Hawk Ammo – First Impressions

I’d like to take a moment to introduce Hawk Ammo.

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This is a brand new ammunition company that was started earlier this year by Jeffery Havard, an old friend of mine. His goal is to produce match-grade ammunition at big box prices. He dropped off a box of 20-rounds of .45 ACP for me to review several weeks back, and I have not had a chance to go shooting since. This is a shame, and I wanted to at least give a preliminary look at what he’s doing and what he provided as an example. His boxes may not have the foil-embossed, multi-color print that Federal and Hornady employ, but don’t let the humble monochrome packaging fool you.

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He’s started with brand new Starline brass,

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and stuffed it with 185-grain Gold Dot hollow points.

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He lists a box of 20 .45 ACP hollow points loaded for self defense at $18, which puts it toward the cheap end, if the quality is what it appears to be, which I fully expect.

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It may have to wait until after the first of the year, but I will carve out a little time to run this stuff into targets and across the chrony, and I’ll have more to say about it then.

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Personally knowing Jeff’s attention to detail, I expect no surprises here. I predict that these will be consistent and accurate. But, that proof will have to wait for another day. You can check out his website, or shoot him an email if you have additional questions.

FDE Is the New Black

It’s the new fad anyway. And, I don’t say that disparagingly. I think flat dark earth is cool when executed properly. You all know of Jennifer’s famous pistol.

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Heck, some of my favorite customers have FDE guns.

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And of course, Jennifer has been working on building her new rifle, based on an Aero Precision lower receiver finished in flat dark earth.

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She will certainly have something posted about her progress soon. I will throw in that this stripped lower is top notch. From what we can see so far, these things are hard to beat for the money.

But still, as cool as FDE guns are, this is a current trend. It’s a fashion. I suspect tack blactical will always be with us, even as manufacturers taper off their offerings of other trendy colors, just as automotive manufacturers tapered off production of tail fins as though they were an embarrassing piece of the past to be ashamed of. My parents once had a refrigerator in harvest gold that they had purchased new. Almost twenty years ago, it was still running like a top, but was horribly out of style. so, they had it refinished in white. It has since died and been replaced. A good refrigerator will last decades. A good gun will last several lifetimes. As people accumulate guns in pink, purple, flat dark earth, and olive drab, as opposed to the classics in stainless or blue, black and wood, will they ultimately fall out of fashion and look gauche or do these trendy colors have staying power?

In twenty years, will we see people painting black over their FDE guns? I certainly hope not! As I previously stated, guns last a long time. What is trendy today will fall out of fashion and look hokey; this is inevitable. However, let time continue to do its work beyond that, and it will come back around and rather than unfashionable, these guns will suddenly become retro. Jennifer and I nearly bought a house that had a complete kitchen straight from the harvest gold era. Only, the appliances were olive green. The tile was brown and the cabinets were all walnut stained. Although it was very dated, it was well done and clean enough to have charm in its apparent age. Had we purchased that home, we probably wouldn’t have changed a thing in the kitchen.

I didn’t have much experience with guns in FDE when OldNFO opened up his Pelican case of toys and pulled out his FNP45 Tactical. It was a full-on assault on the eyes. Although the action was tight, and the gun had an overall feel of quality and competency, it was that weird color: not quite brown, not quite green. He commented on how much he hated it, but not because of the color. It was because of the decocker. You can carry the gun cocked and locked, but as an avid 1911 shooter, OldNFO would hit the safety hard enough to decock the gun, defeating the purpose of carrying it ready for an initial single-action shot.

Contrary to his personal code, OldNFO sold us that gun, and Jennifer has loved it for the last two and a half years or so. I eventually got used to the color scheme. It’s gotten comments from fellow range patrons, blog meet goers, gun manufacturer reps, and others. In our stable, it is joined by Jennifer’s new rifle project in the same color scheme.

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There is not a doubt in my mind that these will go out of style and look goofy next to more classic offerings or whatever the new trend turns out to be, but I’m at complete peace with that. Just as it’s a conversation piece now, it will be a conversation piece in half a century, or probably even more so. Besides that, it’s fun to talk about an evil black rifle that isn’t black. Indeed, the next rifle I build will probably be in a funky color instead of Scary Black. Keep on buying those funky colors, and carry them proudly, even when they’re no longer cool!

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Sadly, Ruger has already abandoned the gold anodizing on their 22/45 LITE in lieu of a more easily marketable black anodizing. I will still cherish my obsolete gold model though, complete with the pink ivory grips I made to fit it. So, to celebrate the trends that will almost certainly fall by the wayside, I write these words while wearing my pale tan western boots with brown lizard wingtips. Where did I put my disco shirt anyway?

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.

ProChrono Digital from Competition Electronics

Some time back, Brownell’s sent me a chronograph to review. Since we have rimfires and centerfires in the house, in long and hand format, as well as a few shotguns, bows, and Nerf and airsoft guns, we felt like we could put it though its paces. The unit that I received is the Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital. Priced at $119.95, I was a little skeptical at first. When the unit arrived, I appreciatively noted the mark on the box reading, “Made in America with Pride.” The packaging is a box sturdy enough for persistent storage and transportation. The unit has a plastic housing with an LCD readout and five control buttons. On the side, it has the power switch and a jack for the optional PC interface (not included, and not reviewed here as of yet). There is a 1/4×20 threaded brass escutcheon in the base for mounting it on a camera tripod and the battery compartment is big enough for two 9v batteries (also not included), although it only plugs into one to function, giving you convenient storage for a spare. The unit also came with guide wires, diffuser hoods, and operating instructions.

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Operation is very simple. Plug in the battery. Flip the power switch on. Shoot over the top of the unit. The diffuser hoods are required for sunny days. When I received the chronograph, it was raining heavily, so guns or archery were out of the question. So, we set it up on a camera tripod in the kitchen and shot Teen Bot’s Nerf gun over it. It is sensitive to speeds from 22 fps to 7000 fps, and the Nerf darts came in erratically between 30 and 60, with most of the readings coming in right around 40 fps. It had a little trouble with my airsoft pistol, but I have been told that these things typically don’t do so well with .22-cal pellets.

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I have used this in my back yard to measure arrow velocities, and the readings seem in line with the claims of the bow manufacturer. It has no trouble with .22lr ammunition through handgun or rifle, and has done well with all centerfire ammo we’ve put across it. I have used this to fine-tune my bow, analyze hand loads, and compare velocities between ammo brands and between barrel lengths for a common ammunition. I don’t have much reference to compare it against, but the readings come out consistently enough per launcher and projectile that I’m inclined to believe that it is accurate enough for most purposes. The only times we have gotten erratic readings have been when we were standing too close to the unit. It will store up to 99 readings in each of nine separate strings, even with the battery unplugged.

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Being such a relatively low-priced unit, I had assumed that there was something about it that lacked quality as compared to some of the more expensive ones. Because of this, I feared that it lacked durability, owing much to the plastic housing. I worried in vain. While set up at the farm, a sudden gust of wind violently toppled the tripod and the chronograph hit the ground hard. When we righted it, we found that it was still powered up, and still functioned normally. I wouldn’t recommend that you throw this unit around carelessly, but it is tougher than you might imagine. Here it is going down:

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This chronograph is very competitively priced, U.S. made, accurate, durable, conveniently portable, and easy to use. It will measure velocity of just about anything that can travel over the sensors and will store data for recording later. It’s a really neat piece of kit, and I honestly can’t imagine not having it at this point. If something should happen to it, I would gladly pay the $120 that Brownell’s charges for it. If you have ever considered purchasing a chronograph for personal use, I would highly recommend that you take a look at the ProChrono Digital.

FTC – this product was provided free of charge from Brownell’s for the purpose of review. They didn’t pay me to say it was good, but sent it to me to wring out and talk about.

KTKC 2013 – The Day After

From September 1 through yesterday, September 30, whenever I was wearing clothing, I was wearing a kilt. I very literally spent September 2013 without wearing pants even once. Today, I wear jeans. Some of you stepped up to the challenge and helped me raise $705.00 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Thank you. Thanks to all of you for your generosity. The cumulative goal for this year’s drive was lofty, but my personal goal was admittedly unreasonably optimistic. And, I’d like to take a moment to talk about that.

I could point out the fact that this total is about a third of what came through my KTKC profile last year, but I’d rather point out that it is TEN TIMES what I raised in 2011. I’d like to pass out some virtual high-fives for that. I’ve had to carefully consider whether I will participate in KTKC 2014, but I keep coming back to an echoing yes in the hollow recesses of my brain. This year has been tough for a lot of folks, and I’m so proud that you all helped me out with your resources.

I’ve pretty well determined who is getting a holster named after them, but I have not yet contacted for details. You likely know who you are already and should expect an email from me shortly to sort out the details of the naming of the holster. I’m sorry I didn’t have more to offer in the way of prizes this year. We’ll try to step up our game for next year. To all of you who donated, I’m about to draw for the pauldrons. If you do NOT wish to receive them, please drop me an email and let me know to hold your name out of the drawing. Otherwise, you stand about a one in sixty chance of getting some delightfully random plate mail.

I’d like to take a moment to send congratulations to the top participants in this year’s drive. No, scratch that. I want to give a big congratulations to all involved, but especially the top participants. I hear rumors that in the cumulative three months of doing this, we’ve raised over $50,000 to benefit male-specific cancer. That’s not bad for a group of misfits and miscreants such as ourselves. In fact, that’s worth being proud of. Thanks again. Now, I’ve got to go prepare. We only have eleven months until KTKC, and I have some holsters to build!

KTKC 2013 Day 30

Unless you have been living under a rock, or you got here on a Google search for hot Japanese squid porn, because I just incorporated that phrase, you know that this month I have been Kilted to Kick Cancer. Again, I want to give huge thanks to all of you who have made donations to the cause. Here’s a picture of me playing a Native American flute.

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As I said in some previous post that I’m not going to link back to right now, in years prior, I have succumbed to the temptation to find an excuse not to wear the kilt during this magical time. Not so this year! Although I have worn leggings under my kilt for parasite protection in the field on two occasions, I have not worn a pair of pants. Unless you count this picture where I show how much weight you too can lose by simply wearing a kilt:

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But, I didn’t so much wear them as crawled into them and peek out the top. And in all fairness, I was wearing my kilt under the jeans when the photo was taken. But, my point is that I have been wearing a kilt. All. Month. Long. Ask the other participants if they have completely abstained from pants this month. I severely doubt it. Last I looked, I’m pretty sure I was in seventh place. I wonder if any of the six guys ahead of me has worn a kilt at the absolute exclusion of pants since the month of August. This is why you should be sending your money through my account. Well, that and this hunter safety orange head tube that I arranged on Teen Bot like a balaclava:

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As of this writing, we have nine hours until the close of KTKC. In previous years, it has really come down to the last minute on who took the most for the cause. I know that budgets have been tight this year. I also know that a lot of people get paid on Monday. So help a brother out! To entice you, here’s a pic of me doing my best Captain Morgan impression:

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Your guess is as good as mine as to whether I’d had more to drink than the photographer. I think we can agree that there have been some pretty good pictures this year. Truth be told, I’m looking forward to getting back into my pants. Tomorrow, I plan on wearing a pair of Wranglers. On Sunday, I’ll wear an Armani suit. But, until I shed my clothing to crawl into bed and go to sleep tonight, I will be wearing my 5.11 TDK. Please keep that in mind this afternoon and this evening. I will be kilted for the remainder of the month, as I have been for the entire month thus far. When you think of this, think of male cancers. It’s not to late to contribute. Please consider throwing some bucks at the cause for me. Thanks again.

KTKC 2013 Day 27, Recap from Yesterday

As you all know by now, the least sane of us have been kilted this month to raise awareness about male specific cancers, and to seek sponsorship in the endeavor to benefit related charities. Please feel free to throw some bucks at my Prostate Cancer Foundation page.

Sometime last week, we ran out of paycheck at the end of the bills. This happens more often in September than any other time of the year. Especially when we just upgraded phones. And, accidentally lost $500 to an embarrassing clerical error. Oops. On Wednesday, we ran out of coffee. Yesterday, I decided to use Coca Cola as my caffeine delivery system, but my body wasn’t having any of that nonsense.

For a while, my uncle was brewing green coffee, as he had read that it was the new, popular ‘superfood’ that would cure all that ails you. He got tired of drinking green coffee and gave me half a bag of green Brazilian santos that he no longer had any use for. Last summer was entirely too hot to roast coffee, as is produces entirely too much smoke to roast indoors, and consequently I still have quite a bit of this hanging around. So, yesterday, I dug out the roaster that I made out of a popcorn popper and a grill thermometer, and threw a pound of green santos in it on the grill’s side burner.

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Once the beans achieved the proper color, aroma, and sound, they went into the colander to remove the chaff.

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Update – sorry. I got twitchy on my publish button, apparently.

While the coffee beans were cooling, Jennifer and I put together a couple of smoked tri tip roast quiches with home grown parsnips, onions, and basil, topped with white cheddar. We baked one for dinner and threw the other in the freezer for next time. Over dinner we watched classic Doctor Who with Teen Bot. After Teen Bot went to bed, we pickled up jalapeƱo hybrids* and pear tomatoes from our garden with some garlic chunks. Although I’m a little disappointed at the anemic production of our garden over the last few years, yesterday reminds me that we really are producing quite a bit of our own stuff. As we sat and relaxed before bed, I commented that I wish my shoulder wasn’t bothering me so much because I’d like to get that couch cushion stitched shut finally.

Again, please do consider sponsoring me in this year’s KTKC drive. You can donate here. We only have three more days to go!

*Having planted our peppers too close together this year, they apparently cross-pollinated. Our best guess is that our jalapeƱos crossed with our habaneros, or possibly some kind of demon. They are bright red and wicked hot.

KTKC Day 24 – Goofing, Good Company, and Bad Jokes

There were two clouds high in the sky, just floating there and watching a more boisterous cloud lower in the sky. They watched it float this way and that, dart around, roll, and change shape.
Finally the one cloud said to the other, “He sure is nimbus, isn’t he?”
The other cloud groaned at the terrible pun and said, “Dude, are you cirrus?”

Yeah. I made that one up. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. So anyway, we made it out to the farm again on Saturday. Here is a game camera pic of the three of us with Mz. VRWC, who dropped in on us from out of town:

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And, Jennifer managed to catch me goofing off in front of her camera. If you can imagine that.

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Dance, dance, fashion, baby. Work it, move that thing, crazy. But, not all the kilted pics are of me goofing off.

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Alright, that one is actually from last week. And, maybe I was goofing off for most of this weeks pics.

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And just for funz, here’s an almost nightmarish game camera pic of Jennifer apparently getting ready for her impending machete massacre.

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There are reasons I want her at my back for the zombie apocalypse. So, we’re now well into the final week of KTKC 2013, and the donation totals are honestly looking pretty sad right now. Before I go any further, I want to send out a *huge* thanks to the few of you who have made donations to date. To the rest of you, come on, don’t make me call you bitches! You can’t let me finish this deal in seventh place! The KTKC crew is cumulatively not doing as well as we had hoped, but my recorded total is under $300 right now. Please don’t let it end like this. Hit the link and give to the cause as you can. I know that I originally set the donation goal unrealistically high, and I didn’t really expect to drag in totals like that, but I absolutely expected to top last year’s total of $2,263, at the very least. But, we’re not done yet. As long as you get your donations in by Monday, we can still do this. Again, here’s the link. Let’s kick cancer together!

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!