl wadcutters just as happily as your revolver, making it equally effective for small game hunting or paper killing.

At any rate, we do live in interesting times. It is my hope (and frequent prayer) that we’ll see real improvement in the economy. For those of you who may be trying to cobble together a defensive system under a serious budget duress, I hope this proves useful to you. Feel free to ask questions, and I’ll do my best to round up the answers. If any of my readers have anything to add, I’d love to hear that too!

Science Is Fun!

Last night I walked into the bathroom in my socks, which promptly became soaked with water. Uh oh. When I turned on the light, I saw that there was a pretty large puddle on the floor next to the pet waterer. The cord that goes to the pump was draped at such an angle that the water had dripped down it to the floor which had amassed the offending pool. Immediately I knew that this was a Teen Bot error, and decided to turn it into a teachable moment. I called Teen Bot to the bathroom and drew his attention to the cord.

“This is why it is important to make sure that the cord doesn’t touch the floor,” I explained. As we spoke, it became clear that he didn’t have an understanding of surface tension. Hoo boy. So, after we took care of the water in the bathroom, I took him back to the kitchen and drew a glass of water, narrating what I was doing along the way. I ground some pepper onto the surface of the water until the surface was well speckled with ground pepper and asked him if he understood what was going on there.

“The pepper is floating because it’s lighter than the water,” he said. As I started shaking my head he corrected himself, “well, I mean it’s less dense than the water.”

“Nope,” I corrected, “the pepper is actually more dense than the water, but it wants to be dry and the water has surface tension that is holding it up. Now, if we take some detergent…” I grabbed the bottle of Dawn and continued, “we can’t feed detergent to the cats, which would simplify the waterer situation, but check this out.” When I dropped a little squeeze of Dawn into the peppered water. The pepper predictably retreated from the drop point and continued to sink to the bottom of the glass.

“Woah,” said Teen Bot.

I smiled at him, “Yes. The detergent breaks the surface tension and the pepper sinks. This is why science is cool and fun. You can learn how the world works in little ways like this. I love that stuff, surface tension, venturi effect…”

Teen Bot stared blankly.

“You don’t know what the venturi effect is?” I asked incredulously. Out came the same glass, rinsed and refilled. I took a drinking straw and cut two small pieces out of it. “Hold this glass for me please.” I held the longer straw segment in the water and positioned the shorter piece at the top of it, pointed at Teen Bot. I blew through the straw and the ensuing spray of water hit his shirt. He laughed hysterically. “Now see,” I said, “when you’re out to pizza with your friends, you can use that trick to spray Coke all over them and make them mad at you. Can you tell me why that works that way?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Bernoulli’s Principle? No? An airplane’s wing is flat on the bottom and rounded on top. The air on top of the wing is moving faster, so it creates a low-pressure zone and the higher pressure air under the wing lifts the plane?”

“Oh right,” Teen Bot said, “I just forgot the name of it.”

I continued, “the venturi effect works pretty much the same way. The air coming out of the straw makes a low pressure zone that sucks the water up the straw and into the airstream.”

“Oooooooohhhhhh,” Teen Bot said, bells ringing.

I know, technically nothing sucks. The low pressure zone simply gives the atmospherically pressurized water somewhere to go. I swear, I knew all of this stuff before high school. What in the world are they teaching kids in school anymore? In all fairness, it was likely taught and he simply wasn’t paying attention. I’m confident that it was memorable enough that he’ll be a little more careful with the pump cord though. And, it was a fun father/son moment as well.

Ammo Durability

Since I started my life with guns, I’ve been told by instructors, fellow shooters, and everyone in between that you must cycle out your carry ammo every few months. It was explained to me that temperature shifts and moisture that your carry ammunition is subjected to will destabilize the ammo, compromising its reliability.

Last fall, Teen Bot dropped a Ruger 22/45 magazine at the farm that was loaded with ten rounds of CCI Quiet. This magazine remained lost until Jennifer found it under some grass that one of my cousins had recently mowed. The magazine was dirty and rusty. I had my son clean it up at home, and then on a whim I dusted off the ammo that had come out of it, and loaded those same ten rounds back into the magazine. I really expected failures. Here’s the video:

Please do not in any way take this as advice to not change out your ammo. I am still a firm believer in keeping your carry ammo fresh. However, it makes me question the popular wisdom that you can’t get your ammo wet, and it will go bad if subjected to temperature swings. It was my understanding that centerfire ammunition is quite a bit more durable than rimfire. If this is the case, that 22/45 magazine has me questioning the reality of carry ammunition durability.

Guns and Coffee?

I’m not going to bother linking to everyone in this post, but it seems like every gun blogger and his or her dog has weighed in on the non-committal letter from Starbutts concerning company policy on the carrying of guns. Here’s a link to the letter from the CEO, if you don’t have navel lint to gaze at or grass to watch growing, or sand to count, or any other more gainful thing to do with your time. Otherwise, I’ll summarize the new ‘policy’ for you:

Starbutts managment has decided that they don’t want to be a soapbox for the gun debate. They just want to sell bad coffee. They aren’t going to put up gun buster signs, and their “partners,” i.e. minimum-wage employees, won’t ask you to leave or refuse you service, but they would really prefer that you not come to their establishment armed. They won’t call the cops or anything, “but come on, guys! Please?”

In my home state, as well as many others, a business can put up a sign. If they don’t want guns in their establishment, they may post a sign that is “clearly visible at the entrance.” If you ignore this sign and enter anyway, you are not breaking the law anyway. If any worker at the establishment happens to notice your gun and if they then happen to give a trickle of whiz that you have ignored the sign, they may at that point ask you to vacate the premises. You still have not fallen afoul of the law if you turn heel at this point and find something better to do. If however, at this point you refuse to leave, they may call the police and you may be held liable for trespassing. In other words, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ to get through in order to make it illegal to carry a gun on private property here. What does that all mean for Starbutts and their new “policy” you might ask. Not so much as a hill of beans. Not even overpriced, former coffee beans that have the flavor completely roasted out of them.

And, what does this all mean to me? Just a little less than the aforementioned hill of tortured beans. I’ma tellya why too! Years ago, I started ordering my coffee beans online from these guys, mostly because none of the local groceries carried good coffee. CCM Coffee ships their coffee within 24-hours of roasting it, so it all tastes fresh and fantastic. You typically want to consume your coffee within a week or two of roasting it for the best flavor. For perspective, your typical canned coffee was roasted sometime since the Pleistocene. I only ordered a pound or two at a time because we couldn’t drink it before it went stale if I ordered it at higher quantities for a discount. Then, I started ordering green coffee beans in quantity, and home roasting in small volume to meet our coffee drinking needs. At this point, there’s a frou frou grocery store within walking distance of our home that has a couple dozen varieties of high-quality coffee (far better quality than Starbutts uses), reasonably priced; so I’ve pretty well fallen out of home roasting anymore.

The whole coffee beans go into a burr grinder, of which we have two (two is one, one is none). When it’s precisely ground to spec, it gets brewed with filtered water in our Briel Domus Uno espresso machine. Incidentally, Starbutts used to use good Briel machines, until they replaced them all with automatics once they found that a typical, minimum-wage barista can’t run a good machine reliably, even though I’m pretty sure I could train my Siamese to do it. Sometimes I’ll sweeten with a touch of raw agave nectar, and/or add a splash of milk, cold or steamed, depending on my mood. I usually drink it black. If you tell an average, knuckle-dragging barista that you want a double or triple shot of strait espresso, they will likely look at you like you just sprouted horns. Plus, I may or may not get dressed before I have my coffee. Try that at Starbutts!

Ten bucks will get you a pound of coffee that will make approximately fifty espresso shots, if I’m guestimating right. You won’t use a gallon of milk before it goes bad if this is all you do with it. A quart-sized bottle of agave nectar is about seven bucks and lasts me six months. Figure $.20 per shot on the beans and maybe a penny to sweeten your drink. Even if you go triple shot, with milk, you’re looking at well under a buck for a latte. Needless to say, I’m not spending money at coffee shops. Between equipment cost (~$300-$500 for a decent machine, plus ~$50 for a grinder) prorated over the years it will last (current setup here has been running fine for over five years so far) and expendable supplies (see above), it’s pennies on the dollar to brew at home as compared to going out for coffee. Plus, you get a far superior cup of joe.

Over the last few years, when the troops were rallied to support Starbutts for their refusal to ban us for our guns and to make up for their loss of business on the antis boycott, Jennifer and I would begrudgingly wander into the corner coffee shop and spend $20 on their crap as an act of solidarity. I can confidently say that Starbutts won’t be getting our $20 a year anymore. Boy, that’ll hurt! With the amounts I know other people are spending on coffee, and how those green and white signs seem to sprout out of the ground like weeds, they aren’t going to miss our $20, and we won’t miss their coffee. I know that some people are getting a little more worked up about this than others. I just don’t see it as much of an issue, one way or another, on any given level. Oh and, we’re still doing Kilted To Kick Cancer. Please take a minute and go donate here. Thanks you!

A Queer Mix of Tech

When we pick up these new smart devices, i.e. smartphones and tablets, one thing often missing is they keyboard.  When I upgraded from my Epic 4G to my S III, I sorely missed the keyboard at first.  I have since learned to adjust to the difference, but at first, I vowed to find a solution to have a physical keyboard for the phone.  Curious. 

I am currently typing this entry on an IBM M keyboard that I acquired at a junk store some time back.  I have it attached to my Samsung Galaxy S III phone by way or a PS3 to USB adapter plugged into a USB to Micro USB adapter.  I had my doubts that this would work, but I had to give it a whirl.  These are arguably the finest keyboards ever made, and they do make a very satisfying ‘click’ with each keystroke.  This is one of the later units in the production, being a 1996 model.  Despite it being nearly twenty years old, it seems to be doing quite well at its job, even on the Android phone.  This particular model even has the little pencil eraser mouse like laptops did in the ’90s. 

Obviously, this is not a ‘solution’ to the keyboard issue, as this is hardly a portable device, and would do far better as a bludgeoning weapon.  If I’m going to sit down with this much hardware to plunk out a blog entry, I will more than likely use my laptop.  Incidentally, my laptop doesn’t weigh much more than the M.  Anyway, this was just too funny not to share.  I’ll likely edit the video and add it to the text later. 

And, with the magic of editing…

I hope you enjoyed the video too. Please remind me to get some kilted pics posted tomorrow. I need to start announcing some of the fabulous prizes we’re giving away from the Evyl Robot Empyre. And, if you haven’t yet, please do donate to the cause here.

Watch Where You Step

Just yesterday, Jennifer and I were again discussing the unusually high concentration of carnivorous arthropods in the area this season. We have seen vast numbers of ladybugs, dragonflies, wasps, and spiders in our garden and around the house. We rarely see any bugs in the house, perhaps because we have four little furry hunters to keep them in check. Since my daily commute to work is approximately 10-feet, I often don’t wear shoes. Especially in the Summer, I will more often than not be patting around in my sock feet.

This morning, while walking down the hall, I felt a lump of something under my foot. Fearing the worst of what I might have just stepped in, I slowly removed my foot and took a look. It was a spider of the typical orb-weaver variety that we have seen around the garden. But, instead of being crushed as one might expect, it looked up at me with its shiny eyes, unphased, if a little annoyed that I had just stepped on it. It chattered its mandibles and I wondered if I should say, “excuse me” or something. I doubt I need to describe to you the size of the creature.

Back when I worked at the auto parts store in the bad part of town, we had a bit of a ‘pet’ spider. It was another garden variety spider, but had impressively grown to about an inch and a half long, not including its legs. When I first saw it, I commented that it had a beard and grandkids and was older than me. That one met its unfortunate demise when it confronted a customer who stomped it to death while purchasing motor oil for her leaky wreck of a car.

I have no particular fear of spiders; rather I find them to be fascinating creatures that efficiently kill bugs that I don’t like, and decorate their domain with impressively structured webs. They make interesting photography subjects and it’s fun to watch them weave their webs and catch insects. Even so, I still don’t wish to share my home with spiders that justifiably have no fear of me. Whether you are an arachnophobe or not, that’s just creepy!

Handgun License

A little over five years ago, I received my Concealed Weapon License. Oklahoma allows application for renewal within 90-days of expiration, and gives a 30-day “grace period” after the license is expired that a holder may still legally carry a handgun. In November, Open Carry went into effect in Oklahoma and all standing Concealed Weapon Licenses by default became Handgun Licenses. People are applying for Handgun Licenses in ever increasing numbers, and the people at the OSBI have had their hands full. Jennifer and I were able to send in our renewal applications on May 9, 2013 as I mentioned here. Not as early as we would have liked, but still earlier than the notifications the OSBI mailed us, letting us know that our permits were about to expire in 30-days. On July 13, I emailed OSBI to ask about current status, as my grace period had just ended. They promptly responded back and explained that they were waiting on background checks from the local and county constabularies, and that I should expect to hear something within 15-20 business days. On July 19, Jennifer’s new Handgun License was delivered in the mail, with an issued date of July 17. Today, after 76 days of waiting, my Handgun License arrived in the mail with an issued date of July 18. I must compliment the system as they did not take the full 90-days allotted them. I did spend a little over a week a few pounds lighter in public, but no one was injured. It just felt silly being the holster maker without a valid Handgun License. Of course, it also feels silly to have to jump through so many hoops to legally practice a constitutionally guaranteed, God-given right.

A Bump in the Road

If you’ve been reading my rantings, you probably saw my initial step into full-spectrum photography. I’m really looking forward to building my own full-spectrum homebrew trail camera, but the Olympus model I modified isn’t supported by any of the board manufacturers. Of the thirty-five or so models that are supported, they list Nikon’s L10, L11, and L12. Since Jennifer and I have pretty well gone full nerd Nikon at this point, I thought that it would be fun to build a Nikon-based game camera.

I wound up purchasing a Nikon L14 on ebay for about $15 after shipping. When it came in, I took some test pics and then tore into its housing to pull the hot mirror filter. I saw a familiar rectangle of glass over the sensor, and began nudging it with my screwdriver. This one was quite a bit more secure than the last camera! It did wind up coming off, but in several pieces. Hoping that I didn’t break anything too badly, I wedged the camera all back together. It powered on and I took a few more test pictures.

Trees were green and it was not apparently picking up any extra light. Hhhmmmmm… So, I took the camera apart again. I’m not sure exactly what the piece was that I broke out of the camera, but it didn’t seem to do much of anything. Upon a second inspection of the internals, there seems to be in iridescent coating on the lenses inside the lens assembly. In other words, it looks like the lenses are self-filtered, and there’s not a filter that I can simply remove or replace. When I reassembled the camera yet again, it still functioned correctly, and Teen Bot showed interest in taking it on for his own, so I gave it to him.

I’ve been looking online at some of the other cameras listed by the control board manufacturers, and Jennifer has quite understandably requested that I attempt to learn what I can about specific models to hopefully avoid making the same mistake twice. I have found more info perusing forums and online resources, and of the thirty-fivish models listed, have found specific testimony from other human beings of about twenty of them being converted to infrared. Some of them even posted pictures! Seriously, there’s no way I could have seen this coming. Besides that, it was a $15 gamble, and Teen Bot got a nice point-and-shoot out of the deal. I’d say we’re still doing well.

Oh and, I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to get a Nikon D200 when we can afford it. I found a tutorial on a full spectrum conversion for it, and I think I’m going to take a crack at that myself. I’m feeling a little less gun-shy about modding cameras at this point. The Olympus is fun, and has produced some cool images, but it has always had a color-bleed issue which has only been exaggerated with the full-spectrum mod. Many pics aren’t showing much visible coloration, and I believe it’s a limitation of the camera itself.

Baconnaise

Many of you probably know that we here at the Evyl Robot Empyre are fans of bacon. Probably the greatest bacon fan of the three of us is Teen Bot, who loves to receive bacon products and bacon themed products as gifts, even for major landmarks and holidays. Recently, he convinced his grandparents to pick up a jar of Baconnaise when he went to the grocery store with them.

jar

At their house, I had the opportunity to try some of this on a sandwich. It has a very odd, vaguely bacon flavor which probably leans a little to hard on the salt and smoke flavors. Something that struck me as odd was this mark on the back label:

Kosher

Wait. *head scratch* If I’m not mistaken, bacon is a pork product. And although I’m not Jewish, I do believe that pork is not included in a Kosher diet. Sooooooo, what’s in this crap?

ingredients

Sorry about the focus. The above ingredients label reads: soybean oil, water, egg yolk, gluconic acid, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, cellulose gel, modified food starch (from corn), maltodextrin, cultured dextrose, sugar, dehydrated garlic, paprika, dehydrated onion, spice, xanthan gum, guar gum, gum accia, natural smoke flavor, natural flavors (contain milk), tocopherols (vitamin-E to protect flavor), calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor).

AND NO BACON!!! And, what is ‘cultured dextrose’? Can it speak more than one language and understand fine arts? I believe I’ll stick to regular mayonnaise and add bacon strips to my sandwich if I see fit. If you want really good mayo, you could even make your own at home. I’ve used a variation on Alton Brown’s recipe, which can be found here. That’s right, a few ingredients worth less than a buck can be converted into nine ounces of home made mayonnaise in about ten minutes. And, it’s fun! Make a little more than that, and it will keep for a few days in a jar in your refrigerator. Try it with your kids. I will admit that I use store-bought mayo, but it’s only because of the convenience. An unopened jar will store at room temperature for long beyond its printed expiration date, and when I want to use it, I have to wash the knife I spread it with without the addition of whatever I whipped it up with and in. Leave the Baconnaise to Jewish people who want to know what bacon vaguely tastes like without violating their faith.

Pink Trees & Other Delights

On Friday, I shared my musings about setting up a homebrew, full-spectrum game camera. Years ago, when we had a couple of 35mm cameras and a Polaroid in the house, we did happen through a couple of extremely cheapo digital cameras. At some point in time, Jennifer decided that she’d like something nicer. We wound up ordering an Olympus Stylus 600 for her.

Stylus

This camera hasn’t been used in years, despite our best intentions. We cleared the XD card several weeks ago and found pictures from our last trip to Galveston, before it got blown away by the hurricane, just to give a little perspective. I’ve been wanting to try out a camera with no hot mirror filter, so I decided to hack into the Stylus (with Jennifer’s permission, of course). When I was a child, I was a creative yet hamfisted lad, and wound up ruining quite a few pieces of electronics in my attempts to mod them. Every time I tweak on my gear as an adult, I fear similar results. Even so, I pulled the sensor out of the Olympus:

sensor01

And, I popped the filter off the sensor. From left to right, there’s the naked sensor, the hot mirror filter on its gasket, a bracket pad, and metal frame:

sensor02

I got the camera all reassembled and confirmed that it functioned still, and took a couple of test pics:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alright, so the color is a little off and the cat’s eyes are glowing quite brightly. This is hardly any unusual feat of photography. Hrm. I then did some test pictures in my bedroom with a black light. For reference, here’s my bedroom wall through my Nikon, lit only with the black light:

uvwall

And then, here’s a similar frame through the modded camera:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It certainly sees more ultraviolet light than the other camera does! It’s safe to say that it’s picking up extra-human light ranges at this point. Full-spectrum camera plus black light and UV responsive materials equals psychedelic pictures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you certainly know, we’ve been having a stormy few weeks in Oklahoma, so I decided to see how the modded camera perceived our storm clouds in comparison to my Nikon. Here’s the skyline from the unmodded camera:

nikonclouds01

And in full spectrum:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The world goes from gray:

nikonclouds02

To a stunning display of pink, purple, and blue:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The real shock though, came when I took pictures of trees and other green plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Are those cotton candy trees? What looks like this in visible light:

greentreetops

Transforms to this when you allow for infrared capture:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As it turns out, chlorophyll reflects a lot of infrared.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So much so in fact, pretty much everything under the canopy is washed in its pink glow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s one of the roses in our garden:

natrose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And jalapeño blossoms:

jalapeno

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When there isn’t much visible light available,

darktree

There’s still plenty of non-visible light to catch with the CCD sensor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, will this make for a great trail camera? It looks promising. Sadly, as cool as the little Stylus 600 was when new, it’s about a $10 ebay camera now. Even the homebrew camera people don’t support this one. It seems that it was always a little finicky about focusing, and never took the best pictures. When Jennifer upgraded to her Nikon P80, it was really because the Stylus took terrible product photos. As an experiment in full spectrum photography, I’m calling this a win so far.

I have ordered a used Nikon L14 which will be the basis on my new, full spectrum game camera. I have also ordered 100 ultraviolet LEDs and 1,000 infrared LEDs. My brother and I are going to put together some light arrays. I plan on doing the hot mirror hack to the L14 when it comes in and continue my experiment using artificial UV and IR lighting in conjunction with the full-spectrum Nikon as well as the Stylus. This whole project has been so much fun and has produced such fascinating images that I’m seriously considering picking up a used DSLR, hacking it with the full spectrum mod, and getting a handful of various lens filters for different effects. I’m not in a position to buy just yet, but I have tentatively shopped a few models. Anyone out there have an old D40 or D200 with a 18-55mm lens that you’d be willing to donate to the cause? 😉 If not, I will likely start saving my pennies for one.