THE 2020-2021 SEASON

January 22, 2020: The Season Begins With A Splash

Every year the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries holds an event they call "Christmas For The Fishes" at Claytor Lake State Park. It's a way to build up fish habitat by putting old Christmas trees on the lake bottom. The trees are tied to concrete blocks and ferried out to specific places, where they're dropped over the side. Each boat can carry 15 to 25 trees at a time. I'm a member of the DGIF's Complementary Work Force, so was asked to help out. There were at least 20 workers: CWF volunteers, members of the Friends of Claytor Lake (FOCL) group, a number of Park Rangers, and Conservation Police Officers. All told, we put about 400 trees into the water.

I don't know where the trees come from, but there were plenty of them piled up along the lake shore at the Park boat ramp. Some were scrawny "Charlie Brown" types, but there were a few that must have come from displays in large area hotels: one had a trunk at least 10 inches in diameter. We dragged them to the dock (above) the boats pulled up and loaded them on board, and then went out to dump them. Things go surprisingly fast: it took not quite 3 hours to get them all in place. The image above shows a few of the trees ready to load up.

This has been going on for some years, and so far as I know the trees are always put in the same locations. Claytor Lake is pretty old (it was built in the late 1930's) and whatever structure was there originally has long since disappeared or has been silted over, so the trees and blocks provide cover for bait-fish species: the baitfish attract larger ones like bass, so the idea is improve the fishing. I have no idea how long a submerged tree lasts, but over the years there have been thousands of them put in place, and the concrete blocks from years past are also still there.

So the season has begun. In a week and a half I'm to go for the annual Super Bowl Sunday Bird Shoot. So far, so good.

February 2, 2020: Groundhog Day Bird Shoot

Today being SUPER BOWL SUNDAY, which is the nearest thing the USA has for a national religious holiday, and also being Groundhog Day, my friend Phil and I (who are SUPER BOWL agnostics) set up a bird shoot at John Holland's Shooting Preserve in Glade Hill. With us came a third shooter, Arnold, a retired physician and a friend of Phil's. He's also a member of the same shooting sports club we are, and an avid shotgunner and bird hunter. So it was a congenial party all around. Three is about optimum for one of these put-and-take shoots. We've done it with more but it gets—ahem—crowded, which is not a good thing when shotguns are being waved around.

Phil likes to shoot quail; I'm more inclined to shoot pheasants because they're big enough that I can hit them now and then; to balance things off we added in a few chukar partridge (right) a bird midway in size between the two others. Incidentally, it's the national bird of Iran; the chukar is a middle-eastern and Asian species imported to the USA as a gamebird. They aren't established here locally but there are naturalized breeding populations in some western states and they're highly prized. We paid for 4 pheasants, 6 chukar, and 21 quail. John puts them out in his fields, we go out with the dog(s) to find them, and all we have to do is shoot them. Ha!

I brought my Stevens Model 311 12-gauge SxS, which gave me a bit of trouble (more on this below); Arnold was toting a lovely Browning Citori in 20 gauge, and Phil had his old reliable corn-shucker, a Browning Auto-5 in 12 gauge. I like 4's for pheasants, and 7-1/2's for the smaller birds. I've always had good luck with 4's on these big birds, and my guns seem to like 7-1/2's better than 8's.

My 311 has some personal history. In the Fall of 1980 I bought a cabin in Orange County, Virginia as a weekend place. My wife and I fixed it up, and I planned to hunt there. Since at the time I was living in Washington DC and the District had absolutely Draconian gun laws, I decided to buy a gun that even the Nazis in what passes for a DC government couldn't really gripe about: a double-barrelled shotgun. The 311 was the last US-made double of its day, and I wanted it to be as useful as possible, so I ordered a 12 gauge. It came into DC to the only store licensed to sell any guns at all, Herman's Sporting Goods on Wisconsin Avenue. They had to bring it in from their Virginia store, and before I could actually pick it up I had to go through DC's rigamarole of fingerprints, photos, what amounted to a security clearance, written police permission, registration, and all the other bullshit that only people who don't commit crimes ever obey. It took about two weeks for me to get permission to exercise my Second Amendment right to have this gun, and even then I was forbidden to have it in any condition except "unloaded and disassembled or bound with a trigger lock, except when in use for legitimate sporting purposes in the District of Columbia," of which there were precisely none; but bureaucracies don't worry about little details like that. I wanted to be able to legally transport it to and from my Virginia cabin and had to jump through the damned hoops to do so. Incidentally, it was also illegal for me to possess any ammunition of any kind except that for my shotgun. A single .22 Long Rifle cartridge in my car would have got me a stretch in the DC jail. So this gun was perhaps the last firearm legally purchased in DC until they were compelled by SCOTUS in the Heller  decision to repeal their idiotic laws, which of course had never made a single dent in the crime rate.

I've owned it since 1981. I had it restocked, because the original stock was a made from a piece of construction-grade scrap 2x4 with a "walnut finish" that flaked off if you looked at it hard. I had a piece of walnut lying around that would serve so I took it to a local gunsmith and had him make a new stock and fore-end. I have short arms so it's been more or less fitted to me, and I had him add sling swivel bases. Every long gun of any kind should have a sling! It has a good recoil pad and a rubber buffer behind the trigger guard because it beats the hell out of my right middle finger in recoil, especially with heavy loads. I also had it fitted with choke tubes. It will accept 3" shells but those are pretty fearsome things to shoot out of it, as are heavy rifled slug loads. I've never taken a deer with it, but I've used it on various species of birds, including barn pigeons, not to mention other small game. It's a sturdy, plain-vanilla workaday utility gun that has served me well. If I were a "one gun man," which thank God I'm not, this one would be a good choice for anything with fur or feathers.

I mentioned dogs. Arnold has a dog, Zeke, the skinniest Labrador Retriever I have ever seen in my life. He takes Zeke with him when he hunts wild pheasants in North Dakota, and to give him his due, Zeke did seem to know what he was supposed to do when he encountered a bird. He's a "pointing Lab," a strain I've heard of but had never encountered before. John Holland's dogs are Brittanies, mainly, and they're very highly trained and experienced. Zeke, though trained, has nowhere near the level of experience, though his enthusiasm is high. He spent the first hour running as fast as he could and covering a lot of ground, but not turning up as many birds as we thought he would. He does point, but unfortunately he's not rock-steady and the scent of birdies in his nose often got the best of him. He would lunge and catch the bird himself rather than flushing it for us to shoot. No doubt this habit can be trained out of him eventually but of the four pheasants we took, I shot two (and both were excellent shooting, if I do say it myself) and Zeke got the other two. He also got some of the quail. Alas, he also has the opinion that every bird he brings back should be the subject of an ownership dispute and/or used as a tug-of-war toy, but Arnold is working on that.

I was pleased with my shooting and I made one spectacular crossing shot on a chukar as well as knocking those two pheasants down handily. By the end of the morning Zeke was exhausted so Arnold put him in the truck and John brought his two dogs, Lexie and Molly, to bat clean-up. In the end we brought home all the pheasants, all of the chukar (I think) and 19 of the quail. Not a bad day.

I did have some trouble with my gun that was a bit disturbing. Firing it at a quail, it actually knocked me down! This had never happened before and I was a bit concerned about it. I had trouble opening it up, but when I did get it open, the left barrel, as well as the right, had an empty shell in it! In other words, it had "doubled," fired both barrels at once. With two pretty heavy loads in it, it's not surprising I was literally knocked off my feet!

When I got home, I took the gun apart. I found that a tiny sliver of wood from the inside of the stock, a piece no bigger than a matchstick, had come off, lodging itself under the sear for the left barrel. When the right barrel went off the recoil must have shifted the piece of wood, tripping the left sear! It also was large enough to get into the space where the safety catch had to go when the gun is "broken" to reload. On the 311 the opening lever automatically puts the safety on. Since the safety catch was blocked from movement I couldn't get the gun open because there was nowhere for the safety to move into.

I removed the piece of wood, lubricated the moving parts, and reassembled everything. There was nothing else I could find, and there wasn't any noticeable grit or dirt in the action which might have caused trouble, so I'm assuming things are back to normal. I haven't fired it again but it seems to work OK now.

So the hunting season—if you can call put-and-take "hunting"—has begun. Squirrels are still open until the end of this month but I probably won't get out again, too many other commitments. The DGIF's "kill permit" system is in abeyance for the moment for a variety of reasons, but when it starts up again I hope to be out in the field writing permits again. We'll see. Things have started off well so far, I have no complaints!

February 3-9, 2020: A Busy Week

After the bird shoot I had some time on my hands. It was a good time to do some reloading to bulk up my ammunition supply in several calibers, so I cranked up my little munitions mill. First thing was to load some 8x57JR: I had a couple of boxes of Norma's wonderful jacketed round nose bullets in the proper 0.318" diameter, and brass, both fired and new. I used once-fired brass by Sellier & Bellot, very good stuff, saving my brand-new Norma brass for later. The 8x57JR is an old round, and S&B are the only company still making it, so I wanted to have enough ammunition on hand for any hunting I cared to do with my drilling. Hence I kitted up to reload for it; but honestly I doubt I'll ever run out of this caliber now: between the reloads and the factory stuff I have enough to last me a long, long time.

I had recently acquired a revolver in .45 Long Colt, which is pretty pricey stuff if you buy it on the open market, but it can be reloaded for a few pennies per shot, so that was the first handgun caliber on the "to do" list. I had on hand a big batch of the bullets Remington uses to load that caliber commercially, so used those.

Then it was time to do some .38 S&W and .38 Special. Somewhere I'd acquired a bunch of cast bullets, 158- and 165-grain ones, and decided to use those. I have no idea where they came from: I know I didn't cast them myself. The 165-grain bullets were OK, but the 158's were very badly cast, with lots of "flash" from an improperly closed mold or loose sprue plate. Flash on the bases sometimes prevented them from entering the 0.358" sizing die properly. I was able to get the heavier bullets sized but in the end I gave up on the 158's, and tossed them into the "scrap lead" bin, to be melted down or perhaps even sold as scrap.

All this fill-em-up and cork-the-hole activity occupied several days because I don't have a progressive press, I do everything on a single-station one; progressive equipment such as the Dillon works best if you have one caliber that you shoot a lot, but I don't shoot that much and for multiple calibers a single-station setup is much more flexible, though much slower.

We had house guests, too: an old friend from college came up from Nashville, and he and I went to the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a distance of 350 miles from my home. Harrisburg is also home to a colossal Bass Pro Shops store, so since after the long drive up we'd arrived late in the day we went to Bass Pro on Thursday evening. While my friend wandered the fishing aisles, I went upstairs to the gun department, as a matter of religious obligation. I almost didn't get there: I got stuck in the elevator behind the gigantic fish tank, and it took some time for someone to come and let me out.

Once free I waddled over to the gun racks: and a pretty pedestrian lot of stuff they had, too: the usual AR and Glock derivatives, no used guns at all, and a pitiful collection of in-line muzzle-loaders (FOUR of them), all amazingly overpriced. Who in his right mind would spend $600 on such a muzzle-loader? The used gun racks at L.L. Bean or Kittery Trading Post have a far better selection and much classier merchandise.

Having survived the Bass Pro ordeal, we went to our hotel and the next morning, bright and early, went to the GAOS. This is a massive exposition: this year there were 179,000 attendees over the ten days of its run. I'd been to it twice before, and to be candid, this third time will likely be the last time I go. It tends to be a bit repetitive and the emphasis is on many aspects of hunting in which I have little interest. Last time I was looking at the options for a moose hunt in Canada, but having settled the details of with whom and where I would go when or if I did, there wasn't much else that caught my eye. Pheasants in the midwest and perhaps waterfowl in the northeast, but I'm surfeited with whitetails here, and have taken all the species of African game I want. I can't justify the cost of another trip to Africa, even though I'd love to go, because I can't see killing more plains game just to kill more plains game; and much as I'd like another elephant, that's not in the cards.

My partner, however, is another story. He's a fanatical fisherman, a man to whom fishing is life. He has a strong interest in finding an outfitter who can guide him in the St Lawrence River's 1000 Islands, which apparently have become a hot spot for smallmouth bass. So we spent most of the day talking to fishing guides, though I did occasionally wander over to one of the African hunting booths to say hello and chit-chat with the exhibitors. Several of them knew the people I've hunted with, but that's not too surprising given that the African PH community isn't very large, especially Namibian PH's.   We traipsed the aisles for 6 hours, ignoring the boats and the "outdoor lifestyle" and cooking halls.  Hunting and fishing were enough for both of us.

One booth I did want to see was that from Taylor's Firearms. The .45 revolver I recently acquired is one of their products and I had some technical questions to ask them. Taylor's specializes in Cowboy Action Shooting stuff. They have some drop-dead-gorgeous replicas of classic guns, stuff Wyatt Earp or John Wayne would have been delighted to have.

It was a fun show but pretty exhausting. I think I've been three times now. A full day at the show, two days in the car and two nights in hotels pretty much took it out of me and I was glad to get back home!

February 13, 2020: Some More Reloading

"Put up" 150 rounds of .38 Long Colt yesterday and today. The .38 LC is dimensionally identical to the .38 Special except for a shorter case, so it can be fired in a .38 Special chamber.

Loading data for this very old round is hard to find, and what you do find is for 158-grain bullets, the standard for the .38 Special. Nothing wrong with those, but I had on hand a goodly supply of hollow-based round nose bullets weighing 165 grains. Since the actual groove diameter on a .36 caliber black powder revolver is somewhat larger than the nominal 0.358" of a ".38 caliber" round, hollow base bullets are preferred, the theory being that their "skirt" will expand and bump up to proper diameter. Whether this happens or not I can't say, but that's the perceived wisdom of the Internet.






I had fifty cases I'd made by shortening some .38 Special, and 100 brand new Starline cases headstamped ".38 Long Colt." The shortened brass got loaded with Trail Boss powder, a type more or less specifically intended to be used in "Cowboy Action" loads. TB is very bulky and light and something of a PITA to work with, but I needed to fill up a box of 50 rounds so I used that.

For the Starline brass, I opted to go to Holy Black: that is, GOEX FFFg, 15 grains of it. This is a moderately compressed load with the 165 grain bullets. One of black powder's virtues is that you really can't overcharge a case with it, it's also quite bulky. Of course it's a mess to clean up, but I can deal with that, I shoot a good bit of black powder in rifles. Soap and water does the trick.

The black powder ammunition will be used in a replica Colt 1851 Navy fitted with a conversion cylinder for fixed ammunition. The Navy Colt is an open-top design and not the strongest revolver ever made; I didn't want to push it too hard and was thinking that using smokeless (even Trail Boss) might do that. Wild Bill Hickock (1837-76) wore a pair of ivory-handled Navies when he was shot dead in Deadwood, SD; you can see them in the picture above right. If he could use black powder, so can I!

March 14, 2020: A Range Day

Went to the club range today to do some shooting. I noted above that I've recently acquired a single-action revolver in .45 Long Colt made by Uberti. I've been doing some reloading for it but between then and now I decided to buy a spare cylinder in .45 ACP caliber. The .45 Long Colt is two or three times the price of .45 ACP; three boxes of the .45 Long Colt cost as much as a spare .45 ACP cylinder, so it seemed a reasonable way to get the "most bang for the buck." At least that's how I rationalized it to myself.

I bought the cylinder from VTI Gun Parts, who specialize in stuff for Cowboy Action Shooters and owners of black powder revolvers. I like .45's and have a goodly number of conversion cylinders for my black powder guns. The conversion cylinders aren't cheap but VTI's product was half the price of the ones I've already got, none of which, of course, could be used in my "new" gun. Unlike the cylinders to convert black powder guns it wasn't a drop-in fit; I had to take it to a gunsmith to be fitted to my revolver. But he told me the timing was perfect and certainly the lockup is good and tight. It was time to shoot it and see how well it worked.

Short answer: it worked perfectly. The rimless .45 ACP headspaces on the mouth of the case. There's a visible "step" in the chamber to correctly position the case at the right depth. Every one of them went BANG! when expected.

And I learned something else. Somehow a live round of .40 S&W got mixed in with my .45 ACP ammunition, and guess what? A .40 S&W will fire in a .45 ACP chamber! I found this out when I tried to eject the fired case and it wouldn't come out despite a sharp push with the ejector rod. Plus, it looked to be too deep in the chamber. I dropped the cylinder and lo, when I pushed the case out, it was the wrong caliber! Like Groucho Marx who famously said, "I shot an elephant in my pajamas, but how he got into my pajamas I'll never know," I still am puzzled how that .40 Short & Wimpy got into the .45 ACP box. I don't own a gun in that caliber at all. Nevertheless I've included a picture to show what happens when you pull a boneheaded stunt like this: the .40 S&W case expanded beyond its limits and split. That's why it got stuck. There wasn't much danger from firing an undersized bullet but the expansion of the case could have been a problem had it become solidly lodged. The firing pin blow was hard enough to drive it into the chamber much deeper than it should have gone because a .40 S&W case is too small to catch the "step" in the chamber. Lesson learned, will never do that again....

The other thing I needed to do was to try to make my Stevens 311 "double" the way it did on the bird shoot a few weeks ago (see above for the February 2nd entry). I reasoned that if I used heavy loads I might be able to duplicate the phenomenon, but I'm glad to say that I did not duplicate it, despite using the heaviest loads I could find.

When I say "heavy" I mean it. I fired several rounds of 3" rifled slugs and six or seven 3" buckshot loads. I never want to do that again. I used to own an elephant rifle in .416 Remington, a caliber that kills at both ends. Well, so do 3" slugs and buckshot in a 12 gauge: the recoil was every bit as bad as that .416 and I have a bruised shoulder from the experience. But despite the pounding I took the gun didn't double, so I'm pretty sure that the sliver of wood that got into the action was the culprit.

As of this writing we are in the midst of


The hysteria and panic have reached proportions better suited to the Second Coming of the Black Death. Mrs Outdoorsman wasn't real happy about my going to the range, but I figure that if I need "social distancing," I can get it with a .45 and a 12 gauge whenever I want to. And I ain't dead yet.

March 23, 2020: Killing Time While Held Hostage

The hysterical over-reaction to the Covid-19 "pandemic" means that I'm confined to barracks for the duration, by order of The Governor and my wife, who is obsessing endlessly about this damned virus and spends every minute of the day watching CNN and CBS, who tell us, over and over, to wash our hands and never step outside the house lest we be slain by the virus (or perhaps the National Guard). So I decided to break out my 1963-vintage Lee Loader and prep some shotshells, just to see if I could remember how.

Mine is not the Lee Load-All press type: it's one of those very primitive hand kits that I bought when I was an early teenager and people didn't go to jail for letting their kids play with guns. I've had it more than 60 years.  Factory shells are so cheap and reliable today that it's not worth reloading for shotgun shooting unless one is a dedicated trap or skeet shooter. Besides, my kit is good only for paper-hulled ammunition: it predates the large-scale introduction of plastic shells.

Because I'm a superannuated old mossback and prefer paper hulls to plastic, some years back I'd bought a bunch of pre-primed Cheddite paper hulls in 20 gauge thinking I might some day reload them. Because I shoot a black powder shotgun or two I had a couple of bags of #6 shot and a bunch of wads on hand.  Some of the latter were of same vintage as the Lee Loader, but most of them were purchased in the past few years from Ballistic Products.  I found out that the 20 gauge wads used in shotshells don't work in my "20 gauge" muzzle-loading shotgun, because it's actually a 19-gauge. So I was stuck with a bunch of cork and felt and fiber wads I couldn't use in it. But they would work in the paper hulls.

The hulls were new but luckily I had a "crimp starter" die (also from Lee).  Based on information gained via the All-Knowing Internet I worked out that 18.0 grains of Alliant Unique and an ounce of shot would be suitable for tree rats come the Spring season, so okay, I was ready to go.  In the end I managed to load 25 shells in the course of an entire afternoon but it was a pretty frustrating exercise. 

The biggest issue was getting a decent crimp.  This depends entirely on the height of the wad column. Unlike modern shotshells (read: "plastic") there's no one-piece wad/shotcup. The height of the wad column is infinitely variable. In the end I used a 0.35" over-powder card, a 1/2" fiber wad, and a 1/8" cork wad, which came as close to the "proper" column height as I could get.

The idea is that you need to have just enough space at the top to have the crimp fold properly.  If there's too much space, you get a big hole in the front end, and the shot rolls out.  If there isn't enough space the crimp won't fold, it opens, and the shot rolls out.  If things are just so, the crimp will look like a factory shell (almost) and I did manage that once or twice, but it was an iffy thing to do. In the end I decided to seal the front end of each shell with a droplet of candle wax.  This would prevent shot leakage and/or help keep the crimp tight.  I'd like to try a roll crimp, but I'd need to buy one of those crank gadgets to do it with.  The ones I've seen for sale on E-Bay are pretty cheap, so I might do that.  Most of the ones advertised there are brand new, and made in Russia, of all places. 

I've also found to my frustration that the volumetric measurements on which Lee's tools depend are highly unreliable. The little shot scoop above is marked "1" or "1-1/2" etc., but if you get even close to the amount of shot you think you're measuring you're lucky. A volumetric powder measure (let alone the scoop Lee provided) is just as bad. In the end I decided to use weight, not volume; I have two digital scales and used one for powder and one for the shot. At least that much was consistent.

But I did it.  I hope I never have to do it again, but given the way things are going I might.  Various Fascist Pigs in some states have banned sales of firearms and ammunition (Gosh, I wonder why? Are they worried or something?) and given the tendencies of our beloved Governor here in Virginia, I expect the same to be done here as soon as he figures a way to "justify" it. So being able to reload anything is an advantage. At the moment I have enough factory shells of all gauges to keep me in hunting ammunition for the foreseeable future, but if, God forbid, I run out somehow, I can manage. 

I'll take these reloads out in the woods in the Spring squirrel season, but beyond that I'll stick to factory ammunition.  If I did a lot of shooting I'd think about a real reloading press, but I've had a couple of them and ultimately gave them away because they sat in my cabinet and never got used.  factory ammunition with lead shot is cheap enough to not bother reloading, and though my nostalgia gene protests, I have to admit that modern plastic shells are superior in every way to the old paper ones.

March 24, 2020: More Quarantine Reloading

Since Our Beloved And Exalted Governor (He Who Must be Obeyed, Or Else) hasn't seen fit to lift his so-called "order" to stay home, wash your hands, and stop touching your face (or else), I am still under house arrest. In order to stave off total boredom I decided to continue with my project of clearing out the reloading closet.

Somewhere in my checkered past I acquired a box of paper-hulled 12 gauge shells, of dubious lineage and past history. Still, the mice haven't been at them, and while they had clearly been around the block at least once, they perhaps could be reloaded. Not that I need any 12-gauge shells: I'm surfeited with them in factory loads and don't use many in a year, but what the hell, why not?

God alone knows how old they are. Most of them were Federal "Champions" and some were simply marked "Field Load," but one or two were marked "Western Field," an old trademark of Montgomery Ward. Now, M-W hasn't sold guns or ammunition for well over 40 years, and I believe those particular hulls were much older than that. Sixty years wouldn't surprise me a bit. On almost all these cases the mouths were pretty ragged, but they originally had star crimps, so I figured I could re-do them for at least one more go-round before casting them into the trash pile.

I had #209 primers left over from the days when I, in a misguided moment, bought an in-line muzzle-loader that used them; I had a suitable powder (Red Dot) and I had not one, but two 12-gauge Lee Loader kits. Both of these were newer than my 1963-vintage 20-gauge kit but other than that they were the same thing. At least one of them included a charge table that suggested 22 grains of Red Dot and an ounce of shot would be the bee's knees.

The issue I encountered was wads. I had a box of 12 gauge fiber wads from around the same time as the 20-gauge Lee Loader but no card wads and no "fillers" to make up the proper height of wad column. But, I also had a bag full of Federal one-piece plastic wad/shot cup combinations, that asserted they were good for 7/8 and 1-ounce loads.

The 12 gauge Lee Loader was new enough that it included a statement that "When using plastic wads, reduce loads by 10%," which neatly worked out to 20 grains of Red Dot. I found that if I used this load (which, yes, I know, isn't exactly 10% lower than 22 grains, I can do some math, though not much) the plastic one-piece jobbies would sit at exactly the right height to give me a good crimp.

In addition to the #6 birdshot I had a bunch of 7/8 ounce "Foster" type slugs. So an Executive Decision was made: 20 grains of Red Dot, a one-piece wad, and either a 7/8 ounce slug or 7/8 ounce of shot. So be it. So was it. I wanted to try using buckshot (I have some #1 buck that I use in a .31 caliber black powder revolver) but I could only get 6 of those in: not worth the effort.

I'm pleased to say that even though the mouths of those cases were pretty beaten up, nearly all of them gave me a good crimp, and some of them really did look like factory loads, at least factory loads that had been left in a cabinet in a garage for the 33 years I've lived in this house.

These loads—both shot and slugs—will be dedicated for use in my elderly Stevens Model 58 bolt-action shotgun. I bought this old corn-shucker in 1971 and killed my first two deer with it. I've used it exactly once in Virginia, shortly after moving here in 1987; its turn in the barrel (ha, ha) has come around again. I'll use it in the early June Squirrel season, assuming of course that our Saintly, All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Seeing Governor-Who-Looks-Like-Mr-Rogers-And-Acts-Like-Benito-Mussolini has lifted his illegal edict and I can go outside again without being shot by the Jackbooted Thugs of the Virginia National Guard. Watch this space for a field report, or perhaps a death notice. You never know which it will be.

March 25, 2020: The Non-Emergency "Emergency" Continues

Well, as I am still confined to quarters by order of El Jefe, Generalissimo Northam, a/k/a Governor Mussolini, I decided to continue my preparations for the inevitable day when hordes of crazed people come screaming down Interstate 81 in search of toilet paper. That is to say, I did some more reloading.

Some years ago I owned a replica Richards-Mason Conversion revolver in .44 Colt. The .44 Colt is a pretty obscure round dating from 1871. The Colt company was well aware that Rollin White's patent on cylinders bored through from the rear to use fixed ammunition would expire in 1872, and at that time Smith & Wesson would no longer have a monopoly on this technology.

The R-M Conversion was basically a percussion Model 1860 Army altered to use the new fixed ammunition. Not incidentally it was a good way for Colt to use up spare 1860 Army parts until they brought out the solid-frame "Peacemaker" in 1873. So the open-topped R-M Conversion (above) was only made for a short time. The .44 Colt languished in obscurity until its commercial viability was revived by the Cowboy Action Shooting game and the beautiful replica guns made by Uberti.

I no longer have that revolver but with it I received a good deal of ammunition, and I kept that. Why? Because except for case length the dimensions of the .44 Colt are the same as those of the .44 Special and .44 Magnum. The ammunition I received was loaded into .44 Magnum cases shortened to the proper length. While I don't have a .44 Magnum I do own a Charter Arms revolver in .44 Special, so I could shoot that .44 Colt ammo in it. I've mentioned this little Charter Arms before (see the Log for 2018-2019); since ditching the R-M Conversion, I'd burned up a lot of the ammunition that came with it in my Bulldog. Thus I had quite a few fired cases on hand and it was time to fill them up.

I had a bunch of bullets suitable for the caliber: Hornady's swaged lead semi-wadcutters, weighing 240 grains. These bullets have a very long bearing surface but no lubricating grooves. I dusted them with powdered mica to (I hope) reduce leading in the barrel and went to work.

The final load was the Hornady bullet over 6.0 grains of Alliant Unique, touched off by a Winchester-Western large pistol primer. I haven't had a chance to shoot these yet because El Jefe's edict barring free movement of honest citizens is still in force, but they look mighty good, mighty good. Whenever (if ever) sanity is restored, I'll take them to the range and see how they shoot.

March 27, 2020: The Siege Continues

Governor Mussolini has not seen fit to lift his edict, so I'm still at home and plotting my escape. The ravening hordes of toilet paper pirates have not yet arrived, so I continue my preparations.

Two days ago I made .44 reloads: yesterday and today were spent making bullets in .38 and .32 caliber. Over the years I've accumulated a staggering number of empty cases in both calibers that needed to be filled up; but—unlike the .44 caliber size—I had no bullets. Luckily I have casting gear and can roll my own.

My Lee casting furnace hasn't been used in quite a long time and I had some issues with free flow of the molten lead out the bottom spout. Over the years it's been used it's acquired quite a bit of "slag" (the junk that gets burned off the wheelweights, range scrap, odds and ends of lead, etc.) most of which floats to the top but not all of it. In the end I had to dismantle the pot and remove the long rod that closes off the spigot, burnish it with a wire wheel, and clean out the interior part of the spigot proper to restore flow. But in the end it was done and all was well.

I still remember how to cast and have plenty of molds. I used two (so far) one for the .38 and one for .32 caliber bullets. The "generic" .38 caliber bullet is a round nose weighing about 158 grains, suitable for .38 Special and .38 Super (it works beautifully in the latter, especially). I have a very old Lyman single-cavity mold for that one. For the .32 I use another round nosed bullet weighing in at about 100 grains. That's cast in a 2-cavity Lee mold.

Lyman molds are cast iron; Lee's are aluminum. On the whole I prefer aluminum molds. They're lighter and less fatiguing to use, as well as being much cheaper. Lee makes decent ones, and if they don't last as long as the cast iron Lyman ones might, they're so inexpensive that when (if) I wear one out—something that isn't likely to happen in my lifetime—I can buy a new one for half the price of a cast iron mold.

Cast bullets have a lot of advantages, including the fact that they cost almost nothing if you make them yourself. I'm old and lazy so I have over the years bought a lot of "tailor made" cast bullets, but when I have time on my hands it's one way to fill up the empty hours. Actually, Mrs Outdoorsman says that she's surprised at how quickly these days of "voluntary quarantine" and "social distancing" go by; she's right. Three or four hours of the day pass astonishingly quickly once the rhythm of a casting session is established. Moreover it's simply amazing how many bullets accumulate in a session. It's almost impossible to keep count while doing it but at the end of today I realized I've made enough .32 bullets to fill up all the cases I have (I think). Still have some .38's to go: I had far more brass than I thought I did.

Sometimes bullets come out of the mold slightly oversized. Once they've been cast they have to be sized and lubricated, which is done on a special machine that fills the grease grooves with lubricant as well as making all of them a uniform diameter. In the next couple of days the weather is supposed to be good so I'll get some more .38's made. If I really get ambitious I can break out the molds for shotgun slugs (both 12 and 20) and make some of those.

Then let the hordes come, I'll be ready!

March 28, 2020: America Still Held Hostage

Governor Mussolini still insists I stay home and has activated his Storm Troopers of the Virginia National Guard to enforce things. So be it. Today I sized and lubricated those .32 bullets I made yesterday and the day before. What a job...I didn't count them but there are well over 300. Then I needed to size and deprime and flare the .32 S&W Long cases to load them in. It took me more or less all afternoon to do this, and I still have another 100 cases to go, but that's tomorrow's project.

The Lubrisizer gadget (right) is pretty handy for this work, though there are options. After running all those bullets through the machine they came out sized 0.312" and weighing 101 grains. Tomorrow I hope to stuff them into the cases, once I work out a proper weight of powder charge.

March 29, 2020: More Preparation For The Apocalypse

When she isn't reading prophecies of Doom on her phone Mrs Outdoorsman has been doing jigsaw puzzles to pass the time. She's done at least three so far and today decided to risk her life by driving to Barnes & Noble to get a new one. I spent the morning "putting by" 250+ rounds of .32 S&W Long using those bullets I made and all the brass I've accumulated over the years.

In truth what I've been doing is basically catching up with all the reloading I've been putting off for years thanks to work, travel, Honey-Do projects, and other things. Quite a bit of it, in fact. Now the next stage is the .38's. I have roughly forty gazillion cases and nowhere near enough bullets. Time to get started: this will be a week-long effort, I suspect. Well, when the excrement hits the ventilator I'll be right there to catch it and shoot it down.

Now we have a President who is quacking about imposing a "quarantine" on several northeastern states to prevent people from crossing state lines. I imagine that even if he doesn't understand that he has no authority to issue such an order his advisors do, so it likely will degenerate into an "advisory" statement. Even Andrew (The Bambino) Cuomo, who is about as odious a slug as has ever defiled the New York Governor's Mansion, knows that an interstate "quarantine" is not only unenforceable, it's wholly illegal. It isn't often I find myself in agreement with a man I wouldn't use for fertilizer, but extraordinary times make for strange bed-fellows.

March 30, 2020: Still Fighting The Good Fight

Governor Mussolini has issued an "order" to all Virginians to stay home, or else. We are graciously permitted to shop for "essentials," which he deems to be such things as food and perhaps toilet paper; and to go outside for "exercise," so long as we don't enjoy ourselves. Anyone caught enjoying himself will be shot by the goon squads.

At least the President has backed off from his ludicrous proposal to impose some form of federal order, for which there is neither precedent nor any sort of legal authority. Nevertheless I stayed indoors like a good Virginian and distanced myself socially by loading 265 rounds of .38 Super Auto. Took me all day, more or less. A single-station press is slow, but sure. Still have a lot of brass left, and LOTS of .45 ACP to do.

April 3, 2020: The Idiocy Continues

We are still under "orders" to stay home (as if anyone has the authority to order such a thing) and the latest rumor is that Governor Blackface will "order" everyone to wear a mask in public. NO ONE has ever proven that mask-wearing has the slightest advantage in "flattening the curve" (pardon the jargon, but it's all you hear these days) but that wouldn't stop someone from issuing such a stupid edict. The hysterical reaction to the virus isn't based on science, it's based on superstition. Wearing a mask will have exactly the same effect as wearing an orange sock on your left foot at night, but just you wait, such an "order" no doubt will be issued by some believe in magic somewhere, soon.

So I'm still catching up on the reloading I haven't done for years. The past couple of days have been dedicated to .45 ACP. I finished up 135 rounds today and have hundreds more cases to fill. Somewhere in my dim past I acquired a third of a box of Hornady 230-grain lead round nose bullets and used those. But now I've used those, I've got to cast some of my own. I'm running out of storage space, but what the hell, there's nothing else to do. The stuff I've prepared will be used in the Uberti single-action revolver now that a) I have a spare cylinder in .45 ACP; and b) if and when I can ever get to the range again.

And needless to say, the enemies of gun owners never let a crisis go to waste: all over the country left-wing jurisdictions (like those in the Peoples' Republics of New York and Connecticut, to name just two) have been ordering gun shops closed; this as they're simultaneously releasing inmates from jails to "help flatten the curve." This is what passes for logic among the Left: increase the level of danger to the public from violent offenders, while depriving that same public of the tools for self defense. Well, at least I'm ready.

April 5, 2020: Onward, Coronavirus Soldiers!

We are still "quarantined," at least by the definition used by the Harry Hairsprays on the Clintonista "News" Network (who are obviously salivating at the prospect that this "pandemic" and the wreckage of the economy will cost Trump his job in November...but I digress..) so I'm back at the casting table.

I used up all those .45 bullets I had on hand and had to make some more, so today's project was to cast some Lyman #452374 round nose bullets for the .45 ACP. I managed to get 129 good ones before switching over to making 12 gauge shotgun slugs. I have a nice Pedersoli 12 gauge muzzle-loading shotgun that I've used on small game, and wanted to see how it will shoot slugs. One nice thing about a double is that you can have different loads in each barrel, of course. I've killed deer with shotgun slugs and they work like a bolt of lightning if you put one anywhere forward of the diaphragm, so if one barrel shoots them well (each barrel is a law unto itself) I'll put one in it and load #6's in the other for small stuff. I could use them in shotshells but I have plenty of "tailor made" slug ammunition already.

My mold is by Lee, and the slugs it makes have an odd feature. You can see it in the image: each slug has a sort of reinforcement across the cavity. A slot in the mold core pin forms this reinforcement, which Lee calls a "key." I call it a pain in the ass. A lot of the slugs came out of the mold with the "key" damaged. I figured out why: when lead is still hot but not completely cooled, it's fairly fragile. If I tried to dump the slug before the "key" set up, a piece would come out of it, and so back into the pot it went.

I weighed most of these 12 gauge slugs and was astonished at how uniform they were: every one I weighed was exactly 1.00 ounces, as the box said they would be.

April 6, 2020: Twenty-Gauge Follies

After my success with casting 12 gauge slugs I thought I'd try my hand at some 20 gauge ones. For these I have a Lyman mold, which is somewhat different from the Lee product. For one thing, it's made of cast iron, not aluminum; and for another the "core pin," the part that sticks into the mold cavity and forms the hollow part of the slug, is a separate piece. In the Lee mold, it's permanently attached to the bottom of the mold.

This Lyman design seems like a good one at first glance, but it gave me quite a bit of trouble. Mainly because until the mold is up to proper casting temperature, the pin sticks and won't come out of the mold easily. This was exacerbated because Lyman, in its infinite wisdom, chose to anchor the wooden handle to the core pin with a teeny brad, not—as any mechanical engineer would have done—with a solid cross pin or at least a setscrew of some kind.

The core pin being stuck, I naively tried to turn it forcefully, but the "anchor" brad simply didn't hold because it was a nail, not any kind of a screw; and it didn't go into the base of the core pin, it simply rested on it. Using too much turning force, I ended up with the wooden knob in my hand and the core pin firmly sticking in the just-cast slug.

I had to employ a couple of pairs of Vice-Grips to get the slug free, being careful NOT to score the core pin where it was to insert into the mold cavity. I locked one pair of the Vice-Grips onto the lower part of the core pin to replace the wooden knob. By the way, the knob looks scorched for good reason: it fell into the molten lead in the pot! I was able to get it out (again using Vise-Grips) before it caught fire. I think lead melts at a bit over 600° and that's well above the ignition temperature of whatever wood was used to make the knob. I have at least half a dozen pairs of Vice Grips in different sizes and types: they the most versatile tool there is and I couldn't live without them!

After I'd been using the mold for a while the core pin got up to proper temperature and became cooperative; I was able to remove it from the mold body easily. The trick, I found, was to remove the pin first, before knocking the sprue plate. The sprue holds the just-molded slug in place against the turning force of the core pin. If I knocked off the sprue first I could see the slug rotating as I turned the core pin.

The slugs I ended up with looked pretty good. Their weight was very consistent at 0.855 ounces, which isn't 7/8, I found out: it's 171/200 of an ounce!

I didn't want to have to use Vice-Grips every time I used this mold, so I put the core pin in a padded vise and drilled a 1/16" hole right through it. It seems to be pretty soft iron and I used the little dimple left by the original brad as a starting point. Once I was through I put the knob back in place, with a new brad all the way through the pin. It should be okay now, though I doubt I'll be using this mold much in the future.

Back in my Salad Days in New York State, I had to hunt deer with shotgun slugs because rifles weren't permitted in Dutchess County. I killed a couple of them with 12 gauge slugs but I've never shot anything with a 20 gauge slug. So why am I bothering to make these? One reason is simply that it's something to do while we wait out the so-called "quarantine" period; another is that I want to be independent of commercial ammunition supplies if I have to be. There is no question that the anti-gun and anti-hunting Forces Of Darkness are using this "emergency" as a tool to advance their agenda. Having had minimal success in banning guns, they're after ammunition (in whatever twisted logic system they use, they think this is somehow an end run around the Heller decision) and most especially lead projectiles of any kind. Twenty-five years ago they forced a ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting; in some states lead shot for upland game is forbidden. The time is coming when the sale of any sort of lead bullet or slug ammunition will be banned: this has already happened in the People's Republic of California. Being able to "roll your own" is a valuable skill to have.

I'll add that the last few days of casting have confirmed my opinion that aluminum molds are superior to cast iron ones for the home bullet maker. They are much lighter, they heat up much more quickly, and turn out bullets every bit as good as anything a cast iron mold will throw.

April 7, 2020: The Boredom Increases

Still confined to quarters, so today I decided to try a new reloading "experiment" using those 20 gauge slugs I cast yesterday. The slugs weighed less than an ounce, so I decided it would be safe to use the same 18.0 grains of Alliant Unique that I put under an ounce of #6's. I adjusted the height of the wad column so that I could roll crimp the shells. I have one of those little roll crimper widgets that fits on the end of an electric drill; using a padded set of small Vice Grips I'd hold the base of the shell and neatly turn over the top to make the crimp. It takes a bit of practice, but doing it this way I don't have to buy a drill press! These cartridges will probably be used in my little 20-gauge single-shot Stevens 94, whenever I am granted parole.

April 9, 2020: My Right Arm Is Getting A Workout

I have a single-station Lee reloading press. I like it a lot; but using it isn't a high-volume operation. Yesterday and today I loaded 150 rounds of .44 Special. Every case gets run on the press FOUR times. Once to size and deprime (with straight-walled cases like the .44 I can do these two steps simultaneously; with a bottlenecked case the depriming is a separate operation); then again to flare the case to take the bullet; after a few hours's cleaning in the case tumbler, each case has to be primed (I use one of those little gadgets with a primer reservoir, but every case has to go onto it separately) and then each case gets a powder charge. Then the bullet gets seated—another pass on the press—and finally each case gets a crimp, yet another pass. So for those 150 rounds, each case was actually handled five times, including the priming step (but not including case cleaning). That's 600 up-and-down runs for the press ram and 150 for the priming widget. This isn't all bad: every case gets "inspected" when it's handled, for things like splits, upside-down primers, and so forth. But it means 750 individual case-handling events just for those 150 rounds.

Revolver shooters have an advantage in that an autoloading pistol flings brass out so that inevitably you lose some of it in the grass or leaf litter. Revolvers retain the brass until you manually remove it. When you consider how much time and effort goes into a single round, a revolver makes a lot of sense. People are often told they'll "save money" by reloading; it's true, each individual round costs less money (especially if you use cast bullets) but you make up the difference in time spent prepping the cases and loading them up. But what the hell, I'm retired, so what with the "quarantine" leaving me with time on my hands, what else do I have to do?


The next caliber to get loaded will be .380 ACP. My everyday-carry pistol is the little Kel-Tec P3AT above. Of course I have factory ammunition in it to deal with what might be called "Close Encounters Of The Anti-Social Kind," but for practice I use reloads. Somewhere in my mis-spent past I acquired a few hundred 95-grain lead round nose bullets specifically for the .380. Over the years I've picked up a good bit of brass at my club's range, left behind by kind people who didn't bother to save it. Not many people reload small calibers like .380, but me, I'm crazy: I even have dies for .25 Auto and a mold to make the tiny bullets it uses.

The .380 brass got deprimed and sized today. Much of it was dirty; since autoloaders can be finicky about dirty cases (another point in favor of revolvers) it's in the case tumbler now. Tomorrow it will get flared and primed, then loaded.

And oh, Lord, there are 135 more .44 cases to load, plus umpty-squintillion .45 ACP (for which I have to make more bullets, I ran out) and God alone knows how much .38 Super. I had no idea I'd accumulated so much "stuff."

April 10, 2020: .380 Friday

Loaded 140+ rounds of .380 ACP today. Almost more trouble than it was worth. But I had the brass, the bullets, and the time, so it was done. I am probably the only person in southwestern Virginia crazy enough to spent hours reloading for this mouse-gun caliber.

April 12, 2020: A .44-Caliber Easter

One hundred eleven .44 Special rounds today: 100 brand new cases, the rest once fired. Used up the last of those Hornady 240-grain bullets. I'm waiting for the Easter Bunny; if he doesn't bring me an Easter Basket, he's going to regret it.

April 19, 2020: A .45 ACP Sunday

We are still under house arrest, and Governor Blackface shows no sign of lifting his illegal "order" that this continue. I'm encouraged that people are beginning to push back and that thousands are demonstrating in various states, including Virginia. He won't listen—he is a Democrat and hence pays no attention to anyone who disagrees with him—but we'll see what happens. He can't put millions of people in jail for not wearing the entirely-useless masks. (And a couple of weeks ago we were being told that only "N95" masks were suitable, that any "improvised" face covering was not going to "flatten the curve," if you have a piece of gauze you're "safe.")

So back to the reloading bench. I had a bunch of .45 ACP cases to size, deprime, and flare; and a whole lot of bullets to size and lubricate. My .45 ACP brass is a mixed lot, and I found that some of it uses small pistol primers, not the large size I expected. I sorted out this brass—all of it headstamped by Federal—and ended up with 18 such oddball cases. As it happened I also had on hand some cast bullets that came out of a Lee "Tumble Lube" mold. Now, I know I didn't cast these, because I don't have such a mold. I have no idea where I got them, but they were suited to loading into the oddball cases, so I matched them up.

"Tumble Lube" bullets differ from garden-variety cast bullets, and they seem to be more or less a Lee product. A conventional cast bullet has one or two grooves into which lubricant is forced under pressure using a lubrisizer (see above). The Tumble Lube design has numerous smaller grooves and it's lubricated by drizzling a small quantity of liquid lubricant over the bullets, and swishing them around to coat them. I've cast Tumble Lube bullets for the .44 caliber but never for the .45. The Tumble Lube design has the advantage that the bullets don't have to be sized and lubed individually: I did about 250 today and that took some time. By contrast the TL bullets got lubed in a minute and after drying were ready to load. They weigh in at 227 grains, and I charged the cases with 5 grains of Alliant "Unique," the most versatile powder there is. I plan to use them in a revolver chambered for .45 ACP.

April 20, 2020: More .45 ACP

Another 132 rounds today, and there's plenty of brass left to do, but first I have to make more bullets. Today's batch has 220-grain lead RN bullets over 5.0 grains of Unique. And...I ordered 200 .45 Long Colt cases, out of a sense of masochism, I suppose.

This has all been very laborious, but I get the .45 ACP cases free as range pickups (the .45 LC I ordered cost me 20 cents per case). Even if I have to pay for brass it gets reloaded several times to amortize the cost. My loads aren't really hot: I have some .44 Special cases that have been reloaded eight times and are still in good shape. They owe me nothing at all. The primer is the most expensive item, about 4 cents; the powder charge, at $27 per pound and 1400 charges per pound, comes to all of 2 cents per charge. Lead is free from my club's backstop.

A box of .45 ACP in the stores costs about $15; my reloads cost me six cents each, about $3.00 per 50. In .45 LC factory loads are very pricey: nearly $40 a box. Even paying for the cases, I'm not spending more than $0.26 for each loaded round, so it's $13 a box for the first batch of 50, and less every time thereafter as the cases get re-used. A lot of shooting for not much money, IF I can get out of the house without being shot by Governor Northam's Stürmabteilung.

April 22, 2020: Earth Day?

The Talking Heads on the "news" have been quacking about this being "Earth Day," and perhaps it is. If so I plan to spend the afternoon fishing at Stoneroller Creek. I may get arrested but it will be worth it.

Yesterday was spent casting bullets and working up some more .45 ACP, and I encountered something fairly odd in both activities. First, casting: my Lee electric melting pot seems to have developed some corrosion pinholes in the side of the spout, so that when I open the valve lead spurts out not just where I want it to, but in thin streams to one side. This is not good and I likely will have to get a new electric pot; but in the meantime I can still go back to the old method with a small pot on a gasoline stove and a dipper. That actually may make better bullets, and I did it that way for years until I spoiled myself with the electric pot. We'll see. The Lee pot doesn't owe me any money, it's saved me a small fortune over what I'd have paid for factory made bullets.

I also had trouble with one mold. This has never happened before, but one mold simply wouldn't close properly. The results were bullets with "flash" and incomplete separation of sprues. One of the mold handles cracked when I squeezed it too hard, too. I later tightened the central pivot bolt and that seemed to have fixed the issue with the blocks not aligning properly; and crimping the handle's metal retaining rings may prevent them from coming loose or cracking again. I haven't used it since I "fixed" it, so I'll have to see what happens next time, if there is a next time. I did manage to get 25 decent 200-grain .45 wadcutter Tumble Lube bullets out of it. Those went into some cases I had on hand, which brings me to the second oddity of the day.

At some point in the past Federal ammunition decided to make .45 ACP cases with small primers, not the large ones normally found in that caliber. I have no idea why. Perhaps they had a surfeit of small primers on hand, or perhaps this stuff was for some specific purpose. I've heard that target shooters like small primers as less likely to cause variation in ballistics than large ones, but that makes little sense.

I had about 50 such cases. Only one wasn't Federal: it was headstamped "Blazer," a CCI line. Even odder was the fact that the head on the Federal cases appeared to be slightly "dished," something I've never encountered in a cartridge designed for autoloaders. The Blazer case wasn't. Half these small-primer cases were nickeled. Since they were a "separate population" I didn't load them with the normal round nosed bullets I make for the .45 ACP. Instead they got the two variations of TL bullets, and I've designated them for use in revolvers; I have my doubts about them feeding reliably in an autoloader.

April 22, 2020: Case Cleaning And Preparation

My captivity continues but there is a plus side: I'm finally getting to the bottom of the .45 ACP pile. Spent the day depriming, flaring, and cleaning a couple of hundred remaining cases. Once I've accumulated enough bullets they'll get loaded and that's it for the .45 ACP. I'm wearing out my press!

I hunt with a couple of rifles in 8mm: a Husqvarna in 8x57S and a Burgsmüller drilling in 8x57JR. Consequently I've accumulated a bunch of fired cases in both calibers. I have on hand some bullets suitable for the 8x57S (i.e., in 0.323" diameter) so I sized, deprimed, and cleaned some cases for that. I haven't bothered to reload for rifles in years, but I'm using up old stocks of stuff and they might as well be done alongside the handgun calibers. I may hunt with the rifle rounds but the handgun ammunition will just get burned up punching paper.

April 25, 2020: The Follies Continue

I have spent the last couple of days dealing with the 200 .45 Long Colt cases I bought: it's a laborious process to do that many on a single-station press! They were sized, sonic-cleaned, and deprimed when I got them which saved some time, but they needed to be flared, primed, and of course charged. But I've caught up with the backlog and don't have any more of that caliber to load.

Also filled up some .38 Super cases I had on hand that were already processed and ready to go. Plenty more where they came from, but I've got to make some bullets. And wouldn't you know it, my casting pot gave up the ghost three days ago. The pinhole corrosion hole in the side of the spout made me leery of using it, so I ordered a replacement from Midway; it won't be here for a week or so. Until it comes my casting has to be on hold.

I'm going to try cast bullets in a rifle: a friend sent me an RCBS cast bullet manual that has some interesting data in it for the .30-06. As it happens, I have on hand a supply of cast bullets for this caliber as well. Not ones I made: I haven't a clue where they came from. They're 200 grains and based on the formulae in the RCBS manual I can probably drive them at 1800-1900 FPS. That will do it for any deer in southwestern Virginia when the season opens, assuming that a) I haven't died from COVID-19 by then (I won't, despite what my wife thinks) and b) our Revered, Beloved, Serene and Wonderful, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised El Jefe in Richmond grants his permission to go outside again. Maybe the deer I shoot will be wearing a mask!

The ennui is getting thick. Mrs Outdoorsman has been doing jigsaw puzzles. She got a new shipment in yesterday, including one that's round. She says it's a very contemplative process and helps her pass the time. That's the way the reloading works for me. It's not terribly demanding in an intellectual sense, and it helps the long days go by while I wait for His Exalted Grand Poo-Bah to grant me parole.

We also have been watching operas on DVD. We're both opera fans (though neither of us know much about it) and two nights ago watched a production of Puccini's Turandot. Opera on the radio isn't of much interest. I don't speak the languages of most of them —in fact I dislike opera sung in English precisely because I can understand the words. It detracts from the music. But opera on stage, or even on a DVD, is another matter. It has everything: drama, visually stunning images, and great music. We discovered we liked opera some years ago when a touring company came to Radford, and whenever we can we attend live performances. The touring company doesn't come any more but Opera Roanoke, a semi-professional company, does one or two a year. They're not, of course, the full-blown over-the-top productions put on by The Met or La Scala, but for a community out here in the boonies they do things well. DVD's are acceptable substitutes, and I was surprised to find that Netflix has several in their collection. We have two more on hand: I Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana. We saw an Opera Roanoke production of the former some months back. We're looking forward to the DVD.

April 27, 2020: Cast Bullets A Bust

Tried reloading .30-06 with cast bullets, and ran into unexpected problems. The rounds wouldn't chamber! I have to try marking them with soot to see if I can figure out where they're hanging up. Factory ammo chambers beautifully, so do some older reloads using jacketed bullets; but not the cast bullet loads nor even some jacketed-bullet reloads with the same brass. Brass "flows" when fired and it's possible that the brass I have has somehow acquired thickening of the necks, which would cause this. We'll see. I still can't get out of the house, anyway.

We watched Cavalleria Rusticana last evening. A story of love, betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and murder: in other words, a typical opera. This one is set in Sicily in 1890, which perhaps means there is a bit more of all that stuff than there might have been had it been set in, say Egypt, but maybe not. Opera is opera. Might do I Pagliacci tonight. A story of love, betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and murder: except in a circus, not in a Sicilian village. Other than that, though...a typical opera.

April 30, 2020: Still Under House Arrest

The "Stay Home If You Know What's Good For You" order issued by our Beloved and Serene Leader, Governor Looks-Like-Mr-Rogers-And-Acts-Like-Mussolini is still in force. I defied him, at my peril, to go to the grocery store today, but that's the first time I've been out of the house in nearly a week. And while I was out, I did not wear a $#!$#$##$!!!^&&%$! mask. There is no mask in the world that will filter out particles the size of a virus and wearing one is based on superstition, not science.

So while cooped up I'm rapidly running out of stuff to reload, but I did manage to fill up 50-odd .38 Super cases and to prep and prime 200+ more. They're ready for loading but I'm out of bullets and can't make more until my new casting furnace arrives. Midway says it's been shipped.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and I should have been out on the river fishing. Not much fishing in my future, I'm afraid. I've put my little boat up for sale and had a young couple who live very close to the New River come and look at it. I've owned a boat for 30+ years but I'm getting to an age where the discomfort of a cramped canoe makes less and less appeal; I gave up trying to put it in or on top of the truck some time ago and bought a trailer for it. But while selling it is a bit like finding a favorite dog a new home, the time has come. If those people buy it I hope they get a lot of use out of it for a long time to come. I'll be fishing from the banks of the Little River from then on.

May 2, 2020: The Compleat Mousegun Reloader

My new Lee casting pot arrived yesterday so I fired it up and made a bunch of bullets. Three calibers: for .32, .38, and...for the .25 ACP.

You know you're nuts—and bored to tears—when you start doing crazy stuff "just because, " so today I loaded 10 rounds of .25 ACP. Like the dog who licked his balls because he could, I loaded this because I could.

Somewhere in my checkered past I acquired a set of Lee dies for this caliber, AND a Lyman #252345 2-cavity mold that throws a 51-grain round-nosed bullet for it.  God knows what I was thinking, I certainly don't. I have no memory of buying either and they've been hanging around in my closet for years.

As it happens, I have a cute little FN Model 1906 "Vest Pocket" .25 I acquired from my late godfather many years ago.  I actually carried this popgun for years when I lived in the People's Republik of Noo Yawk.  And by the way, it's not a "Baby" Browning. The "Baby" is a post-WW 2 design in .25 that's somewhat similar, but mine is a pre-WW 1 gun, one of Browning's most successful products. FN's records have long since been lost after a couple of World Wars and the loving attention of the Wehrmacht, but based on discussions with Browning/FN collectors, I believe it to have been made about 1912.  My Uncle Joe told me his father had brought it to the USA when he immigrated here, sometime well before 1920.  Try that now and see what happens!

It's identical to the Colt Model 1908 .25, which was actually a licensed copy. Browning cut a deal whereby Colt got to retail the M1908 in the western hemisphere and FN did Europe and Asia. The Colts are fairly common in gun shops (it was a cash cow for them for many years) but the FN guns are pretty thin on the ground in the USA as a result of the sales agreement.

The factory .25 round uses a 50-grain FMJ bullet; my mold's round nose bullet has an identical profile.  Lee lists 1.6 grains of Unique as the proper load.  I had 10 cases, all range pickups. (Yeah, I know: someone did in fact shoot a .25 ACP on my club's range, and it wasn't me but some other guy.) I had the mold, the powder, the cases, the primers, and the dies.  I also had the time to fool around. 

I doubt I'll ever bother again to load it. The cases are so tiny that handling them is a genuine PITA.  They fit into my powder funnel, but just barely.  The charge is so small I didn't bother with setting up the measure, I just turned on the scale and set the powder trickler over it; a few turns of the screw was all it took to dispense 1.6 grains.  This is not a caliber where there's a whole lot of room for error: if you're off by 0.1 grain, that's a 6% over or under-charge.  Even as tiny as the charge is, there was only just enough for the base of the bullet.  I don't think a 6% overcharge would fit in the case!

Just for reference, my little Kel-Tec .380 is exactly the same size as that M1906, and I carry it in a pocket holster designed for...the M1906.  The Kel-Tec's horsepower-to-weight ratio is a lot better than the .25's is!

May 3, 2020: Bullet Lube And More .38's

As noted above, I cast a bunch of .38-caliber bullets, so most of today was devoted to sizing them and loading more .38 Super. I'm really working that Lubrisizer...245 or so bullets got run through it. Then it was on to the reloading process. I managed to fill up about half of the cases I had on hand. They'd already been sized, deprimed, flared, cleaned, and re-primed so all I had to do was weigh charges and stuff the bullet in. There were 207 in all, and I'll finish the rest tomorrow. Man may work from Sun to Sun, but the handloader's work is never done.

I'm going through bullet lubricant like nobody's business. As it happened I had about a quarter-pound of home-brewed lubricant, a mixture of Crisco and beeswax. I'd made this up for black powder shooting, but I had a bright idea. I took one bottle of that Lee liquid Alox stuff, melted my home-made lube cake on a hot plate, and mixed the Alox in. This softened the cake quite a bit and I think it will now work very well in the Lubrisizer, though I'll have to figure out how to get it in. Melting it and pouring it in to harden might work. It's no longer really suited to use in black powder guns because BP will react with petroleum based lubes (Alox is one) to create very nasty fouling. But I use T/C's "Bore Butter" exclusively in my BP guns anyway.

Watched another opera yesterday, too: Pagliacci, "Clowns." In this one the protagonist (who is, of course, a clown, played by Placido Domingo) has a wife who's fooling around, and he finds out about it from the villain who's got the hots for the wife and whose advances she refuses.  You can guess the rest...jealousy, strife, intramarital discord, name-calling, and—inevitably—a switchblade in the wife's gut and  her boyfriend's. An operatic divorce, Italian style.

May 4, 2020: Casting About For Sanity

Finished up the .38 Super; no more cases left to fill in that caliber! Don't know how many rounds of .38 Super I've loaded in all recently, but easily 500+. Then I needed more bullets for the .45 ACP because I had 216 cases that had been prepped. I still need to prime those, and fill them, but I have enough bullets now to finish off that pile.

I had some trouble with my .45 mold: a disinclination on its part to align the blocks properly and/or to close completely, sometimes resulting in significant "flash" and a lot of bullets going back into the casting pot. In addition, on the first runs the sprue cutter did not  want to do its job; I really had to whack it with my little club to get it to open. Later, once I figured out what was wrong, the alignment problem was fixed and for inexplicable reasons the sprue cutter decided to cooperate as well. I cast about 120 bullets, then lubed them all. A long day! Tomorrow's agenda will include priming the brass (a job I hate) and loading the cases.

My 50+ year old Redding powder measure is now set to throw just under 5.0 grains of Unique; the adjustment is so close it takes only one or two twiddles of the trickler screw to hit "5.0" on the nose, and about a third of the time the measure drops 5.0 exactly. Can't ask for more than that. Volumetric measures can be somewhat inconsistent in the actual weight of the charge, and when you're working with small amounts it's best to weigh each one lest there be a significant overload. A double charge is unlikely in a case like the .38 Super, but it can happen with roomier ones like the .45 Long Colt, and that  would certainly spoil an afternoon's fun at the range.

We've had beautiful weather, so I was able to give my Border Collie Lucy two Frisbee sessions. The dog lives for the Frisbee. She's a little over 10 years old but still enthusiastic; I have to avoid working her too hard lest she go lame, which has happened from time to time, especially if she jumps in the air and comes down hard. The picture above was taken almost exactly a year ago, on May 9, 2019. Border Collies are more or less the animal model for obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has to chase the Frisbee and would do so until she dropped from exhaustion if I let her.

What truly drives her crazy is a laser pointer. She'll pounce on the red dot as soon as she sees it, and of course it disappears when she does so, which leads to some frustrated barking. Who said they can't don't use logic and reasoning? She may not be able to figure out where the dot goes, but she is smart enough to have realized that the light comes from my key ring. If she sees the key ring in my hand she poises herself for a determined effort to kill that red dot and sometimes will try to snatch the key ring from my hand. One clever dog!

May 5, 2020: Not Much Doin' Today

Spent most of the morning and early afternoon priming a couple of hundred .45 ACP cases, that mercifully I had prepped a few days ago. I hate the business of priming, it's easily the most boring and fiddliest step in the loading process. I have one of those Lee "Auto Prime" gadgets with a primer tray, and a lever to seat the primers. Its theoretical advantage is that you don't actually have to touch the primers individually. This is, according to the Received Wisdom of Handloading, bad ju-ju because finger oils may contaminate the priming mix. Sounds good and it's intuitive, but as with most things that are intuitive (such as "brush busting" bullets and "energy transfer" and "hydraulic shock") it's almost certainly wrong.

My first loading press, a C-H #204 like the one at the right (the image was shamelessly swiped from E-Bay) had a little swinging arm into which you inserted a primer (manually) and then pushed it into position to prime the case as the ram came down. I never, not once in all the years I used that press, had a misfire or other issue doing it that way. When I bought the Auto Prime widget it worked reasonably well and I got used to it. But I've found that as I age, my left hand (which works the lever) is bothered by the force needed to seat the primer over and over and over. With small primers it's OK, but large primers require a fair bit of force.

Some years ago I was loading for a Snider carbine in .557 caliber, for which I had a shell holder but of course there were no adapters for the Auto Prime for weird stuff like that. I bought another Lee product, the "Ram Prime," which works more or less like my old press priming arm did. The Ram Prime requires that every primer be handled individually, of course. But it works and is much easier to use for large primers than the Auto Prime is. Using it, priming 240-odd cases takes a while, but it's easier on my hand.

And I discovered something while doing this chore. I was using mixed brass, and 42 of those cases were made by Aguila. Those cases, and none of the others, always left the primer a teensy-weensy bit "proud" of the base of the case. Not much: maybe a thousandth of an inch or so. You can't see it but you can feel it when you run your hand over the base of the primed case. "Proud" primers present a potential hazard in autoloading guns. When the slide comes into battery there's the possibility that it may set the primer off: a "slam fire." I don't want that to happen! So while all the rest of my .45 ACP will get used in an autoloader, I sequestered those cases for use in revolvers. I have spare cylinders for .45 ACP for the Ruger Old Army and the Uberti Cattleman, those will be that ammunition's new home. Revolvers are pretty insensitive to headspace issues, and of course nothing slams forward to hit a "proud" primer.

Our Beloved Governor, Ralph Northam (Praise Be Unto Him) has announced that He MAY begin the process of de-strangulating Virginia's economy through a "phased" relaxation of the restrictions He so wisely and beneficently imposed on us to "flatten the curve." It is so wonderful of Him (Praise Be Unto Him) that I can hardly refrain with wetting myself from the excitement that, perhaps, in a month or so, I may be able to go get a hamburger. We of the Commonwealth are so blessed to have a Governor (Praise Be Unto Him) who understands that Virginia is going to vote Democrat in November anyway thanks to the colossal disparity between southwestern Virginia's rural counties and the suburban counties around DC that are the homes of people dependent on the federal government. Whatever He does isn't going to affect what happens to our electoral votes; but Who also realizes that He (Praise be Unto Him) has to assert His authority, otherwise we Peons and Deplorables might forget Who's really in charge.

May 7, 2020: Finished!

I've finished filling up all the .45 ACP brass, at last. Between the ones with "proud" primers and this last batch, 216 rounds. Now, if I can sneak out to the range, I might be able to shoot some of it...and get to do it all over again.

Anyway, it's done. I have a few odds and ends to finish but as Mark Twain might have put it, "They don't signify none." As nearly as I can figure I've loaded 1750 +/- rounds of various pistol calibers, 11 rounds of 8x57JR, and 25 each 12- and 20-gauge shotgun shells. That includes the 10 .25 ACP's I did "just because," but not the remaining 10 .32 S&W Long cases I have to fill.

Reloading may save money, but it sure costs in time. When you add up the amount of time it takes to cast the bullets, prime and fill the cases (weighing each charge) it's more than I want to think about. At 5 minutes per round, when I add up all the stuff I've done it comes to well over 100 hours, not including prep time and setup, plus breakdown and cleaning. In terms of the "work schedule" which mercifully I don't have to think about any more, that's 2-1/2+ 40-hour weeks at the office. When I was being paid a salary that would have cost the Commonwealth a pretty penny!

Our Beloved and Revered Emperor Governor, He Who Cannot be Sufficiently Honored By Us Miserable Peasants, has decreed that our term of solitude shall continue for at least two more weeks; and possibly more if He Wills It. This particular Deplorable feels humbly honored to be ordered around willy-nilly by someone so stellar, so blindingly wonderful, as His Magnificence, El Jefe. So there!

May 14, 2020: The End Is Near, More Or Less

In His infinite wisdom, El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has decreed that as of tomorrow, we peasants and lowly Deplorables will be permitted to leave our homes and actually wallow in the fleshpots of stores (provided they limit the number of customers inside) and restaurants (provided they have curbside pickup and outside seating in which the proper "social distancing" is observed) and, perhaps, barber shops (provided everyone wears a mask). How I am supposed to get a haircut while wearing a mask, I have no idea, but it's what He (Praise Be Unto Him) says I have to do, and who am I to argue with His Munificence (Praise Be Unto Him)?

So as of tomorrow, some of the manacles will be loosened, though I think we still will have to wear leg irons. Well, that makes as much sense as wearing a mask that won't stop anything as small as a viral particle, so I guess I'll have to live with it lest I incur His wrath (Praise Be Unto Him).

Naturally I am turning my thoughts to what I will do next. It's a toss-up between fishing at Stoneroller Creek and fooling around with guns. If the latter prevails my next project is to dual-scope my little Husqvarna Mauser.

This rifle has served me well. I took it to Namibia a few years ago and shot a good deal of plains game with it, and in the USA it's accounted for a few deer and a nice pig. It's in 8x57S, a caliber that's much under-appreciated here, but is as effective and efficient as it can be.

The Husky wears a nice Burris "Timberline" scope, a fixed-power 4x. I like fixed-power scopes, as they're simpler and lighter than the variables, and it's what I learned on back in the days before The Flood. The Timberline is attached with a Weaver side mount base and rings. In this design the rings are a separate unit, attached to the permanent base with two large coin-slotted screws. Thus it can be removed and replaced easily.

My drilling has a beautiful Leupold "Europlan" scope mounted, which has a "German #4 Reticle," not the common "Duplex" type that's pretty much the industry standard. The Burris Timberline scope has a Duplex reticle, but I much prefer the German #4.  Since as a Hunter Education Instructor I can buy Leupold products at a very deep discount I went to their site to order a scope like the one on my drilling. The drilling's scope has a 30mm tube, but alas Leupold doesn't make it any more. However, they listed a nearly-identical scope with a 1" tube, and for a modest extra fee I could get that with the German #4 reticle fitted by their Custom Shop. Done deal! The new scope is a variable (1.5-5x) but I'll just leave the power setting alone and pretend it's a fixed 5x.

That bastion of American commerce, Amazon, sells the "1-H" mount to fit my base for a very modest sum. One is to be ordered today. My intent is to be able to swap the scopes out as desired. Why would I do this? Because the Timberline is sighted in to use Remington's 8x57, which is substantially less oomphy than Norma's product, and I have a lot of both brands. I can change the scopes rather than sighting in each time I decide to use one or the other brand of ammunition.

Another reason is because "just in case" something happens to one scope, the other will be available and ready to go. As a suspenders-and-belt man, this appeals to me, especially because the rifle retains its iron sights. If, God forbid, something were to happen to both scopes, I could fall back on those. I will digress here and ride one of my hobby horses: the mendacity of gun makers. These days centerfire rifles are sold without iron sights. Manufacturers have the colossal effrontery to call this glaring deficiency a "product feature," even though their real  motivation in omitting the sights is to save money and thereby increase per-unit profit. They argue that shooters will scope their rifles anyway, but they're being dishonest and demonstrating that they regard shooters and hunters as sheep to be shorn. Yes, indeed, 99.9% of us will put a scope on; but if you drop the rifle and damage the scope, your hunt is over if you don't have a backup in the form of iron sights. A rifle without a set of iron sights is like a fish without fins.

So, as soon as His Imperial Governator (Praise Be Unto Him) gives His permission to go out, I will head for the range and get that new Leupold lined up. Whoop!

May 15-16, 2020: You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains!

Our Beloved And Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him) has most generously decreed that Virginia shall "re-open" in phases, and we here in the benighted hills of southwestern Virginia, the most scorned and despised part, get to do so first because, well, we don't have much of that gol-durned COVID shit around here. El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has actually opened a can of worms (more about worms below) because once the peasants and Deplorables get a taste of freedom, they may rise up, waving torches and pitchforks, and march on Richmond. (Whoops, that has already happened, but they were waving AR-15's and Glocks, and there were 25,000 of them. But I digress...)

Mrs Outdoorsman had me engaged in brutal labor yesterday: going to Lowe's to buy mulch, and later rebuilding a wooden retaining wall in her garden. That's it above. Doesn't look like much, but it took me all afternoon in the hot sun to do the work. I first put it in maybe 28 years ago, and the weather and bugs had more or less destroyed the top layer of landscape timbers, so they had to be (painfully) removed, replaced, and the whole thing knitted together with 10" decking screws and 18" lengths of rebar to anchor it in place. But with God and good power tools, all things are possible. I maintain that no nation can achieve true greatness until its citizens have unrestricted access to 3/8" variable-speed, reversible cordless drills.

Mrs Outdoorsman is a fanatical gardener, who feels no compunction about dragooning me into her schemes, even though she won't help me skin a deer in return. I don't know anything about gardens, and don't want to. I only know two flowers: one is a rose and the other one isn't. But I am handy with tools. So my job was to go to Lowe's, buy garden timbers, rebar, mulch and cow manure, rebuild the retaining wall, and finally collapse in a flurry of ashes.

Mulch is the handiwork of Satan. That someone actually could be so perverted as to make a major industry out of shredded tree bark is beyond human intelligence. It had to come from Hades. Nor was I aware until today how many varieties of mulch exist. The image below is only one of many shelves at Lowe's stacked with mulch: red mulch, black mulch, yellow mulch, plain-vanilla mulch, pine bark mulch, hardwood mulch, "super shredded" mulch, treated mulch containing (take your pick) fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and/or a combination of all three, mix and match. There may be flavored mulch. There certainly is rubber mulch, which comes in two different forms: shredded and compressed into discs, though what the latter is for I have no idea. The shredded rubber is touted as "ideal for playgrounds," assuming you want your kids to roll around on old automobile tires, because plain old pine bark isn't good enough. Children who have to play on pine bark mulch stand little chance of getting into Harvard Medical School and becoming brain surgeons. Responsible parents demand rubber mulch for their children.

The worst thing about mulch is that it vanishes. Every year, we literally put at least a ton and a half of the damned stuff on our yard, and three months later, it's gone. Where it goes I can't imagine, but it simply goes away so that we have to buy more mulch. Perhaps in the night Satan sends his minions out to pick it up and convey it back to Lowe's?

She is also into dogs. In addition to the mulch, some cow manure, and a few other odds and ends, we bought a concrete dog statue for the front yard. That makes four. We have more concrete dogs than we have live ones.

Today I was sent back to Lowe's to buy not mulch or dogs, but more cow manure and "garden soil," which, I was informed, had to be the type labeled for "in ground use." It's soil, damn it: where else would you use it? But no, I betrayed my ignorance because I found out that there are very nearly as many types of "garden soil" as there are types of mulch. There is "garden soil" for gardens, "garden soil" for pots, "garden soil" for flowers, "garden soil" for vegetables, and perhaps "garden soil" specially formulated for growing marijuana once the state legalizes it—which will happen in the next session of the General Assembly.

Anyway, I returned from Lowe's laden with this stuff. I will note here with a degree of irony that my grandfather left Sicily in 1912 so that his sons and grandchildren didn't have to grub in the dirt: but these days I'm buying the damned dirt I grub in, plus some cow shit to mix with it. But I digress....

I was let off the leash after that.  I loaded up my fishing gear and headed for a place I call Stoneroller Creek. It's actually a stretch of the Little River, just upstream from a bridge that carries Blue Spring Road. The water there is roiled and aerated and the fishing isn't too bad. Not like the New but I can fish from the bank or wade.

I caught two fish: a 9" smallmouth bass and a small (very small) "redeye," the local name for a type of sunfish. Neither were worth keeping, so they went back in the water ASAP. Needless to say I was using worms. Nightcrawlers are God's gift to fishermen: though the makers of lures claim that worms are "just for kids," and that Serious Fishermen prefer artificial lures, every convenience store in Virginia sells as many packs of nightcrawlers as they can stock. Someone is buying these and it isn't all little kids.

Unusually there were other people who came there to fish: I've never before encountered other fishermen at that spot, but two guys rolled in about the same time. We exchanged pleasantries and went off to match wits with the fish. Furthermore, there's a sort of small park with a picnic shelter: and a bunch of people were whooping it up in that. So much for "social distancing."

However, before I left for Stoneroller Creek I had my first haircut in two months. The place I go to insisted I wear a mask, which is typical idiotic "magic thinking," because there is no mask that can keep out viral particles: they're small enough that they can't be seen with a microscope and anything that has pores will allow them through. Maybe if you put a plastic bag over your head it would work, but that would have other drawbacks, like dying of suffocation. Further proof of the imbecility of this policy is that they made me take it off  when the Barberess (A woman, of course: there are no more male barbers) trimmed around my ears, and again when she took me in the back to give me a shampoo. What on earth is wrong with people? Doesn't anyone have any capacity for independent thought? Can't they see the inconsistencies? No, they can't: it's magic, that's all they know. "Sheeple."

Our Revered and Beloved El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him) may think He can enforce His silly rules, but He can't. Now that we have had a taste of freedom from bondage we'll never look back. Today was the beginning of the end of "social distancing," tomorrow the masks are to be flung onto the ash-heap of History; and men will once again breathe free.

May 17, 2020: Swapping

Not wives, scopes. I traded out that nice Burris "Timberline" on my Husqvarna for an even nicer Leupold 1.5-5x20 VX-3i equipped with a custom German #4 reticle. Now I have to get to the range and sight it in. Today is a beautiful day but it will have to happen next week for various reasons. I like heavy bullets in the 8x57S; I have a lot of milsurp ammunition with 196-grain FMJ's so I'll start with that for the initial sighting, and switch to Norma's "Alaska" or "Oryx" 196 grain stuff for the final shots. I checked my stock and have quite a bit of the "Alaska" ammunition and one box of "Oryx." I plan to use that rifle on deer in the Fall. Those two lines of ammunition felled a lot of plains game in Namibia including a 1900-pound eland; it should have no problems with our local deer at all. The milsurp stuff in the picture is dated December 1953! The stuff in the clip is Remington's Old Reliable, the "Core-Lokt" line.

May 20, 2020: A Soggy Sight-In

It was pouring rain last night and this morning—last time I looked at the rain gauge we'd had 3" and there was plenty more on the way—but Mrs Outdoorsman had a hen party this morning, via Zoom video-conferencing, in which I was to have no part. My friend Phil had called last night and asked if I wanted to go to the range, as another mutual friend, Paul, was to be in town today. I jumped at the chance. When we got to the range it was still coming down and continued to do so for the entire time, but the firing line is covered and we were all wearing waterproof gear. I've hunted in worse weather!

I'd swapped out scopes on my Husqvarna rifle and needed to sight it in, so I brought that. And the big Uberti single-action, equipped to shoot .45 ACP; as well as my little .25 ACP popgun, an FN M1906 "Vest Pocket" made in about 1912.

I started sighting in with some military surplus 8x57. I'm not sure where it was made but Phil says Croatia. I doubt that: it's dated 1953 and Croatia didn't exist as a country in 1953. Nor is it Czech. It might be Russian: the Russians made 8x57 for Egypt back when Nasser was in power. In any event I have a bunch of it so I started the initial sighting in with that. I set the target up at 50 yards and within 5 or 6 rounds I had the bullets going where I wanted them to. I then switched to Norma's "Alaska" factory ammunition, made a few tweaks, and it's now printing 2" (5cm) high at that range. My Norma trajectory table says that it will be dead on at 100 meters, and that's what I wanted. Job done.

I really like that Leupold scope. It's got metric clicks, not the standard "minute of angle" ones. One click is one cm of adjustment at 100 meters. And when Leupold tells you it's one cm, they mean it. Their scopes are reliable, rugged, and repeatable. I fired at our 100-yard steel gong and rang it, big time, with the Norma ammunition. Bambi is in big trouble this Fall.

Then it was time to test my .25 with the reloads I made (see above, May 2nd entry). It fired and fed beautifully, bang-bang-bang, and though the bullets leaded the barrel it's not a big deal. I fired a couple of rounds of factory ammo and was astonished to find the gun misfiring with that! This has never happened to me: I carried that gun for years and it's never misfired, not once, until today. I'm not sure what's wrong, but the primers seemed to have a very light imprint from the firing pin. Maybe the 108-year-old firing pin spring is weak? I'll get another and replace it, and see. It's more of a museum piece than anything else at this point in its existence. Certainly I'll never carry it as a defensive tool again.

I used the Uberti with .45 ACP, firing the stuff with the small primers (see above, April 22nd entry). It didn't like that ammunition at all. On occasion the cylinder would actually jam and have to be rotated into final position by hand! I suspect the primers may be backing out: this sometimes happens when the load is too light, and while 5 grains of Unique ought to be enough to prevent that, if I hit one of the steel poppers on the 25 yard line, half the time it didn't go down. The load isn't very hefty, but I'm fine with that.

That 1953-vintage 8x57 is almost certainly corrosive; at home I flushed out the barrel with hot water, following that step with a regular cleaning and oiling. I'll check it periodically the next couple of weeks to make sure there's no corrosion happening. Looking at the barrel the rifling seems a bit worn: since the gun is older than I am (vintage 1944) I haven't got a clue how much it was shot before I bought it some years ago, of course; but it was probably well used. I may have to have it re-barreled some day. A new barrel would likely cost me more than the gun is nominally worth, but I like that rifle a great deal and it's served me well. What it needs it will get.

May 23, 2020: A Mystery Shotgun

A friend has sent me a query about a shotgun he's inherited, and I'm asking my readers, especially those in Japan, for assistance. Please see the Guns page for details, and thanks for any help you may be able to provide. More details will be provided there, but here's the gun:

June 1, 2020: Enslavement

Our Most Wonderful And Exalted Hypocrite-In-Chief, Governor Northam (Praise be Unto Him) has ordered us to wear masks " all retail establishments.." though how He expects to enforce this idiotic decree is beyond my understanding: I can tell you from personal observation that hardly anyone was wearing a mask in any of the several "retail establishments" I visited yesterday, and as time passes fewer and fewer people will obey what is plainly a nonsensical edict whose only conceivable purpose is to assert His (Praise Be Unto Him) power over us Deplorables.

In our backyard we have an "inner fence," behind which is a row of very nice Giant Thuya trees. The "inner fence" keeps the dogs out of the space between it and the outer, boundary fence. Why? because Lucy once killed a possum under the thuyas and Mrs Outdoorsman demanded that that sort of thing be stopped. Lucy has, as of the date of this writing, a score of five squirrels, three groundhogs, two shared kills of rabbits (with Tehya, our Lab) and the possum.

Inevitably there grow up weeds and such stuff as privet in the space between the fences. Now, weeds are undisciplined things, and they have to be disciplined, period. There is absolutely no reason  why they should be allowed to run amok in a space nobody uses, now is there? In past years we've cleared out the privet ourselves, but last year we had to get a landscaper/arborist to clear out the massive amounts of it that had grown up again (which cost us a massive amount of money). Privet being privet, it immediately started growing back. It's now a bit over head high in places, but worse than the privet...there was pokeweed, yes, pokeweed, growing there. That could not be tolerated either.

So despite my loathing any form of yard work I was informed on May 31st that as of the morning of June 1, Operation Weed-Whack was to commence. Bright and early, fortified by half a bagel and a tangerine, I was frog-marched down to the 'tween-fence and set to work.

We spent all morning at it, and in the end removed a measured quarter-ton of weeds and a substantial amount of privet, at the cost of only a mild risk of heatstroke and exhaustion. Once that was done I was told to put down "ground cloth," a/k/a "weed barrier," a sort of plastic sheet that doesn't prevent weeds from growing, but does provide a false sense of reassurance. I dragged all the stuff we'd pulled out up the steep hill of our yard to put it into my long-suffering F-150 to be taken to the landfill.

Excuse me, I mean of course to say the "Solid Waste Transfer Facility." From the SWTF trucks carry it away to the landfill.  The SWTF used to be a landfill, but someone decided it would be far more efficient and far more expensive to build an entire building into which large trucks powered by fossil fuels could pick up the stuff we Deplorables take to the SWTF, and they would take it to the landfill. Thus The Ecology is saved by not allowing Deplorables to actually take the stuff to the landfill. And those poor struggling truck drivers get well-paid jobs. Everybody wins!

Not incidentally the SWTF also houses our "recycling" option. The "recycling" trucks (so marked) come and dump their loads at the SWTF and the trucks then take that to the same landfill where our trash is sent. Thus The Ecology is saved yet again. Best of all, we have Voluntary Curbside Recycling in Blacksburg: that means we each get a special green wheelie bin. It's voluntary, which means we don't actually have to use the service, we do have to pay for it.

But I digress.

After taking that quarter-ton of yard waste to the SWTF (they weigh everything there, so I know how much there was) I was tasked to run some other errands at our local dog store, hardware store, and the Feed & Seed. These I did and in the doing I never saw even one person wearing a mask, despite the orders of Governor Hypocrite (Praise Be Unto Him) that makes mask-wearing mandatory, no matter how ineffective a mask may be. But  I have the satisfaction of knowing that I won't have to pull up any more weeds in the 'tween-fence for maybe as much as six months; and that I too, a Deplorable, have helped to save The Ecology. It's a wonderful feeling.

June 8, 2020: Of Cats And What I Get For Being A Good Samaritan

What a day...started out by being compelled to do more !%$!%$@#$^!! yard work, which I survived. Then I needed to box up some knives to send off to be professionally sharpened by Stephen A. Birgells in Locust Grove, Virginia, who's done work for me before.

So I had to drive to the Post Orifice once I got the knives ready. I was driving down the street and saw something flopping in the road ahead. I thought at first it was a squirrel: no, wrong color. Could it be a skunk? It's black and, it's a kitten! I stopped and got out, and there was this poor thing, no more than a few weeks old, bleeding from the nose, but still very feisty. I scooped it up, but the kitten wasn't having any of that. It was clearly terrified. It scratched the hell out of my right arm as I was putting it in the car under the driver's seat. I don't blame the cat, I'd have done the same. It also left a goodly splotch of cat blood on my arm. No matter, with the cat under my seat I drove off to the vet clinic I've used for the past 33 years to see what could be done. I called them to let them know I was coming in with an injured animal. I'm not a Cat Person but I wasn't about to leave that poor thing in the road to die, nor was I going to kill it myself.

When I arrived at the clinic a vet tech rushed out to get the cat. She asked, "Do you have a towel?" which I didn't, I don't keep one in the car. "Okay," she said, "I can get one." As she started to go back in I asked if there were some place I could wash off the blood and tend to the scratches, because I'm violently allergic to cats and needed to get the stuff off me ASAP. "OK," she said, " and I'll bring you a mask."

The mask, of course, was required pursuant to the "regulations" or "guidelines" issued by our Revered and Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded El Jefe, who understands as well as I do that a mask is no protection to anyone, but He (Praise Be Unto Him) probably feels He (Praise Be Unto Him) has to be seen doing something, so we'd all better cooperate with His superstitions or else.

She brought me a mask, all right: the sort of flimsy paper mask you wear when you're sanding wood! This was about as effective in stopping a virus as putting a paper bag over my head would have been—well, probably less so—but His Rules Are His Rules (Praise Be Unto Him) and I put the damned thing on. Then and only then was it safe  for me to be brought into the clinic and to the Inner Sanctum of the employee toilet (the public one being occupied: and by God I hope the occupant was wearing a mask) where I could wash off the blood and tend to the scratches. Back at the car I took an "anti-cat pill," i.e., an antihistamine. I don't have towels in the car but I always have those because we have friends who have a cat and when I go to their house I need it.

OK, so then I went to the Post Orifice, mailed my package, and came home, where I was in for more slaps and punches by the system. I received two e-mails informing me that a gun sales site had billed my debit card twice for services I didn't use. I called the card issuer and discovered the card with a local bank has been compromised. Half an hour on the phone ended up with the card being cancelled and a new one being issued.

While I was doing that the land line rang: it was the local county animal shelter, wanting my name, address, etc., about the kitten and where I'd found it. I suppose the clinic had notified them, though I can't imagine what use they would have for that information. But as a good citizen, one who always follows the rules except when the rules are stupid and I can avoid doing so—I'm talking about wearing a mask, here—I told them what they wanted to know.

As I said, what a day! And it isn't over yet. Probably more hoo-hah awaits me tonight.

June 9, 2020: Cat Update

At last report the cat is still alive: the phone at the clinic where I left it was answered by a girl who knew nothing and was reluctant to ask the doctors; so I called the county animal shelter to find out what they knew and whether it had been transferred to them.

As of 1:45 PM today it hadn't been sent to the shelter, which may mean one of two things: 1) it was euthanized at the clinic and tossed in the incinerator barrel; or 2) it is still recovering and will be transferred as soon as it's well enough. The shelter will let me know when they know what's going on. I don't know how bad its injuries were: it was bleeding from the nose but didn't appear to have been run over: I didn't detect any broken bones and God knows the kitten didn't want to be picked up. It was fighting me all the way, so maybe it wasn't too badly hurt.

If  it lives and goes to the shelter, an old friend has told me he will adopt it. So I told the shelter and they've put a note into its files. Speaking of files, the shelter is part of the county bureaucracy, and of course all bureaucracies have rules. One rule is that they have to give each animal a name (don't ask me why). They have decided this cat's name is "Slinky." Since I picked him/her/it up on Glade Road I'd have chosen "Glade," but nobody asked me.

Well, if it lives and is adopted I can tell myself I've done a good deed.

June 11, 2020: A Cat Update

The kitten is still at the local vet clinic and I was told today it was "...doing well, though it was touch and go for a while." When he/she/it is well enough it will go to the Montgomery County Animal shelter.  I've asked them to notify me when it arrives. God knows who's going to pay this cat's medical bill: not me. I suppose the county picks up the tab and in return gets a stray cat. How's that for a great deal?

I'm glad I was able to help the little beast; I'm violently allergic to cats but I like them, so I hope this all works out.  The clinic is calling it "H.R. Puff-n-Stuff," but the shelter calls it "Slinky." Since the potential adopter is a retired naval officer perhaps "Tailhook" or "Destroyer" would be good names. The cat won't care: cats don't give a damn what you call them because they're...cats. Dogs have owners, but cats have employees.

Our Revered And Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded Governor Who Looks Like Mr Rogers And Acts Like Mussolini (Praise Be Unto Him) still has us more or less under house arrest. Furthermore I'm seeing far too many mindless idiots wearing !!@#$@%$!@@!$%$!!! masks on the streets. I saw one ninny today wearing TWO masks AND a face shield. You have to wonder where these peoples' capacity for independent and rational thought may be. Wait...they're products of the American educational system, so of course they don't have any such ability.

This too, shall pass: but it's taking a plaguey long time to do so.

June 17-19, 2020: Still Under House Arrest, And Put To Work

It's been raining for several days: raining quite hard, in fact. We had 4-1/2" over the course of a couple of days; this has been the rainiest Spring in Blacksburg's records, if what I hear on the Tube can be believed. (Much of it can't, but they seem to have no reason to lie about the weather, at least, except to blame it on GLOBAL WARMING and Trump.)

All the rain has encouraged plant growth, needless to say: and that includes the weeds that grow in the carpet of mulch that Mrs Outdoorsman insists has to be put down in front of the garage—twice every year because the damned stuff disappears in a couple of months. I keep telling her she's just encouraging them but nobody listens to me.

To make matters even more complicated, we have a couple of bird feeders right over the mulch. This year a number of plants popped up that I don't recognize (that doesn't mean much, I studiously avoid anything that smacks of botany) and since they weren't supposed to be there, they were, perforce, weeds to be removed. I suspect some of these newcomers were birdseed plants.

At least the mulch and underlying dirt were softened by the rain, so that yanking the damned things up wasn't too hard. And yank them we did: three trash barrels full, not including the grass that grows in the mulch, which had to be done with the "weed eater" thingie, another of Satan's inventions. Take heed, readers: there is no such thing as a "labor-saving device." All such things do is to create more labor to be done. The "easier" it is to deal with over grown grass, for example, the more grass is found that has to be dealt with, the more time has to be spent dealing with it, and thus there is no saving of labor.

In any event, we're still under house arrest at the order of El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) so we couldn't go anywhere. This nonsense is really getting wearying. People are beginning to push back against Him (Praise Be Unto Him) and it's about damned time. "Phase Three" (whatever the hell that means) was supposed to start today, but He (Praise Be Unto Him) has decreed that it will not.

Thank God for the provision of the Virginia Constitution that prohibits Governors from succeeding themselves. We will be rid of Him (Praise Be Unto Him) in 2021, although alas that isn't soon enough. He (Praise Be Unto Him) isn't finished destroying what's left of the state's economy and social fabric and that gives Him (Praise Be Unto Him) plenty of time to do more damage.

June 23, 2020: Long Live The Cat!

I had a call today from my old friend who expressed interest in adopting the kitten I rescued on June 8th. He had been in touch with our local shelter: the cat is alive and doing well, but is still too small to spay (or neuter, I still don't know if it's a male or a female) so he has to wait. It's got to be at least two pounds for that to happen. But Bob's put dibs on it. He told me they said it had "something funny" with its jaw, but since it was bleeding from its mouth when I picked it up, I'm not surprised to hear that. It must have been just grazed by a car, and obviously wasn't run over or it would have died on the spot. Bob lives a long way from here, 250 +/- miles, but he wants it anyway, sight unseen.

We are still under house arrest (I refuse to call it a quarantine, sick people get quarantined, healthy ones get locked in) and slowly going stir crazy. A couple of days ago one of Mrs Outdoorsman's friends, also going nuts from isolation (she lives way the hell out in the country) came over for a couple of hours so she could actually see and talk with a real human. While she was here she used our "powder room," so after she left, Mrs Outdoorsman, yielding to the fear and panic induced in everyone by the breathless We're-All-Gonna-Die!  stories on the "news," disinfected the entire room and prohibited its use for two days.

In the next life, I hope Our Beloved And All-Knowing And Omnipotent El Jefe (Praise Be Upon Him) gets what's coming to him.

Today is Election day for the primaries. For the last two months we've been bombarded with endless ads on the Boob Tube for the three contenders for Congress in the Democratic race for the 5th District. One is an ex-Marine woman who claims to be "retired," though her website says she joined the Marines at age 23; and as she can't be a day over age 40, I don't see how that's possible. Another is a physician who claims to have been " advisor to president Obama..." although according to his website, he was a White House Felllow. Not surprising, but a White House Fellow is in no sense an"advisor"; he's basically an intern and a go-fer. If this doctor actually laid eyes on Obama in person more than once a month I'd be very surprised. The third is another ex-Marine, seemingly a nice guy, whose wife does his commercials about what a great family man he is and how this means he'll be great in Congress. Well, maybe. But he's a middle-class white male and his odds of winning the nomination are slim.

I went to vote in the Republican primary this morning: it's for the Senate, to run as a Forlorn Hope against Mark Warner, one of our current trendy-lefty incumbents. The challenger will have a steep uphill climb in that one.

Well, anyway, the cat lives, long live the cat!

June 24, 2020: Oy, Vey, What A Day!

It started off well enough. I am a member of the DGIF's "Complementary Work Force," a cadre of volunteers who take on chores that would otherwise be done by Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) who have better things to do, like catching Bad Guys. One of the specific duties I have is writing kill permits for wildlife damage to crops or ornamental plants. I went through the training for this a few years ago, when the program was just begun. We have so many deer in Virginia they've reached nuisance levels in many parts of the state: in fact, in Northern Virginia they're beyond that, they're positively a danger, especially on night-time roads. Car-deer collisions are a daily event (I've had two myself). So the Commonwealth wants these critters thinned out and the fastest way to do that is to allow people with any sort of reasonable excuse to do so to kill them. I get to write the Death Warrants, based on directions from the Marion Office for Region III.

For the last year and a half the Volunteer Coordinator's position has been vacant after the Coordinator retired. He's the guy who issues the edicts and sends the commands to the schleppers in ranks of the CWF's permit writers. With him gone we hadn't issued any for well over a year but the office was filled and the new Coordinator had to be brought up to speed on the regulations. Then it was decided to increase the number of permit writers so a training session was instituted. That happened today.

Because of the COVID 19 PANDEMIC, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! of course it had to be done "virtually," not in person, lest anyone die before  getting to write a permit. Having already been trained I didn't need to do the course again, but I figured a refresher wouldn't hurt, so I signed on. It was done using Go To Meeting software and I'll say that after a few technical glitches were worked out, things went pretty well. I normally don't use the web cam nor the microphone function on my computer so I had to figure out how to turn those on, but once I did it went okay. That software has distinct advantages and will be much more widely used in the future: I wish I'd bought stock in the company.

As seems to be mandatory these days, of course the presentation was done using Power Point slides, which I could see on the screen of my computer. Now, here I'm going to ride one of my hobby horses: the excruciating misuse of a program that is a work of sheer genius. Power Point is designed to show images. But how do 99.99% of presenters use Power Point? THEY PROJECT WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, on the screen and then, to add insult to injury, THEY READ THE SLIDES TO YOU, VERBATIM, as if you were illiterate and couldn't do it yourself.

I spent 40 years in the trenches of Academia teaching an extremely visual discipline, and believe me, I know how to get the best out of Power Point; but I had to sit there squirming (at least it was at my home desk so nobody could see me squirm) while the presenter droned on telling us what was on the slide. AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!

But I digress.

That exercise took up two hours, but I did learn a few new things, stuff that had changed a bit since I started writing permits, so it wasn't entirely wasted.

The next item on the agenda was to replace the ramp by which I winch dead deer into my truck. You can see it here. Just a light frame and a piece of plywood, but it saves me immense labor. I used to be able to pick the deer up and put it in the truck myself but no more. Now I just drag the beast to the base of the ramp, hitch it up, hit the switch, and up it comes.

Well, my old ramp had died the death from a few years' exposure to the elements, so it was time for a new one. A friend offered me some scrap lumber. I tossed the old ramp on my last trip to the town dump (excuse me, the Transfer Station, whence fossil fuel burning trucks take it to the dump..but again, I digress) and had to make a new one.

My late father in law bequeathed to me a really frightening piece of equipment: a 10" radial arm saw. It scares the shit out of me but it's absolutely the bee's knees for any kind of rough carpentry. I used it to rip a 2"x6" into two six-foot long halves to form the sides of the ramp. But this was not done without issues: a very well seasoned piece of treated lumber is a heavy load even for that saw, and the motor overheated in the process. Well, never mind, I thought, I can go to Lowe's and buy a couple of 2"x2" strips and be done with it.

Uh-uh. No, I couldn't. Why? Because somehow, some way, the battery in my truck had gone belly up. I have no idea why. No obvious current drain, no lights left on, nothing. (On one or two occasions in the past I'd forgotten to unplug the GPS from the lighter socket and that will drain the battery, but that's not what happened this time.) I have no idea where the current drain was. I just hope the battery isn't dying completely. In any event I'll have to replace it before the deer season and permit writing seasons begin. I put the battery charger on it, so by tomorrow I'll know if the charge "took" but if it hasn' to Advance Auto Parts for a new battery.

So that killed the entire day, more or less. Of course, we are still under house arrest, though El Jefe (All Praise Be Unto Him) has decided, in His Magnificence and Omnipotence (All Praise Be Unto Him) to condescend to allow us to enter "Phase 3" on 1 July. Isn't that wonderful? No, it doesn't mean we Deplorables are exempt from the "mandatory" mask order, the one that no one observes. Who knows? Perhaps in the future (after the Presidential Election, of course, He's got to do all He can to get Sleepy Joe elected) some of this idiocy may cease. But I wouldn't bet on it.

June 25, 2020: Some Minor Accomplishments

Most of today was spent running errands. The first place I went was Advance Auto parts, because yes, the @##!#%!!!^^! battery was totally dead. God knows what happened to it, because even after all night on the charger it was stone dead: nada, zip, nil  charge. So $115 +/- later I was the proud possessor of a new battery, and off I went.

I had to go to Lowe's to buy some plywood for my replacement deer ramp (see below) and oh, while I was there, would I please get some bags of stone? In Woman-Speak, "Would you please" is not a polite request. It's a direct order, to be disobeyed at my peril. The same is true for "What would you think of..." and "How would you like to..." and similar phrases.

Then I foolishly called home before checking out at Lowe's and asked if there was anything else She would like? Why yes, as a matter of fact, five more bags of mulch. I've said my say on mulch; I've long since lost count of how many bags of the stuff we've bought this year alone. All of it will be gone in a few months and I'll have to do it all over again.

The truck laden with plywood, well over half a ton of rocks, and five more bags of The Devil's Handiwork, I had to get to my bank. This is in the Kroger store at the south end of town and I have been avoiding Kroger because they have these signs sternly warning that I must wear a "face covering" to enter. I did not. No one challenged me, although most of the people inside were the sort of mind-numbed sheeple who think—because some talking head on the so-called "news" said so—that a mask "helps," although they'd be better "protected" if they wore a pillowcase over their heads or an orange sock on their left foot. Mask-wearing is pure superstition.

Then off to Tractor Supply to buy birdseed: if there's one thing we buy more of than mulch it's birdseed. No joke: we have the fattest birds in the Commonwealth. Every year we go through roughly 100 pounds of the stuff each month. Now a lot of this goes into making new squirrels, but I have no problem with that: I like squirrels and they have to eat, too.

Then on to the Kroger near me; that store has the same signs and the same laissez-faire attitude. Nobody seems to give a damn whether I wear a mask or not, though I imagine some of the mind-numbed sheeple were muttering curses under their (stifled) breath. I take some satisfaction in this minor victory over ignorance. Not wearing a mask isn't a political statement, it's an proclamation that I can recognize stupidity run rampant when I see it. And yes, I'm in the "high risk group" myself so I guess I put my money where my (uncovered) mouth is.

Back home at last I was able to get to work on the ramp, and a fine job I made of it, if I do say so myself. This one will last as long as I'm likely to be killing deer. With God, good tools, and a bunch of lumber, all things are possible.

And I have on order a peep sight insert for my .54 New Englander that promises to help me see the front sight clearly, something that's increasingly difficult as I age. With that, and the new ramp, Bambi better watch his step this fall.

June 26, 2020: Onward, Through The Fog

The deer ramp having been mostly constructed yesterday I added a few finishing touches, mainly a set of "guides" at the upper end to prevent a deer that's being hauled up from slipping off. I found this happened a lot without the guides on the older ramp. I needed to locate a suitable piece of scrap wood to make these, a matter of minutes to cut and install them.

Then I turned to the matter of re-habbing the tool box in which I keep stuff like axes, a folding saw, a shovel, some brush loppers, a tow cable, and a few other odds and ends. The ants are very bad this year and upon opening it a few weeks ago, there were twenty gazillion of the little bastards in it who were calling it Home. A dusting with Sevin fixed that! So I needed to clean out the box, clean up the tools (some of which had acquired a fine patina of—ahem—rust) and restore everything to its proper place. A wire wheel, a power drill, and generous amounts of WD-40 fixed the lot.

I had a sizable first-aid kit in it too, to which the ants hadn't done too much damage, so I cleaned it up, too. The numerous adhesive bandages in various sizes have to be replaced because their wrappings were broken, but that's something I can do the next time I get to a pharmacy.

The imbecility of the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!  continues. Now the Talking Heads on the "news" tell us that the number of "cases" is "skyrocketing" and MY GOD, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!  The trouble is that they never tell us what a "case" means: is it people who are actually sick and have tested positive? Is it someone who has tested positive but has no illness? Is it someone who didn't test positive, has no symptoms, isn't sick, but who might  have the virus? Who the hell knows?

I know how many "cases" there will be in the end: 320 million, roughly the population of the entire country. Why? Because this is a new virus that eventually everyone will be exposed to. Just as we are all exposed to other contagious viruses, such as the common cold virus (another coronavirus, by the way) and the influenza virus. There is no treatment, no cure, nothing but palliative care for the minuscule fraction of those exposed who will become ill. In time it will be of no more significance in our daily lives than the common cold or influenza, whether we wear masks, practice "social distancing," wash our hands thirty times a day, never, ever, touch our faces, or any of the other silly recommendations we get every day from the Talking Heads at the behest of their Masters.

The Talking Heads are in the main ignoramuses who simply are there to read the words their Masters in the Democratic Party tell them to read; the days of independent thought and rational analysis by real  journalists are long gone. Those ethical and honest reporters of yesteryear have been replaced by Barbie Look-A-Likes and Harry Hairsprays whose sole concern is getting high ratings so their immense salaries will continue.

I don't fault the networks for hiring beautiful women and handsome men, but it wouldn't hurt if they required a few brains inside their heads as well. Instead they're hired for their looks and for Politically Reliable Left-wing attitudes. There's one woman—who will remain nameless—who, were she not so achingly gorgeous, would be totally insufferable. She smirks when she reads the "news." When she reports the political poll numbers you can tell she's just wetting her panties at the thought of Sleepy Joe winning in November.

July 7, 2020: A New Garden Toy For Mrs Outdoorsman

She spotted one of these heron spinners and had to have it.

July 13, 2020: Damn The Post Office

Everybody hates the Post Office, and with good reason. Today I experienced yet another display of their stunning incompetence, one that had me gnashing my teeth and yearning to write my Congressman to suggest that instead of de-funding the police, we de-fund the Postal Dis-Service, and hand its functions over to private industry. FEDEX and even UPS do the same job with half the workers, provide better service at the same prices, and make money into the bargain. The Postal Service is terrified that this might happen and they fight it tooth and nail with all the ardor of unionized labor who can't be made to work and who can't be fired. The claim a monopoly on mail, and in the past have actually tried to impose regulations that would make it illegal to use a private courier service.

I have PO box, that I've had for many years. Saturday, two days ago, I checked the box: in it were two notices from the Postmaster that my lease on it had expired, would I please pay the yearly fee?

OK, no problem. I went to the automated kiosk in the lobby (the "service" window was of course closed) to do this, and after wending my way through their incredibly clumsy and kludge-ridden user interface, was told "That box is closed." Well, no, it wasn't: I had unlocked it only 10 minutes before and it was most certainly NOT closed.

Today, Monday, I went to the PO bright and early and told them I needed to pay my box bill. That's when the excrement hit the ventilator. The clerk I asked to do this took twenty minutes trying to do it; she decided her computer terminal was "locked up," and called in a supervisor. HE couldn't get it to work, so he called in ANOTHER supervisor, and he couldn't get it to work either. All three of them decided it was the terminal. Try another terminal, suggested supervisor #2. No go. That one, too locked up. Then a third supervisor—a woman who is phenomenally rude and even more incompetent than most of them but is senior enough that she got promoted despite her lack of ability—tried her luck. No joy. The terminal was stuck, the system is down, we're having trouble with PO boxes, nothing we can do, sir.

I was supposed to be charged a "late fee" (read: "fine") but they all agreed they would waive the fee, if  and when they could get the computer system to understand that that was what they wanted to do. However, since the system wasn't working, I was told, "Please come back tomorrow, maybe it will be working again. We'll waive the late fee and we won't lock the box." This all took nearly 40 minutes and by the time I left I was no further along the road than before.

I am willing to bet that tomorrow morning, one of two situations (perhaps both) will obtain: 1) the system still won't be working; and 2) the box will be locked. Long and bitter experience with these people has taught me that none of them have a clue what they're doing, nor how to do it.

The Constitution requires the government to have a postal service. There is nothing in there that mandates that employees actually be hired based on their ability or willingness to work. So while we have to have one, it doesn't really have to do what Benjamin Franklin—the first Postmaster General, back when the Postal Service was an actual cabinet position—intended it to do: deliver the mail and provide actual service.

Watch this space. More to come.