Saturday, February 26, 2011

That Which Goes Bump In The Night

Bear da’ Dog is the head of security here at HomePlace. He is very enthusiastic and makes sure I know he’s on the job. He barks.

He barks at big trucks on the road half a mile in front of the house. He barks at trains two miles behind us. Helicopters make him nuts. He barks at the porch cats, strange cats, armadillos’, squirrels and birdies.

If you’ve heard a dog barking often enough you pick up on the different tones. For example, I can tell ‘stray dogs’ barking in the distance from someone’s coming. Be it the UPS driver, our son or strangers Bear lets us know we aren’t alone.

I often work on writing projects late into the night if I’m on a roll. Bear keeps up a running comment on the comings and goings of the night life. A deep growling ‘Going to war / gonna eat your face off’ isn’t usually part of the playlist. Having said that, about 03:30 AM his vocals took on the tone of someone holding his ground against a Grizzly Bear! With that I took up the 1911 and a flashlight and went to see what he had found.

Bear was near the corner of the trailer, swelled to twice his normal size with all hackles up tracking something in the dark. I unsnapped the chain from his collar incase whatever he saw closed in. And it did.

Part of Bear’s dinner tonight had been some hen pecked eggs. Slowly, the intruder came into the light, sniffing the egg shells Bear had left in his dish. My blood ran cold when I saw the skunk.

At once Bear advanced, growling his challenge. The skunk lifted its tail, but didn’t spray – Thank God! I didn’t know how long that was going to last, however. They were circling and sparing with each other. They were too close and moving too erectly to risk a shot. I figured I had one chance to keep this from ending badly. When I called Bear he came to me on the porch. I put him into his travel cage for the rest of the night and left the skunk to clean up the egg shells.

There are two things on my ‘to do’ for tomorrow. First is to dig out and set the live trap in case the skunk stays in the area. The second is to add about five gallons of Tomato Juice to the shopping list, incase Bear get’s to the ‘intruder’ first.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For Lack of Cartridges

Is ‘America’s Dumbest’ holding auditions? If so, I believe there may be a couple of contenders in Kansas City. Not only did these guys try to rob a gun store, they lost money in the process.

Last week a young man entered GUNS UNLIMITED in Kansas City, Missouri wanting to buy a box of .357 Magnum Cartridges. When told the price would be in the fifty dollar range he said he lacked the full amount would have to return at another time.

A little before five the same day the young man returned with a friend and was served by the same clerk he had seen earlier. After checking the young gentleman’s identification to confirm his age, early twenties, the clerk tallied price plus tax and informed the pair the cartridges would be $50.19 all told. The customer promptly produced two twenty dollar bills.

When it was clear no other funds were going to be offered, the clerk prompted, “Your $10.19 short.” That’s when things got…stupid.

Rather than getting more money, the punk pulled a .357 revolver from his waistband and ordered the clerk, “Give me your money!”

Now, less think about this for a second. They’re in a gun store, and the clerk knows guns. With the revolver pointed strait at his face it was easy to see that the chambers for the cylinder were empty. You may recall they are in the store to buy ammunition for this handgun. Humm.

The clerk was wearing a semi-auto in plain sight, and it was loaded! The smile on his face as he reached for his weapon must have spoken volumes.

The two punk’s eyes got big as dinner plates and they ran from the store, hitting the door so hard folks thought they would break the glass. The twenty dollar bills, with their finger prints, were still sitting on the counter. If my experiences buying ammunition are anything to go on, the name and address of the gunman was also recorded.

The clerk said he didn’t even have the weapon pointed at them before they were gone. When the police are done with the two twenty dollar bills he wants them back.

“I think I’ve earned them.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Shooting Arrows isn’t a new Idea

Last week Steve at ‘The Firearms Blog’ wrote about a new product based on a very old idea. Texas based LaRue Tactical is preparing to market an interesting modification kit for the ever popular ruger 10-22. This is a special barrel that can be swapped out to allow the rifle to shoot special arrows.

The arrows will be propelled by a .22 blank cartridge at something over 400 FPS. and should have a range of at least 50 yards. It seems that even some states will allow them to be used for hunting, but in the regular firearms, not archery season. At a price of over $400.00 I doubt one will every join the HomePlace inventory, but the idea has some merit.

Arrows propelled by gunpowder are nothing new; in fact they go back to the early days of cannon and firearms. This Illustration is based on experiments with a ‘Springel’, an arrow designed to be fired from a cannon in the middle ages. Springels were also used in matchlocks early on but I was not able locate an illustration.

From all reports they did a great deal of damage if and when they connect with an enemy soldier or horse. On the down side springels, or sprites in some writings, were not terribly accurate. Their range was more limited than regular shot. Due to the weight of the springel when compared to shot the recoil was brutal. Their poor performance did not justify the expense of the springels so they soon disappeared from the battlefield.

The idea didn’t die there however. Firearms went to sea early on, both on military and commercial vessels. Merchant vessels had to chose between cannon and cargo, but most at least had swivel guns to protect them from boarders. Men with a lot of time on their hands tend to get ideas. Does anyone have any trouble figuring out where this idea came from?

Over time harpoon guns got bigger and more lethal. Monsters like this could throw a much heavier projectile further and eliminated the dangerous step of taking to the small boats.

Now, before the politically correct come to the conclusion this idea has never had a positive application I would direct your attention to the last illustration. This is a line casting rifle. The purpose is to throw a light weight line from one ship to another. The light line can be tied to a heavy rope or cable to allow transfer of cargo or personal. These are still in use and saving lives today.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just In Case

I have always loved candles, ever since I was a kid. I keep a supply on hand, and not just to look at. Candle light adds a warm glow to a room. I prefer unscented candles, but the sometimes a pine scent is alright providing it isn't over powering. When Helene and I started seeing each other I was delighted to discover she felt the same way.

Since moving to HomePlace the candles have become much more practical due to our hit and miss electrical service. It isn't that we will lose power every week, or even every month. You can rest assured the power will go down without warning, and with a frenquency we have not encountered anywhere else we've lived. Sometimes for days at a time. So, as a precaution, every evening we light a candle when we first turn on the lights.

This way, rather than fumbling around in the dark trying to remember where the flashlight was used last, we are greeted by a candle's warm glow. Losing power is still annoying, but we skip the initial inconvenient transition back to light. It's a matter of starting the generator and running a cord to a power strip I already have set up for such events.
I know there are systems that come on automatically. That would mean buying a second generator (I use mine all over the property) and an expensive installation.
We'll just light a candle.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

M18A1...Early Recoilless Rifle

While visiting The Firearms Blog today I found a great article on the M18A1 Recoilless Rifle. Steve linked to Jay at Marooned, who acknowledges Wally as his ‘go-to’ guy in this intriguing weapon.

It took me about a minute into Wally’s excellent article to figure out I didn’t know near as much about Recoilless Rifles as I thought I did, and nothing about this one. My experience with these weapons was the 75mm and 106mm versions that were mounted on the M-38 Jeeps or the M274 Mechanical Mules. The early roots of the weapon I knew nothing about.

The M18 was developed by Firestone Tire and Rubber of all unlikely sources, and was the first recoilless rifle system to see volume production. They entered service in 1945, reaching the battle fields near the end of World War Two. The object was to develop man portable artillery to deal with tanks and other hard targets.
(Note, I first wrote Goodyear Tire and Rubber, but Wally was kind enough to point out the error.)

At forty five plus pounds this was something of a stretch, but do-able. The ammunition was also heavy, five pounds a round. The length of the beast, combined with the weight made it acquired carry. The M18 was intended to be shoulder fired, as seen in this photo. This could be done, but the squads soon decided the tripod was worth the extra blood, sweat and tears. The thing is, the M18 could throw a two and a half pound projectile a mile with a good deal of accuracy. It was worth it!

Now lots of folks (like me) have been confused as to how a recoilless rifle works. I mean – what’s with all the holes in the casings. I know there are lots of GI’s out there with this bar that are laughing their heads off, but bear with me. I doubt I’m the only person on the net that didn’t know this stuff.

Unlike most firearms, the chamber of a recoilless rifle isn’t a tight fit around the case below the neck. A plastic or paper sleeve is set inside the case to hold the powder in place. When fired the gas blows through the sleeve and expands into the bell and pushes the projectile down range.

This chart shows the venting out the back to counter the thrust of the projectile. That is both why there is no kick (to speak of) and the reason you don’t want anybody who owes you any money standing behind it! All kidding aside, the back blast is deadly AT LEAST 100 feet back. From what I’ve heard you can hear one of these go off in the next county.

So, can these be fired? Yes and no. Casings and projectiles for these weapons are hard to find and expensive when you do. But if you’re looking to reload the original ammo you won’t be worried about the price. These are considered destructive devices. If I recall correctly, the tax on those is five thousand dollars.

Then again, Uncle Sam was worried about the cost of training thousands of soldiers and marines, so they developed a “sub-caliber training device”. And what is that you might ask? The most common were .30-06 barrels that could be fitted inside the weapon. That’s the way most folks fire them today.

As much fun as I could have with the 57mm, I think it would be a ball to try out one of the sub-caliber versions one of these days.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Top Shots is Back

Jason, over at Jason's Blog, posted that Top Shot's Season Two will start next week.
I personally found 'Top Shots' to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed the weapons, and would love to try out some of the challenges. I mean, how cool would it be to slide down that wire blazing away at a target? I could have done with a little less "Survivor" however.

What do I mean by that? The drama and back biting. I have been thrown lots of curve balls when shoting. There have been guns I wasn't familur with. Great, now I am and I was grateful for the experience!

In one of our Cowboy Action Shoots we were required to shoot the stage with the single action in our left, or weak, hand. I couldn't hit the ground with my hat that day, but I also learned with practice I could do it. Have any of us not watched Roy Rogers blazing away with a single action in each hand, and dropping about a hundred bad guys without reloading? I can still only get six shots out of mine, and hit the targets about half the time. But I feel like a million bucks living the dream!

The voting people out by shooting their target with a handgun was a bit much, but it goes with the theme. My biggest problem with the first season of Top Shots was the whining. It seemed like all of them were howling at one point or another about having to use something odd. One was having to use a bow and arrow. Let me assure you anyone who can use a rifle, and can step out of the box so to speak, can make friends with a bow. Did you know a Kukri can be used as a throwing knife. I actually got pretty good at it.

Sometimes the whining took the form of bad sportsmanship. The bickering and endfighting was boring, and disgusting. I hate to think how much of the nonshooting world is forming their openion of us based on the behavior of some of these individuals.
Frankly, if I ever had the chance to compete on the show I would go for broke and have a ball with it. I'm saddened the competitors never thought of that.

Having said all this, will I be watching this year. Absolutely! It's shooting, on a great variety of stages, with all manor of neat guns. Even the non firearms look to be fun, but then I have always enjoyed archery, tomahawks and throwing knives. I think they should try atl atl's and the bolas.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And Tonight There Will Be Snow

The rabbits water bottles have been freezing solid, so I have been switching them out every twelve hours. I bring the frozen bottles into the house to thaw. While I was outside doing the last switch we were getting a light frozen rain. There is suppose to be snow between two and three in the morning.

I am having pleasent memories of hundred degree plus days in July!

I stepped out about midnight to have one last look at the animals and gear before turning in for the night. Snow is already covering the ground, and building.
Another Update
Water in the bathroom sink had stopped completly. The cold water is now running again. Keep the good thoughs friends and neighbors!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Thought I Had Left This Sort Of Thing In The Panhandle

The running joke has been that when friends in Amarillo told me it didn't snow in Houston I went home and started packing. All kidding aside, I left the worst of the winter horrors in Dumas and Amarillo.

Granny Burnett had talked about pipes freezing up, and having to heat water for dishes on the stove. She had also advised dripping faucets to keep the water flowing. Helene did the same in Wisconsin.

Folks here in Falls County, Texas say burring pipes and wrapping the others isn't necessary. Most of the time it isn't. This winter storm front is setting cold weather records.

So how cold is it you might ask? The pipes left dripping have frozen up. Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

Well, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes for good blog post. Stay tuned friends and neighbors. I'll tell you how it all turns out.