Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10/22 Takedown Project, Part 2 - AGP Arms Conversion Kit

In Part 1 of this series, I gave some background on why I embarked on building a takedown .22 for the truck, and gave an overview of why I opted for AGP Arms' conversion kit for a 10/22. In this article, I'm going to deep dive the AGP Arms takedown system, including some guidance on what to avoid when buying their kit, and walk through the assembly. In subsequent parts, we'll get into upgrading the rifle's internals using parts from Kidd Innovative Design and finally take it out to the range.

Ordering the Kit
Getting the AGP Arms takedown conversion kit is straight forward. They have an easy to use website - almost too easy - and it will probably take you longer to order the kit than to assemble it. One thing I feel compelled to note. As part of this project I ordered parts from Brownells, AGP and Kidd. With Kidd, shipping happens almost as soon as you say "Go", every time. They're on it. Brownells ships your order quickly as well. My experience with AGP was not as great. I put in the order on the 12th, requesting 2nd-day air shipping, and four days later still hadn't received notice that it had been shipped. After inquiring, AGP responded the same day saying it sometimes takes a few days to get orders out and then shipped it that afternoon. They're a fine group of folks to work with, and it really wasn't a big deal, but just expect something closer to island time than the German train schedule. If you're in a hurry, maybe include that in the order instructions.

The kit I ordered included the following components:
  • The takedown adapter for the receiver
  • The 16" stainless threaded barrel with black Cerakote finish
  • Black aluminum slotted hand guard (doubles as the barrel nut) w/ 4" rail
  • Folding stock, black
  • 1" butt pad
  • Flash suppressor
  • Front & rear iron sights
AGP Arms takedown conversion kit, assembled
This setup put me back just north of $425. As I said in the last article, the options and accessories start to ratchet the price up quickly. It's cheaper to buy them as a kit than to buy them à la carte with at least one exception, which I'll get to in a minute. 

First, you may be asking yourself why I'd spend over 400 clams on this when I can get a new-in-box Ruger factory takedown 10/22 for the same or less. Well, remember that the factory takedown does not have a threaded barrel, a folding stock, a picatinny rail, rear aperture sites, and comes with a lesser quality barrel to boot. So I look at this as spending about $200 to convert my existing 10/22 into a takedown, and another $200+ in add-ons that I'd have to consider for a factory takedown anyway.

Back to it - this is as good a time as any to follow up on my earlier comment in Part 1 that some of the accessories mentioned above are worth skipping.

Better Iron Sights
In the comparison photo below, the sight on the left is what comes from AGP if you add iron sights to your conversion kit. I believe it is a Tech Sights TSR200. This is a photo of it mounted on my rifle before I swapped it out. Let me enumerate its problems. The sight-to-receiver fit looks shoddy, as the sight base is flat until it angles upwards, while the receiver gently curves downwards long before this transition. This imprecise mating looks out of place on the gun. You get a single aperture with elevation and relatively imprecise windage adjustment. Finally, since it bolts down into only two of four screw holes on the receiver through somewhat cavernous holes, there's significant play in how it sits, so aligning it and leveling it will be problematic. God help you if you're as OCD about this stuff as me.

AGP Rear on left, NoDak NDS26 on right
Enter the NoDak Spud NDS-26. In the right hand side of the same image, you'll see it mounted to my rifle, though I apologize that it's not the best photo for illustrating the drastic improvement in fit. By clicking the link above you'll see the manufacturer's photo illustrating that to which I refer. It conforms to the curves of the factory receiver almost perfectly. The benefits are as follows - it's made of high-temper 6061 aluminum, bolts into all four screw holes on the factory 10/22 receiver, giving very little play in alignment, provides a picatinny rail running the length of the receiver to accommodate a scope or red dot sight, offers finer windage adjustment (ten stops instead of the TSR200's five) and two flip-over apertures like an A1 rear sight. Which would you rather have? The NoDak is a no-brainer. 

So, the iron sights (front & rear) from AGP cost about $90 as an add-on to their kit. The right move here is to leave this OFF the kit, and purchase the front sight from AGP as a separate line item on your order for $40, saving you $50. Next, go find a NoDak Spud NDS-26 at Brownells for about $75. 

Finally, be aware that the rail on the forend or hand guard - a $12 add-on - is made of plastic. If you're the kind that wants either a longer and/or aluminum rail, skip this option. The hand guard is slotted and accepts any number of aluminum options available at your LGS.

Plasti Dip to protect barrel Cerakote finish
Protect the Barrel Finish
So we've covered some accessories that you can better source elsewhere, but as concerns the AGP Arms takedown system itself, there are a couple things to be aware of. If you order the black Cerakote finish on your barrel, you'll immediately notice the aluminum hand guard will start banging against it whenever you take the barrel off. Additionally, the ends of the bolts holding the picatinny rail to the hand guard will start marring the barrel finish. To work around this, I used black Plasti Dip to give the forward edge of the hand guard a protective coating. This is reversible, and holds up to the barrel heat of a .22 just fine. It successfully prevents metal-on-metal contact between the guard and the barrel.

Those bolts from the rail are a different story. Truthfully, I'd probably skip putting this rail on until you actually have a defined need for it. About all I can comprehend is a bipod, and that seems a bit indulgent to me. If you need it, you can better protect your barrel finish by putting simple rubber screw connectors over the bolt ends. I picked up a couple at Home Depot or Lowes in those specialty fastener drawers, cut the depth in half and slipped them over the bolts. That actually took some doing though. I can't work in that confined space very well, so I used a dab of super glue to temporarily suspend the rubber cap from a chopstick, and much like I imagine building a ship in a bottle, arranged the cap over the bolt end just so and set it down over the bolt.

All of this may just inspire you to get the stainless barrel, and I wouldn't blame you. The black looks far better to my eye though. Other than these caveats and nits, the system works great.

Stock Assembly
If you've never taken apart a 10/22, fear not! It may be the easiest gun on the planet to disassemble. On a factory 10/22, one bolt takes off the barrel band, two bolts free the barrel from the receiver, and one bolt frees the receiver from the stock. The receiver falls out of the upturned stock. Set the factory stock aside, attach the AGP takedown adapter onto the receiver with two screws, put the receiver into the new AGP stock and secure with one screw, and you're done. 

Bolting on the Fixin's
Assembling the NoDak sight to the receiver and the rail to the handguard is best done with some low-strength threadlocker. For this I recommend and use Loctite 222MS. The commonly used blue Loctite is for fasteners over 1/4" in diameter. With the exception of the threading for a suppressor at the end of the barrel, none of the fasteners we're working with on a 10/22 qualify. The purple 222 is appropriate for fasteners under 1/4" in diameter. The MS is the milspec version of the purple. Again, revisiting the fact that the rail from AGP Arms is plastic, one might be concerned using 222 on it, but in my experience it seems to be holding just fine and hasn't eaten at the plastic. The backer that the bolts thread into is aluminum.

Barrel Components
Okay, so now onto the front sight, hand guard and flash suppressor. There's an order to this process - obviously the hand guard will need to be on before the front sight, and the front sight needs to be on before the flash suppressor. Your rail, should you choose to use it, should be positioned and in place before the putting the hand guard on the barrel. The implication here is that if you plan on adding a rail later, or have to reposition it, you'll be taking off your suppressor and front sight to do so, which will be a hassle. One thing I noticed is that the stop-point for screwing the hand guard onto the receiver changes after putting a few hundred rounds through the gun. Basically the hand guard screws on about 1/8th of a turn further now that I've put some rounds down range. You'll only notice this if you centered the rail at the six o'clock position and now find it at about 7:30. Therefore, you may want to skip the thread locker on all barrel components until you've broken 'er in a bit.

Leveling the Sights
Leveling the sights is pretty easy if you have the tools. I used a retical leveling system from Wheeler, though if all you have is a couple torpedo levels from the garage, you should be good to go. Screw the NDS-26 onto the receiver. Because it uses all four mount points on the receiver, there's not a lot of play on either axis, so not much guesswork in aligning it. Place your first level on the flat surface of the picatinny rail, and rotate the gun in the vice until the gun is level on the vertical axis. Now, put the front iron sight onto the barrel and place the second level across its "wings" perpendicular to the barrel. Rotate the sight until it matches the level on the rail and tighten the sight into place. In truth you can do this all with one level if you can ensure the rifle is locked in place after taking the level off the receiver, but it's definitely easier and more reliable with two levels.

One final note on the sights - the post in the front sight from AGP uses the standard 8-36 threading of an AR-15, so I swapped my post out for a Hi-Viz fiber optic. I'll have more on this later in the series, but thought I'd mention this while we're assembling things.

Well, that's it for assembling the AGP Arms takedown conversion kit. In the next part of this series, we'll get into upgrading the rifle's internals using parts from Kidd Innovative Designs, including a trigger upgrade, replacing the bolt and guide rod, and a couple other nifty doo-dads. Then we'll take it to the range and start the real fun.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

10/22 Takedown Project, Part 1 - Truck Gun Options

With .22LR ammo still being in short supply in my neck of the woods, who in their right mind would embark on project rifle in this caliber? I still don't know why I let myself get fixated on this, but you know how it goes - sometimes you get an idea and can't shake it until you see it through. That idea was to buy or build a takedown .22 rifle that I could stash behind the rear seat of my F150 supercrew.

So in this mult-part article, I'm going to take a look at the options I reviewed, the solution I settled on, the process of tricking it out, and the performance results from the range, including some fun with a red-dot site. Then we'll finally discuss storage options.

Molle seat cover from Sunrise Tactical Gear
Recently I purchased and installed a molle cover for the rear seat of my F150 from Sunrise Tactical Gear. They cost about $100, and are one of the most practical accessories dollar-for-dollar that you can get for an F150. Really. In a nut shell, the seat cover lets you attach any number of molle pouches to the underside of your rear seat. The existing space under the rear seat gives enough clearance that the pouches and their contents aren't crushed when the seat is lowered back down. I use this system to store key components for what's known these days as a 72-hour or walk-away bag. Things like water purification, EMT bag, fixed blade, hand warmers, multitool, space blanket, compass, etc. Most people's reaction to seeing this is that, hey, why couldn't you store a shotgun or AR on that thing? Well, of course you could. Space is obviously at a premium, but it got me thinking. A better solution might be to stash a truck gun BEHIND the rear seat. Doing what's known as the "Rear Seat Mod" in the F150 community, you can get convenient access to a small amount of otherwise unusable storage space between the rear wall of the cab and the seat back. It's not a lot of space. For that reason, I started thinking about takedown .22 platforms that might fit in there. While a .22 may not be much help storming the Bastille, it's a great small game rifle. Hey, I'm not planning for some theoretical zombie apocalypse, just after something that can get food in a pinch, and augment other personal defense solutions.

Possible Solutions
The solution is divided into two main parts - identifying the gun, and storing it effectively. The latter turns out to be the more difficult, the former more fun, so this series of posts will begin with buying and tricking out a gun.

Selecting the gun for this project gave me the opportunity to revisit the current and impressive selection of "survival" .22s and new takedown offerings.
Here's the shortlist of what I was looking at:

The selection process was one of elimination, really. There are myriad articles discussing the pros and cons of these guns, so I'll just summarize my conclusions here. 

Henry Repeating Arms AR-7
The venerable AR7 has been around for decades, and I owned a Charter Arms version for a while, so I have some experience with the system. Henry reportedly (and I'm sure) builds a better version today. It's claim to fame is that the whole thing can be stored in the buttstock, making for very compact and resilient storage, and that it floats. Note, however, that it's not waterproof, so there's a time limit on that float. The offset rear site, lack of a forend, lack of a threaded barrel, and lack of accurizing options, and somewhat finicky ammo needs removed this from my list. That said, at about $250-350 MSRP based on coatings, it's an attractive option. Being self-contained in its own stock easily solves the storage issue in my project. Both the receiver and barrel are thus protected while being knocked around in a truck. Because of this, it ranks as my second choice for this project. 

Marlin 70PSS
Marlin's Papoose is a pretty slick setup. They offer a floating case, and if your use-case makes flotation storage a priority (what, spilling your canoe?), this is on your shortlist next to the AR7. I like the "last shot bolt hold-open" that the 70P offers - different from 10/22 behavior, but you can imagine many of my objections remain the same as above - lack of forend, no threaded barrel, limited accurizing options and aftermarket accessories. At around $350 MSRP, for about $50 more you can get a 10/22 takedown, and it's hard for me to see why the Marlin presents a more compelling case. Well, literally, it's the floating case, which is nothing more than a curiosity to me. 

Ruger's 10/22 Takedown might be the obvious choice. The original 10/22 provides nearly endless options for aftermarket accessorizing and accurizing. Some of these will not be compatible with the takedown version, but you can certainly upgrade the fit of the takedown mechanism, add a folding stock, upgrade the internals, and add higher capacity magazines than either the 70P or AR7 offer. So what don't I like about the Ruger 10/22 Takedown? These are nits and it almost comes down to what I preferred about the next option. 

Author's first iteration of AGP Arms 10/22 Takedown conversion
You know that ubiquitous and obligatory walnut-stocked 10/22 that everyone has collecting dust in their cabinet? For about $200, AGP Arms offers a kit for converting it into a composite takedown. That's the base price. Believe me, it goes up from there based on the accessories you buy with it, some of which are worth it and some of which you should stay away from, which I'll detail later. So what do I like about this? All the advantages of a 10/22, with an arguably better takedown setup than Ruger's factory solution. This is what I ultimately went with, and the photo to the left was taken after dropping my receiver into the AGP folding stock. The barrel is 16", add maybe 1.5" with the flash suppressor. So it offers a very compact setup, gives me the threaded barrel, a forend/barrel shroud, and all the accurizing and aftermarket options inherent to the 10/22 platform. I should note here a couple nits I have about the stock and takedown models 10/22 that the AGP kit addresses. First, the site radius on 10/22 is shorter than I like, with the rear site being dovetailed into the barrel ahead of the receiver. The AGP kit includes a stainless 16" barrel without that dovetail, and there are preferable rear site options I'll detail in Part II. Additionally, the barrel band around the factory 10/22's forend means you're certainly not free-floated, and I think I can safely say that the AGP kit effectively free-floats the barrel. Whether this really matters on a .22 rifle in most use-cases is debatable, but I certainly like it better than the barrel band. Additionally, the pistol grip and folding stock are nice additions that I would probably add to a Ruger Takedown anyway.

So that's the field I looked at and how I ended up pursuing the AGP Arms takedown conversion kit. Since I already owned a 10/22, the AGP kit also allowed me to save a little money put my money into other 10/22 upgrades. 

In Part II, I'll detail the assembly process of the AGP kit, taking a critical look at some of the accessories that they sell with the kit that you'd be better off avoiding, and look at some parts from KIDD Innovative Design that will turn your 10/22 into a real rifle. 

Thoughts on the above options or questions about some of my points? Feel free to comment below!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NYT Again on 3D-Printed Gun Scare

It's the "devil-weed" of our time, and Nick Bilton of the New York Times is helping to whip of fear about printing guns. Never mind that industrious kids could make zip guns before 3D printers if they really cared to. Hell, when I was a kid I remember the Anarchist Cookbook being all the rage and plenty of experiments with homemade napalm. Somehow the world didn't end.

You needn't read the article - it's the usual fear mongering of "the kids", "metal detectors", and "inability to control". The author's not worried about a wave of juvenile hijackers by the way, these are just the smorgasbord of general "sky-is-falling" concerns. The interesting statement in the article, assuming the author is as anti-gun as his many colleagues and managers, is this one:
"Gun lobbyists argue that 3D-printed guns are pointless because many of these weapons can be fired only a few times before the gun breaks.... But last I checked, one shot is enough to kill someone."
Right. So is an inch of water. I wonder about his reference to "gun lobbyists" and whether if such sources of conversation really did exist for this article, whether "pointless" was really an accurate description of their thoughts on 3D-printed guns. Clearly Bilton is of the crowd that believes banning normal capacity magazines is not enough - that even one round is too many and all guns must magically disappear.

It's not a slow news week, so it's odd to see such a stale bit of work resurrected at the Times.

Have You Helped Out?

As the fall election days soon approach, here's a couple embattled campaigns you may want to help, even with $5 (though $500 would be better):

Washington's I-591 - campaign to protect gun rights this fall in Washington state is in serious need of help
Bob Beauprez - he's neck-and-neck in the Colorado Governor's race against Hickenlooper


Ferguson, Missouri, now becomes a theater of everything wrong with our growing police state. While the problem of overbearing police force and police militarization disproportionately affects some groups, this is an issue affecting all of us. At the end of the day, authoritarianism is color-blind.

As Rand Paul said in an editorial for Time today,
"When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands."
While this started with anger over a police culture too willing to use lethal force, the citizen control effort launched in response to civil unrest has taken the spotlight. I'm glad that the media isn't boxing this as some small-town racial issue, but looking at the bigger picture of police violence and questioning the overwhelming imbalance of power between those enforcing the law and the citizens who pay them to do so.

For a variety of reasons, a local police force should be no better armed than the general population that hired them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Recommendation

If you're looking for a good book to read, check out Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat by Dan Hampton. I soaked up the Kindle edition while travelling, and not only enjoyed it but felt more educated about the USAF by the end of it.

I'm not going to reprint the author's credentials, but he's highly decorated and a very well respected pilot, flying "wild weasel" missions in an F-16 over Iraq in both Gulf Wars. The action he recounts is thrilling, the danger is palpable, and the insights are informative. I found the book slowed down towards the latter third (if only because you're exhausted by the author's retelling of exhausting, hair-raising, seat-of-the-pants survival stories avoiding getting a SAM up the butt) but it's an easy read and rewarding to finish. He did a damn dangerous job that most of us know nothing about.

Also, I mentioned in a post that I was reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a great book about the Lewis and Clark expedition. If you've read that book, or will soon, a great follow-on is a book entitled Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, which describes a world existent immediately after Lewis and Clark return, and is focused on the mountain men that went West in Lewis' wake. The book is unfortunately not available on Kindle, but it's worth reading if only to further enrich one's understanding of an American experience in the late 1800's. Well footnoted, it's a fascinating mid-century documentation of American oral history, pulled from primary sources still alive at the time.

Alaska Senate Primary

Next week, we'll have the Primary Election to select U.S. Senate candidates to go head-to-head in the General Election. Alaska's election is getting unprecedented national attention due to the razor thin margins by which either party will end up controlling the Senate for the last half of Obama's final term. While Alaska's current senator, Mark Begich, is about as conservative a Democrat as you can find, and is very supportive of Alaska, his reelection would help keep the Senate under Democratic leadership. Conversely, his ouster will help Republicans take the reigns of the national legislature.

Being of proudly libertarian disposition, and having seen first-hand the duplicitous, short-sighted, and close-minded nature of the Alaskan Republican Party leadership, my party affinity is by no means a foregone conclusion each year. With that caveat, as pertains to the fight we have before us for the role of the 2nd Amendment, I do believe it's imperative to take the Democrats out of a leadership position on the national stage. Begich may be pro-gun when he can be, but he's subject to a powerful caucus that can extort his vote, and even more important, he counts towards a Democrat majority which confers many advantages to a party demonstrably opposed to the 2nd Amendment. In essence, a vote for Begich is in many ways a vote for Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, and the lot of 'em to continue pushing their national agenda in court appointments and legislation. For the purpose of getting Begich out of office, a Republican vote is the only logical choice. To this end, the Primary winner must be someone who can beat Begich, and ideally the most closely aligned with libertarian first principles. This is a hard balance to find.

So who's on the roster?

  • John Jaramillo
  • Joe Miller (Of "Joe Miller" Fame; Former U.S. Magistrate Judge)
  • Dan Sullivan (Former AK Attorney General, Former Assistant Secretary of State)
  • Mead Treadwell (Current Lt. Governor, great first name)

"Alaskan" credentials are important in elections, for better or worse, so I'm going to address that right away. None of these guys were born here, with Treadwell having been here the longest and Jaramillo the shortest. This will have some relevance in the general election - like it or not - as Mr. Begich is a "son of Alaska", born and bred. To this end, Treadwell has the best defense against the "carpet-bagger" accusations that routinely fly back and forth.

With that out of the way, I'm removing Jaramillo from consideration. He's got zero name recognition in the State, has been in the AK only ten years, and it just ain't happening. Sorry, John.

How does the NRA view these guys?
NRA Report Card for Alaska US Senate Candidates
None of these guys are "endorsed". The "Qualified" "A" ratings are theoretical, meaning their survey answers were good, but they have no record of supporting 2A in an official capacity. The unqualified "A" ratings mean the candidates have a both good answers on their survey and have a track record of supporting the 2nd Amendment. That means Miller and Treadwell rank the best.

So what's up with Begich's A- rating? Again, Begich isn't hostile to the 2nd Amendment, but he did vote against a pro-2A bill pushed by Rand Paul this year. It was a rather insignificant issue in the scheme of things, but it clearly demonstrated that in the wheeling-and-dealing of vote-trading, Begich must obey his Caucus. One can only imagine what they offered or threatened, but it can and will happen again. Further, I believe Begich supported the appointment of federal judges hostile to 2A. As all of us know, the Federal courts are the primary battleground for 2A.

You can listen to a debate, or candidate review, hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and aired on KSKA here. Just some quick observations:

As you might expect, these guys are aligned on the majority of issues.

talks a good game - he says he wants to go to DC with a crowbar, not a gunnysack, presumably meaning he wants more independence for Alaska, not more federal dollars and oversight. His experience as Lt. Governor gives him passion from first-hand experience interacting with overbearing federal agencies and seeing the development needs in Western Alaska. He talks about the 10th amendment, which is a dog-whistle to the libertarian contingent. He also draws a clear line on not raising the debt ceiling until we get commitment on a balanced budget.

Miller remains more radical-sounding than his opponents, if only because he's articulate about what he believes. More than the others, I believe he's a man of convictions, some of which are consistent with libertarian principles, but as with most establishment Republicans, he supports using the force of federal government to enforce social conservative causes, e.g. abortion, marriage. His best soundbite, aside from "The DEA has no business being in our state", is that he would be the reinforcement to Cruz, Paul, etc. What dogs his campaign is a somewhat soiled image voters already have of him. The company he kept during his last campaign will remain a yoke around his neck. In all honesty, while I admire his clarity and agree with many of his positions, I think he's less palatable to the independent middle ground of our state, to the point where he may end up actually rallying support for Begich.

Sullivan has been around the block, and sounds the most like an establishment conservative or professional politician of the three. In speaking, he lacks Miller's articulated conviction and lacks Treadwell's specific familiarity with Alaskan issues. In this sense he comes across a bit mealy-mouthed about his positions and vision, and to riff on Miller's soundbite, I believe Sullivan would be the reinforcement to McCain. Further, from my first-hand conversations with voters, his track record with subsistence rights as our Attorney General has a high likelihood of pushing the critical rural and Native voting blocs into Begich's camp.

In some ways, the financial backing might imply this primary election is between Miller and Sullivan - Tea Party vs. Establishment backing. In a more local context, I think at least two of the candidates think this election is between Treadwell and Sullivan - those who can best contend with Begich.

My vote next week will be for Mead Treadwell. I think he has the best experience, the right positions, passion, and the best odds of beating Begich. Either way, I'll support the winner. Make up your own mind, but if you're an Alaskan, be sure to vote on 8/19!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wolf Encounter Makes Ya Think..

Here's an article in the Anchorage Daily News today about a recent wolf encounter. A man hiking Wolverine Peak with his two dogs lost one of them to wolves and got stalked himself.

Wolverine Peak is part of Anchorage's "back yard" and one of its more popular day hikes. Approaching 5k elevation, it's also one of the taller peaks in the "front-line" of mountains, with good views of the surrounding range, the city, and some aircraft wreckage on it's NE face. I've hiked it many times and while only e'er seeing fox, goat and piteous stares from fellow hikers as I wheezed my way upwards, I've no doubt that there are bear, wolves and, yes, even wolverines hanging out in the area.

So the summary of this encounter is that guy was hiking the mountain with his two dogs, one goes missing about halfway up the mountain. Walking down into a valley on a tip from fellow hikers, he encounters three wolves.
"That's when the wolves picked up the pace and started trotting toward him, Battle said. The man jogged away. Two wolves approached together and a third circled toward the hiker."
Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/06/24/3532454/wolf-attack-that-killed-dog-a.html#storylink=cpy
Nice flanking tactics there, wolves. You can read the article for more of the hiker's response to this, but at this point we may want to consider the preferred course of action:

a) Run
b) Yell and make yourself appear large and intimidating
c) Use bear spray on whichever one of three wolves gets closest
d) Pull out the .45 auto
e) Unsling the 12 ga.
f) A & B

While B is the preferred option if one is unarmed, obviously D & E are the preferred augmentations to B. This scenario, while rare, does underscore the limited versatility of bear spray. Not having the flexibility to put the wind against your target, and/or having to quickly react to multiple targets approaching from different directions makes bear spray less than ideal, though certainly better than nothing. Far from Monday-morning quarterbacking, this underscores the value of being proficient with the most appropriate tools for defense, whether in urban or mountainous environs.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Running by a Grizzly? Keep Running!

So says Craig Medred, writing for the Alaska Dispatch.

As kids in Alaska, we're all taught a few fundamental lessons about bears:

  • If it's a grizzly, DON'T RUN! Make a lot of noise, maybe climb a tree if you can. If you're attacked, curl in ball and play dead.
  • If it's a black bear, make a lot of noise and fight back if it comes to it. Don't climb a tree, don't play dead. Black bears climb trees and they eat carrion.
Well, Craig's article proposes that you may be better off running from a grizzly after all. He points out that through radio collar observations, there are an estimated 65 grizzlies in the City at any given time, very well habituated to runners, hikers and bikers - though with a few notable exceptions

Recently a jogger was mauled after she saw a bear and stopped running. Problem was, she stopped right between the sow and her cub, which is obviously the last place you want to be. Arguably she would have been better off continuing to run by the bears for at least some distance. Monday morning quarterbacking is just that though. Thankfully she's still alive.

While the best way to avoid a mauling is to avoid a bear, Craig still advocates some offensive protection such as bear spray and firearms:
"...I do have a special place in my heart for firearms, having once shot a grizzly off my leg, thus stopping it from doing further damage. Guns are great if you know how to use them well."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Human Dignity in Newark

I happened to be reading a completely off-topic long-form article on education in Newark, New Jersey by Dale Russakoff over at The New Yorker. I promise this post isn't about education reform, but if you're even remotely interested in that sort of thing, the New Yorker piece is well worth your time.

No, what caught my eye - what is relevant to this blog - was an example in the article underscoring how life outside the school - life in the home, in the neighborhood - often more profoundly affects a child's performance and aspiration than what takes place in the school. So we're talking fundamental security needs here in re Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - everything from family employment to the integrity of family shelter to confidence that one won't be killed the next day.

Check this quote out [emphasis mine]:
"The biggest concern was children’s safety, particularly in the South Ward, where murders had risen by seventy per cent in the past four years. Jacqueline Edward and Denise Perry-Miller, who have children at Hawthorne, knew the dangers well. Gangs had tried to take over their homes, tearing out pipes, sinks, and boilers, and stealing their belongings, forcing both families temporarily into homeless shelters."
Wait, say WHAT? To describe this as a "gang-problem" is too dismissive to bear. This is a community that is unable to provide for the collective security of its members. Therefore, it's debatable whether the 'government' in this area is the city or the gangs. Who has the monopoly on the use of violence? That would be your definitive answer.

For protection, the South Ward community has been told to rely exclusively on the Newark police services. Cut to another anecdote:
"One night. . . a security camera captured images of nine young men apparently mauling another.When Jackson and Belcher arrived the next morning, they found bloody handprints on the wall and blood on the [school] walkway. His and Belcher’s calls to police and e-mails to the superintendent’s staff went unanswered."
From a vendor management perspective, we'd call this a "service shortfall". Not only does the city have a tin ear to the problem, there's no tangible threat of resistance or consequence for the violence the gangs employ. Unfortunately, you can't just "fire" your government and swap in a new one, much as our American mythos encourages that belief. See where I'm going now?

What can a community do when the government offers them no protection? The only recourse against crime short of moving out is to resist as a community and as an individual. Gun control advocates (see video to left) believe everyone can just leave a bad neighborhood, or was "asking for it" by being there in the first place. But we also know life's not that simple. Sometimes the bad neighborhood comes to you. Sometimes your ties are such that you can't leave without sacrificing a lot. And why the hell should you move anyway?

This gets us into the human dignity domain. Gun control is premised on three demonstrably wrong and dangerous assumptions - that police will protect you, that only a select few are responsible enough to protect themselves, and that you can (or should?!) simply migrate like a nomad when the criminals start raiding. This is a dissonant mix of a very idealized view of society and a very cynical view of mankind.

New Jersey, and Newark specifically, have worked very hard to disarm their law-abiding. They offered rewards for turning in gun-owning neighbors and most recently, were bolstered by the 3rd Circuit decision upholding their "May Issue" stance on concealed carry. "May Issue" means "Will Not Issue" if you happen to be less than wealthy and connected.

Let's get back to that family terrorized out of their house. If these same gangs went into a government facility to steal sinks, boilers and pipes at gunpoint, they'd be shot forthwith. The standard is different for the New Jersey government - and those connected to it - than it is for those in most need of of self defense (it's the urban poor who are more likely to be victims of crime). It is in part through criticism of this double-standard that gun rights are civil rights.