28 December 2012

Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven't...

Two Cautionary Tales...

Worth your time, regardless of your belief, click the link above to go to the full article.

Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven't made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres. The two major countries held up as models for the U.S. don't provide much evidence that strict gun laws will solve our problems.

...Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself....

Find the facts, our problem is with a drugged society and people with mental defects.

23 December 2012

Winter Edition of Stick & String Magazine

It's out and available, free online.

The format has changed as well, as the publication is now full color throughout. Worth the price of subscription in my opinion but perhaps I am bias! Click the cover below to read online.

This edition covers a lot of ground, from kids, to burning out a noggin, a quiver build along and my Tonic of the Wilderness. Nick Viau has a heck of a hunting tale, and an interview with Terry Green from Trad Gang.

18 December 2012

Wolf Creek Forge 'Bushcrafter'

Carpe Diem, or in this case the moment. Last week Wolf Creek Forge posted two knives for immediate sale and delivery, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and bought them both. Shipping was lightning fast, I'm even more pleased with them in person than I was when Lisa posted them for sale. Here are those pictures;

The first is the Bushcrafter, the second is a drop point well executed.

With the knives in hand I couldn't resist getting the Bushcrafter in action. I like both knives and will do a write up on the drop point at a later date, being somewhat pressed for spare time as is I elected to focus on the Bushcrafter.

It is made from 5/32" 52100 steel, tempreture controlled heat treat, two tempering cycles. This is my first experience with this steel though I've read a lot of good things about it.

Birdseye maple scales are some of my favorite, it is sealed with boiled linseed oil. There are two copper pins and a copper lanyard hole. A scandi type grind with a sharp thin convexed edge with some light jimping on spine, 9" overall length with a 4" edge.

The edge was very sharp out of the box, enough to shave with, and even sharper after a few licks on a FLEXXX strop it was scary sharp. I've been using one of Flexxx's field strops for several months now and I have to say I've been converted. While I've used strops in the past it was sporadic, after trying the field strop, with green and white compound I'm sold on the product.

I love the design, it's a tried and true form that I am very comfortable with. I will likely flatten out the jimping however, as I am not a fan of it and usually remove it from all my knives that had it.

The grinds are as close to perfect as I have seen, the fit overall is superb.

I spent time working the knife through some common fire prep processes, batoning, splitting ever smaller and making a mass of shavings. The knife came with no sheath but that is normal these days and I don't mind at all. I've been buying knives of common sizes and honestly have more sheaths than I need really. This knife fits perfectly in an Adventure Sworn sheath.

Making shavings was a joy, the knife handled well and the thin sharp edge produced some excellently thin curly curls. While the edge is thin and super sharp it's the spine is thick and hefty. I had no concerns when batoning, the only drawback was the short 4" blade as I needed to corner the rounds to make it work. This isn't a bad thing though, as the 4" blade works wonders in pretty much every other capacity. While one can baton with it without worry, it is a little short for it.

It didn't take long to get the shavings I wanted, nor to bust out enough dry wood to get a fire going. We've had a lot of wet snow lately, so wet and heavy even sustained winds hasn't brought it out of the trees yet. All our spruces and firs are sagging under the weight, all deciduous trees are encased in ice. Finding something dry was nigh unto impossible, I had to cut a few rounds with a Bahco saw in order to get what I needed.

Once I had the fire prep done I cleared some of the snow from the fire pit and put together a wood raft out of some split offs in order to keep the prep out of the snow. The pit was dug some time back and has a large flat stone as a reflector.

A couple passes on the ferrorod and fire was had. While getting a spark from the spine wasn't hard, I believe I need to square the edges into a harder 90 in order to get the kind of sparks from the rod that I do with some of my other knives.

Lisa and Wolf Creek Forge have produced another solid product, other than the jimping I'm not sure I'd change anything else about it. While I favor blades closer to 6" there wasn't anything I wasn't able to do with this 4". Fit, form, function, and good price point, so far nothing but good things from Wolf Creek Forge.

17 December 2012

2012's Mass Shootings And Some "Gun Control" Observations

I don't like to repost articles from other places, however, because the conversation is reaching fever pitch I believe factual discussion is necessary, over knee-jerk emotionalism. I've got five kids of my own, ranging in ages from 18 months to 18 years, two girls and three boys. Tragedy isn't a powerful enough word to describe what transpired in Connecticut. I've been 'emotional' since it happened, constantly running the what if it was my kid or wife through my mind. I can't begin to describe where my mind has gone as a result. What I believe though, is we need to approach the problem with a level head, facts, science, and yes, common sense.

From ZeroHedge. It is most definitely worth your time, irregardless of your current position on the matter.

With the resurgence of gun control politics storming to stage center over the past 72 hours, and providing yet another fulcrum point of social division precisely at the time when the nation is already hopelessly divided on other key political talking points which look set to push the Fiscal Cliff debate unresolved into 2013, below we provide two useful benchmarks to frame the "gun debate." The first, courtesy of WaPo, is an interactive chart of all mass shootings, including all the relevant details, taking place in 2012. The second, is a dispassionate and fact-based observation courtesy of BusinessWeek of the realities and challenges facing politicians, and the broader society, as America grapples with 200+ years of Second amendment history on one hand, and a society that is ever more "troubled", and increasingly prone to violence and murder on the other.

First, click on the chart below for a jump to the WaPo's succinct and interactive chart showing all 2012 mass murders.

Second, we recommend everyone read the following narrative from BusinessWeek's Paul Barrett, titled "A Post-Newtown Guide to the Gun Control Policy Debate", in which without any attempt to score political brownie points (a rare occurrence these days), the author "reviews some of the proposals that politicians and others will talk about in coming weeks."

From BusinessWeek:

Demonization A couple of weeks before Newtown, our premier sports broadcaster used his Sunday Night Football halftime soapbox to issue a heartfelt appeal for reducing the prevalence of handguns. Responding to the Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, Bob Costas said, said: “Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.” Similar pained cries have echoed in the wake of the Connecticut disaster —for example, this column by the New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik, entitled, “Newtown and the Madness of Guns.”

The emotionalism is understandable. Yet railing against guns in general gets us nowhere. What are Costas and Gopnik suggesting? Confiscating some, most, or all of the 300 million firearms already in private hands? The Second Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, says that’s not happening. Our democratically grounded political system says that’s not happening. The United States, for better or worse, is a gun culture. Nearly half of American households have one or more guns, according to Gallup. Publicly mourning the degree to which firearms are woven into the fabric of our society only plays into the hands of those who contend that any discussion about regulating guns is a pretext for prohibition. The hard truth for gun foes is that the firearms are out there, and they’re not going away.

Assault weapons President Barack Obama supports a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, according to White House aides. After asserting this position during his 2008 campaign, Obama dropped it, fearing a politically costly fight with the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress. The Newtown shooting revives the issue because the killer used an assault weapon—more precisely, a semiautomatic military-style rifle—to kill most, and possibly all, his victims, according to the Connecticut medical examiner.

We tried an assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004. It didn’t work. To avoid the restrictions of a poorly written law, gun manufacturers simply made cosmetic design changes and then enjoyed a sales boom. American gun enthusiasts reliably buy more of any make or model opponents want to deny them. Moreover, while black matte military-style rifles may look especially ominous to the uninitiated, they’re not more lethal, shot-for-shot, than grandpa’s wooden-stock deer hunting rifle (which is derived from an earlier generation of military weapons). Fully automatic machine guns—capable of firing a stream of bullets as long as the trigger is depressed—are already unavailable, unless you have a special permit. And finally, any proposal to ban the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons would do nothing about the many millions lawfully owned by private citizens. Democrats are not going to propose impounding rifles already in private gun racks.

Large-capacity magazines The coming proposals to limit the size of magazines, the spring-loaded boxes that contain ammunition, are more relevant, if no less controversial, than assault weapons “bans.” In a mass killing, the lethality of a semiautomatic rifle (or pistol) relates to how quickly and often the shooter can fire before reloading. Law enforcement officials said Sunday that the Newtown shooter used multiple 30-round magazines with his rifle, firing something on the order of 100 rounds in a very short period.

It’s not difficult to buy a 50-round “drum” magazine. Banning civilians from owning such magazines, it seems to me, would not infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. Perhaps the same could be said for 30-round magazines, or 20-round magazines. Choosing the cap is necessarily arbitrary. The assault weapons ban of 1994-2004 prohibited the manufacture and sale of new magazines exceeding 10 rounds. In theory, we could reinstitute that rule.

The problem with restricting magazine capacity is that to make such a limitation meaningful, Congress would have to ban the possession of large magazines, not just the sale of new ones. Otherwise, the millions of big magazines already on the market will provide an ample supply to future mass killers. As a matter of political and law enforcement reality, are lawmakers prepared to send sheriffs and police out to take away all privately owned magazines exceeding 10 rounds? In the 1990s, the answer was no. Has that changed? I doubt it.

Background checks Here is where there’s room for achievable, meaningful improvement. The existing computerized background-check system screens out felons, minors, and other prohibited categories. The system has gaps, however. It covers only sales by federally licensed firearm dealers. “Private collectors” are allowed to sell guns without background checks. By some estimates, 40 percent of all sales slip through this gaping loophole. It ought to be closed. Nonlicensed sellers could be required to conduct their transactions via a licensed dealer, who would receive a small fee.

Improving the background-check system would make it more difficult for some significant number of shady characters to obtain guns. (They could still acquire them illegally, of course.) The Newtown shooter tried to buy a rifle at a local store shortly before his rampage and was turned away when he wouldn’t submit to a background check.

However, an improved background-check system would not have stopped the Newtown killer from doing what he did: scooping up his mother’s legally acquired guns before shooting her and all those teachers and children. Mass killers tend to be young men who, despite deranged minds and evil hearts, prepare carefully. Some have clean records before going berserk. Others obtain their weaponry from relatives or friends. Fixing background checks is worth doing. It won’t stop the next Newtown.

Mental illness Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. Congress and executive branch agencies at the federal and state level can do more to make sure that disparate and often disorganized records of individuals who’ve been found to have serious mental health problems find their way into the background-check system. The law already prohibits people who’ve been adjudicated mentally ill from buying firearms. We need to do a better job of collecting and disseminating the relevant information.

Many who are dangerously mentally ill escape treatment that would prevent them from harming themselves and others. Short of mass murder, hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people commit crimes and end up in prison without adequate antipsychotic medication. It’s too difficult for relatives, friends, teachers, and others to civilly commit dangerously mentally ill individuals before they do harm.

Taking steps well short of incarceration—our current de facto policy for warehousing the dangerously mentally ill—would be a humane alternative for all concerned, and it could prevent school shootings. This is not gun control, per se, yet it deserves urgent attention.

Personal responsibility People who own guns need to keep them away from children and psychologically troubled members of their households. With the right to own firearms comes great responsibility. We don’t yet know all the details about the Newtown killer and his deceased mother. Yet it’s hard to imagine what she was thinking: a disturbed, antisocial, 20-year-old son and a half-dozen guns?

The most important gun control can’t be legislated. It’s common sense.

16 December 2012

Armed with Facts, the Perception Changes

If you didn't grow up in the states it's probably hard to understand the American culture, particularly associated with firearms. Our history was born in conflict, our societal perception is one of self reliance, of a belief in the human, not a system, an understanding that the individual is more responsible for their own safety than anyone else. The average response time for any police entity in the entire country exceeds four minutes AFTER the call for aid is made. Four minutes is an eternity.

The following is from Karl Denniger who writes primarily about the market, finances, politics etc. I would encourage anyone contemplating the issue to read it. Sometimes we might not like the truth, but that does not change the truth.

CT School Shooting; Facts Before Hype

You have to live in a hole not to know that a deranged young man shot up a school yesterday morning.

In the aftermath there are the predictable calls for bans on all guns, bans on most guns, and bans on, well, anyone other than you and your hired goons (aka Mayor Bloomberg) having a gun.

Hysteria does not produce good results. Indeed, evil men often wait for conveniently-timed hysteria to do unspeakably ugly and evil things under cover of public demand that they conveniently exploit. There are hundreds if not thousands of banksters freely roaming the land today who are free under precisely this rubric; men and women (but mostly men) who would under any rational legal system be rotting in prison right now but for Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke locking Congress in a room in the dark evenings of 2008 and threatening that the end of the world would ensue if he was not given plenary power to do whatever he thought necessary. He even came with a convenient three-page document that would grant him that power. Ultimately Congress only gave him part of what he asked for, but as is almost always the case when someone claims he is going to do something under mass-hysteria conditions he is lying, and intends to do something else.

Such was the case with Hank Paulson, who we now know had "changed his intent" to buy toxic assets (his original claim) before Congress voted on the proposal and yet didn't tell Congress of his changed intentions, misleading the body intentionally by omission.

You're still paying for the result today in the form of ridiculous unemployment, food stamp recipients going off the scale, gasoline and other necessities nearly doubling in price and the inexorable health care cost ramp continuing. All of this is happening because instead of addressing the causes of the crisis and jailing the malefactors responsible the executive used the hysteria generated by Lehman's failure to shove a law down Congressional throats.

Now let's look at what we know about the Connecticut shootings -- and unlike many commentators I will clearly delineate that which we now can state confidently are facts, that which is a reasonable conclusion from those facts, and that which is speculative in character at this time as sufficient information is not available to refute or support such a position.

We'll start with the guns. They are reported to have been legally owned by the shooter's mother and included a Glock pistol, a Sig pistol and a .223 caliber rifle. The rifle has been reported to be a sporting variety commonly used for target practice or hunting varmints; if the make and model reported are correct it is indeed a hunting variant (it has a fixed stock as hunting rifles typically do, no flash-hider on the front or other "scary looking" but immaterial cosmetics, etc.) Sig makes extremely high-quality (and commensurately expensive) pistols; Glock of course makes highly-reliable and well-respected weapons as well. A little-known fact about Glocks is that for many people they "point" funny due to a different grip angle than most other pistols; some people find them very difficult to shoot accurately for this reason. That may be why the mother owned both (she may have bought one and not liked it, then bought the other.) The rifle was found inside the car the shooter drove and since he never came out of the school building once going in it must be presumed that he did not use that gun in the school assault. There is nothing particularly-remarkable about the weapons used in this assault; they are common guns used lawfully by millions of Americans for hunting, target practice and defensive purposes. (Update 12/15 late - it is now reported that the rifle was in fact on the shooter and was in fact used in the shooting, not left in the car.)

Of note is that the shooter could not have legally acquired the pistols, as he is not 21. Federal law requires one to be 21 years of age before purchasing a pistol at retail. In this particular case, however, it doesn't matter whether he was 21 or not as he didn't buy any of the weapons involved; they were lawfully purchased by his mother who the assailant murdered prior to assaulting the school.

In other words the shooter effectively stole the weapons used in the assault. We do not know at this point (and may never know) the exact order of events in terms of his acquisition of the weapons but what we do know factually is that he murdered their owner, ending her ability to report the theft or to resist what he intended to do with them next.

That is, there was no "gun control" violation involved in this assault. The bad guy did not obtain the weapons through lawful means and he also did not (legally or not) circumvent the background check system by, for example, buying them privately from someone (the much-maligned "gun show loophole" that people talk about but is almost-never actually implicated in an assault.) Rather, the assailant removed the weapons from their lawful owner through, either directly or indirectly, the crime of murder.

As a retired school teacher with no reported criminal history, there was utterly no reason to prevent the mother from owning these firearms for perfectly reasonable and lawful purposes, such as paper-punching or self-defense. Being divorced -- as a single woman -- she had every right and reason to be armed for defensive purposes, particularly in her own home.

So now let's turn to the assailant and his choice of targets. The first murder, that of his mother, was the predicate act he undertook which allowed him the access to the firearms he then transported beyond the boundary of lawful possession and use. The decision to commit murder, once taken, was the predicate act that laid waste all laws that would otherwise bear on the subject matter.

You cannot stop bullets with paper (laws); by definition laws only impact the actions (or inactions) of law-abiding individuals. Once someone decides to commit a capital felony (irrespective of whether life imprisonment or death is the potential sentence) all considerations of legal sanction have been discarded and become inoperative.

Put another way there is no punishment that enhances a life sentence, nor one that enhances a sentence of death. Once the remainder of one's life is to be spent behind bars or they are to suffer the death penalty all additional offenses they choose to commit are free of sanction, as society has exhausted the available remedies they can apply for that person's behavior.

This is the overriding reason that "gun laws" or any other sort of proscriptive legal sanction are utterly worthless once a person has committed their first homicide.

Next, we'll look at the school itself. The shooter didn't walk in, he broke through a window to enter the building. The school appears to have been appropriately secured on a physical level, although obviously the glass broken through was not armored. What was missing was someone -- anyone -- in the building with the means and willingness to present effective resistence to an armed criminal intent on murder. From all reports the staff did what they could, having no defensive weapons and no locks on the classroom doors, to mitigate the assault -- they turned on the PA system so everyone knew there was an attack in progress and the teachers barricaded themselves as best they were able. At least one teacher was shot and wounded through her door while (successfully) preventing the gunman from entering her classroom.

There are many who argue that we can prevent these assaults via strict gun laws, starting with the effective if not complete voiding of the 2nd Amendment.

But the historical record on this point is clear; governments murder far more people, ignoring wartime, than do thugs. The predicate act of every government that undertakes such an activity is to disarm the population. This was known back in 1776 and is the reason for the Second Amendment. Those who believe the founders were wrong need only look at the next 200+ years of history to see that they were absolutely right -- over 200 million people have been shoved in the hole by government outside of acts of war and every single time they disarmed the population first.

Further, those who argue for gun laws need only to look at drug prohibition for a nearly 100-year unbroken record of failure. You can get drugs in prison, which is proof positive that any law that man passes can be (and will be) corrupted and circumvented. Fast and Furious anyone? How many Mexicans have we shoved in the hole by our own law enforcement officials circumventing the very laws they are sworn to uphold?

To restate for much-needed emphasis there is simply no means to prevent someone from committing a second or subsequent capital offense with a piece of paper -- a law. Laws do not stop bullets and the threat of sanction is meaningless once you reach the maximum available sanction; any further threat of criminal sanction is immaterial since you can only give someone one capital or life sentence in fact, no matter how many you impose on paper.

There is thus one, and only one, means to deter those who would commit a second or subsequent murder -- a visible, obvious and known risk that they will be unable to complete their second or subsequent offense because they are stopped by the immediate application of deadly force to their person.

Consider this: Why is it that we never hear of these sorts of murderous rampages taking place in a police station? After all, if you're a murderous thug the cops are the ones who will arrest you and deliver you over to the courts where you will be tried, sentenced and then eventually imprisoned (or given the needle.) Logic dictates that you would thus assault those who would arrest and try you for your crimes, in an attempt to neuter their ability to do so.

The reason these thugs do not, as a rule, assault a police station is that they know full well that everyone in the place is armed and will resist -- that while they may through the element of surprise manage to shoot one or two people the odds are nearly 100% that doing so will lead to the immediate termination of their assault via return fire.

Before you argue otherwise let's look at the recent events, shall we? The movie theater in Colorado posted a "gun free" sign. Ditto for the mall. And, of course, under federal law schools are "gun free" zones -- the government, along with gun-banners, assert that paper (laws) "protect" against bullets.

But the law only applies to and is followed by law-abiding citizens, and as I have irrefutably shown above, once someone commits their first murder there is no law that can add to their punishment since they have already elected to suffer the maximum available penalty.

Therefore, the logical place for such a person to commit a mass assault, where the odds are highest that they will be able to murder the maximum number of people, is to select a location to target where the odds of lawful defensive use of force are minimized -- or non-existent.

This is why the assailants choose movie theaters or malls that are posted "gun-free" zones -- and schools.

Occasionally, however, their plans go awry. For instance, in Oregon.

"He was working on his rifle," said Meli. "He kept pulling the charging handle and hitting the side."

The break in gunfire allowed Meli to pull out his own gun, but he never took his eyes off the shooter.


"I'm not beating myself up cause I didn't shoot him," said Meli. "I know after he saw me I think the last shot he fired was the one he used on himself."

Indeed the shooter did shoot himself next, despite having multiple additional unarmed people available near him to continue his rampage, along with additional cartridges, once he unjammed the gun.


He saw the man who, despite a sign claiming that there were no guns in the mall, was in fact armed and able to return fire. The assailant's illusion of a free-fire zone where all the people he wanted to shoot were free from the risk of returning fire had been dispelled; had he elected to shoot another unarmed and helpless individual the odds are good that he would have exposed himself to being shot as he would have had to move in a fashion that would have given the CCW holder a clear shot at him.

As such he elected to take his own life since he knew, at that point, that he no longer had the ability to continue to murder people without reprisal.

Nick Meli saved lives with a gun. He did so without discharging the weapon as occurs more than one million times a year in the United States; his mere display of the weapon broke the illusion of a risk-free target zone for the shooter. Without that citizen firing a shot by the mere display of his gun the shooter's calculation of risk and reward changed, and he elected to kill himself rather than continue his rampage.

You won't hear this reported in the media, of course. Nor will the screaming left, who prey on emotion rather than facts, take an analytical look at these events. Indeed, I was puzzled when it was first reported that the Oregon shooter elected to shoot himself after his weapon jammed. That act made no sense standing alone; he obviously un-jammed his weapon or he couldn't have shot himself with it, so why shoot himself rather than continue his rampage in a mall full of unarmed people? He was not at imminent risk of capture by law enforcement at that moment in time, and it did not appear from original reports that he had come into the mall targeting a specific person or persons -- that is, all reports were that he was randomly shooting people rather than trying to assassinate someone with whom he had a grudge.

It therefore made absolutely no sense that he would shoot two people then choose to kill himself absent the risk of his own imminent demise.

We now know that it was precisely the risk of his imminent demise that led him to change his course of action and self-terminate his assault, and that it was the mere display of a weapon by a citizen who was willing and able to defend innocent life that made the difference.

In short, guns are not the problem. Deranged people are a serious problem, but even the seriously-deranged are capable of some level of logic. They choose the targets of their assaults predicated on the likelihood that there will be meaningful resistance offered, and when that calculation turns out to be incorrect they are either stopped or take their own life as they realize their mistake.

There are still serious questions surrounding this assault that I do not yet have sufficient facts to opine upon. For instance, was the shooter on psychotropic medication? If so, why do we continue to allow the peddlers of such drugs to sell them in the United States despite black box warnings -- self-admitted warnings -- that they can and do cause suicidal and homicidal rage? Why do we refuse to deal with serious mental illness and the warnings that those people exhibit (such as the shooter at the movie theater) in a forthright and honest fashion?

There are things we can do about this problem, but they have nothing to do with gun laws. It is already illegal for a person to buy a firearm if they are mentally incompetent, but if we refuse to bring someone before a judge and have them declared incompetent the problem isn't the law -- it's us and our refusal to face facts. In the specific case in question, however, the shooter did not buy his firearms, he took them and murdered their owner. In the recent mall shooting in Oregon the firearm was also stolen.

No law is effective once a person decides to commit murder; all lesser laws, such as those against theft, are immediately rendered immaterial. At that instant in time the only option that will materially change your odds of being a victim are to increase the odds that the nutcase hellbent on murder will meet with someone willing and able to stop him or her in lawful defense.

And most of the time that defender of your life, whether it is you or someone else, will need a firearm to do so.

More "gun free" zones -- and more gun laws -- will only serve to increase the number and effectiveness of murderous rampages.

With guns or without.

You can only falsify this assertion when we see police departments become the successful targets of such assaults.

Hell will freeze first.

10 December 2012

MacQueen Pipes, Buyer Beware

I'm a pipe smoker, no longer a full time smoke every day pipe smoker but a pipe smoker none the less. I typically smoke Peterson Pipes, I like the quality, but I also have more than one corncob pipe, and several briars of moderate price but good quality. Not long ago I was pointed in the direction of MacQueen Pipes, specifically their Churchwarden line as I was thinking of trying that style of pipe.

On 11 August this year I placed an order, I was immediately billed for that order. I understood at that time, based on their website, that there was a 8 to 12 week turn around time. I accepted that. Anyone who's done business with me knows I don't mind waiting for products I want. I once waited over four years for a custom longbow, and I'm currently in the third year of a wait on a custom knife. I am not an impatient man.

That does not excuse poor communication or bad customer service in general. I inquired three times before receiving the first response from them. In response to my question regarding a 'guess as to the shipping date', I was told the wait time was 8 - 12 weeks, which I knew, and that the pipe would ship on October 15th. Okay. Incidentally, the wait time is now listed at 10 to 12 weeks, and I will say that I still do not have the pipe I ordered.

Some background is in order at this point, because at this stage I decided maybe I need to look a little deeper. While the amount in question isn't great in the grand scheme of things, no one likes to be stolen from or mislead. When I started looking I realized that ordering from these people was a mistake. 

The first thing I looked at was the Better Business Bureau. The BBB has graded MacQueen Pipes with an F, contacted them repeatedly, and has never gotten a response from MacQueen Pipes. In fact, 51 complaints over the past three years, 35 of them in the past 12 months. Yeah, I should have looked at this before ordering, I was sloppy as I do usually check companies out. In this case I actually thought, well they make pipes, they are not overly expensive, it is a Canadian company, I classified them as low risk in my mind.

I looked a little further, on the pipe forums for example, and found a lot of disgruntled people who were in the same boat, waiting on orders for months and months. I won't belabor the point, I will say for the pipe smokers that read here, do your homework, it won't take long to realize you don't want to deal with the frustration.

October 15th came and went. On 2 November I sent inquiry but received no response, again on 12 November and again no response.

Then, on 20 November I  received an email stating my order had shipped. I accepted maybe, that they'd just gotten way behind. That still didn't sit well with regard to communication though, never the less I accepted that. The email stated the order would arrive within 6 to 14 days.

Nothing ever showed up of course.

Today, 9 December, I sent my final email, explaining that I hope the funds served them well, for in the end it was going to cost them more business than the amount could ever offset. I'll warn every pipe enthusiast I know, and I'd not stop doing so until I felt satisfied that I'd warned a sufficient number of potential customers. Within seven minutes I received a reply from one of the owners. He indicated an overwhelming back log was at fault, production improvements had been made though, but they were still behind, and that contrary to the ship notice I received, it had in fact, never been shipped. That he could ship tomorrow, air mail it even, and that it would arrive within 4 to 9 days, or I could get a refund.


I don't enjoy writing posts like this one, I don't. The problem is many companies out there these days are not dependent on local customers where if you screwed one of your local customers over they'd spread the word and soon you wouldn't have any customers, new or otherwise. That was the penalty for bad business practices and poor customer service. In this age of get anything anywhere there's far less impact when you screw a customer over, especially one not local and in fact in a whole other country. Still, as customers we have the right to write about our experiences. Issuing a refund does not in turn buy silence nor does it mean that a poor experience shouldn't be spoken of, written about, or repeated.

There are consequences for actions, or in action as the case may be because if I'd have gotten an email telling me there was another delay, an update on the shipping date, and NOT have gotten a ship notice that was a lie, then I wouldn't have written this, and you wouldn't be wasting your time reading it. As it is, none of that happened though, in my opinion based on their actions their 'give a damn' for their customers was clearly broken.

I opted for the refund.

I'll update this when and if I receive it, because contrary to his statement of "I just issued a full refund to your paypal account" I have not received said refund. 

That was at 4:30pm central time the 9th of December.

I'm not going to hold my breath.

08 December 2012

Sometimes You Get Surprised

For the most part I'm usually satisfied with the products I buy. I'm not typically a early adopter and will usually lag a year or so behind a release of something new. I do my due diligence and research products I am interested in, read reviews from people I respect and watch videos about said products. Because of this I'm not usually dissatisfied which is why there aren't many negative reviews or comments here.That doesn't mean I'm never dissatisfied, I just tend to stay away from junk.

At the same time, there are occasions where I'm surprised, either at how bad or how good something came out. I've been burned in the past on custom forged steel and more so than knives, axes and hawks that are forged. I'm a little nervous about forged axes, hatchets, and hawks, there's a whole lot of craft in a forged head, and I personally think they are quite a bit more difficult to get just right than knives. When dealing with that amount of steel, the heat treat is critical, and considering these types of tools are going to be used 'chopping' wood that sometimes will be frozen a la winter in Minnesota for example, well let's leave it with there is a lot riding on a smith's heat treat. It has to be right.

Not long ago I contacted Lisa West from Wolf Creek Forge and we began discussing what I wanted. Not a full size axe, and not one of those mini-hatchets either. I've owned a few of those and ended up giving them away. I also wanted something longer than the Small Hunter's Axe from Wetterlings that has an overall length of 15". While that 'camp axe' as I call it has served adequately over the past couple years it just didn't ring with me the way I like my gear to do. Guess that sounds odd but to me it isn't. I can try three or four items, closely matched to one another and all service the same role, and find that there's always just something about one of them that 'rings'.

A camp axe to me means it's packable but still of sufficient length to be used as an axe. While no 'camp axe' is going to be a full time feller or forest axe, the size has proved to me that it can serve as needed, when needed. In this case the axe I commissioned came out with an overall length of 17". I've owned the large hunter's axe, at 19" and the small that had an overall length of 15", one too long and one too short. 17" was the Goldilocks size for me, for my particular packs and uses this size is ideal, it probably sounds crazy that 2" of length can make that much difference, to me it does. For longer periods of time in a static camp I do make use of a 31" axe, but for the most part it is seldom used. I've found for my fire wood needs a bucksaw and a 'camp axe' are more than adequate.

Every year I cut eleven cords of wood, we heat the home exclusively with wood. I don't cut that wood with an axe of course, that's what the Husqvarna chainsaws are for. I do use axes in the process though, sometimes for limbing, sometimes for places I can't or don't want to use a saw, I use axes quite a bit actually, but I'll never tell you I'm any kind of expert. I use an axe as a tool, it has no mythological properties, its use is not a mystery wrapped in an enigma. It's a piece of sharp steel on stick for Pete's sake, man's been using them for a very long time. You don't have to be an old time logger to know your way around the axe, I will however go out on the proverbial limb and state it takes more than a few whacks on the fallen tree in the back yard to an aficionado make.

The next time you're perusing 'how to use an axe' videos, just pay close attention. If you can push the 3" diameter tree over with your bare hand, you don't need an axe, and no, such a tree doesn't make for a good demonstration. There's a whole subculture of axe aficionados out there, and while I'm a big fan of each to his own, it would be nice if many of the aficionados actually used an axe regular like, it would bring some validity to their observations, as I never did understand how a person can review something they don't actually use.

There comes a point where 'theory-crafting' hits a wall, usually it is at the intersection of the writer pontificating and the reader realizing the writer has no credibility. As for me, I'll tell you to take my writing and observations as nothing more than the ramblings of a woods bum, admittedly one who does indeed spend more than a bit of time 'out there'. I'd encourage you to do your own testing, actually use things, that's the only way any of us ever really gain any skill, by doing it. Not talking about it, as fun as reading some of it might be!

Pay attention to who's doing the writing and really, what is it that qualifies that person has having an opinion worth knowing? Do they really do it? Or do they merely talk about it? There's only so many times you can compare product b to product a and never actually use either product for more than an hour, then pontificate on the various attributes as compared to some mental acrobatics of what the green horn perceives as quality, or desirable attributes. Ever see that product again in any future writings? That's the key part really, because if you pay attention and have a fair memory you'll realize some of the things that get reviewed, and axes are a big one, you never ever see them used again. Ask yourself why that might be...

I digress.

The camp axe that Lisa worked up is a rather elegant and robust version of my vision of a packable camp axe. Execution is terrific, the steel excellent, and out of the box had one of the sharpest edges I've received in any blade in the past five years. The edge is truly fine and polished to mirror like luster. She took the following photographs before shipping the axe to me.

The ash haft was hand shaped, a lot of time went into that and the tooled mask. From the pictures I knew I was going to like it, when I got it I was quite surprised at just how much. I spent some time on it with a leather dye and some pure beeswax. After a time, this is the result.

Forged from 1060, the poll face was heat treated the same as a normal hammer face, good surface area, wide and tall enough to actually be of use. The edges are rounded, sloped, this is handy when removing a deer hide while not damaging it. Using the poll to pry, push and otherwise move the hide from the carcass. I saw it written somewhere that this was excessive, that maybe for game larger than deer. It was just another telling point coming from a writer who'd never actually done it. See, skinning a deer with a knife is fine, but you're going to cut too far into the hide, leaving a hole. Many experienced folks do this, much less someone with little experience. No, the point isn't the size at all, something that utterly escaped that writer, using the poll on a handy axe means you're taking the skin off without damage, while keeping the meat on the meat and not on the hide, which helps later when you are working that hide into leather, hair on or off. The best hides I've ever seen were not 'skinned' from the carcass, they were 'polled' off, and were actually done quicker than an experienced hand with a knife. Another one of those 'if you haven't done it, you probably shouldn't pontificate on it' comments.

I did not want the typical handle, I am not a fan of modern axe handles. I despise the overly aggressive curve in the grip, it is entirely over exaggerated in most modern handles. I don't find them comfortable and I know they cause accuracy issues. In point of fact, I am not the only one who believes this or has observed it.

The following is from "Keeping Warm with an Ax, A Woodcutter's Manual", by D. Cook, 1981, Universe Books, page 90, he articulates the issue much better than I do.
“The most baneful defect of the modern single-bitted ax handle is its short bottom curve. The lower end is the grip where the chopper guides the ax. The grip portion bends from the adjoining shaft of the handle by about 10 degrees. Unfortunately, this pretty little curve magnifies the effect of wrist pivoting...

"The axis of pivot for a straight-handled ax lies in the center of the handle throughout its entire length from end knob to top side of the eye.

"But with the curved handle, any rotation is controlled by the chopper’s hands grasping the lower curve at the grip. Therefore the real axis of pivot does not pass through the ax head at all because the 10 degree bend of the lower handgrip is not pointed in that direction. The effective and real axis lies in an extension of the grip and passes somewhere to the rear of the entire axhead.

"The trouble-making grip with its 10 degree bend subtends an arc of 4½” at the handle's residual length of 25". That means that the curved-handle axe already has a constructive "foresection" of 4½” behind what we have hitherto termed the “axis of pivot”. But there is also an additional 4½” waiting at that point. Remember, we stated that each ax has a fore-section distance of 4½” forward of the axis of pivot (by the string-suspension method). For curved-handle ax then, the constructive fore-section length between the real axis of pivot and the bit is: 2x4½”, or 9”.

"So the ax with a curved handle will act as if it had an imposing bit 9” long. For a rotation of only 5 degrees, its bit will swing .78”, exactly twice what that same ax would deviate if hung on a straight handle. Greater rotation would bring greater deviation in the same proportion. This is the most damning case against the curved handle. It is substantially less accurate than a straight handle.

"However, the human body is a marvelous machine. It can adapt to nearly anything. If the handle of a golf club were shaped like a pretzel, some people would still play golf. A chopper soon adapts himself to a curved ax handle even though that handle is designed to frustrate accuracy. The chopper acts as if there were a straight axis throughout the entire length of the handle, even though there is not.

"But this unconscious adaptation has a price. Use of the curved handle requires more practice to cut well. And even with practice, the chopper cannot attain the results possible with a straight handle. In our history, this is at least partially confirmed by the woods professionals of the era when trees were felled with axes. These men graduated from single-bitted axes on straight handles to double-bitted axes, also on straight handles. Curved ax handles do not seem to have ever attained widespread professional acceptance."

And so, I prefer straight handles as a result. In this case the the haft swells at the bottom, the spine is straight. Accuracy is fantastic, feel and comfort are twice if not thrice that of my comparably sized Wetterlings. In short, I've not held another axe in the past decade that I've enjoyed using more than this one.

It is for me, superior to the Gransfor Bruks, Wetterlings, S&N, Husqvarna, and Hultz Bruks axes that I've owned and used in the past. Some of it is related to the haft, but the thickening in the center of the face, tapering down also heavily contributes. Turns out I'm not the only one that thinks that either, while somewhat winded this piece on Axe Face Geometry is worth the time to read in my opinion. Even though I'm talking a camp axe here and not a felling axe the convex'd faces matter. I'm not saying convex edge, I'm referring to convex faces, thicker in the middle and fading out.

To this point I'm happy with the camp axe from Wolf Creek Forge, you can be sure you'll be seeing more of it in the future, it will actually be used and regularly so.

03 December 2012

A Quote with little Commentary

A quote from Jose Ortega y Gasset's work titled Meditations on Hunting. Jose was Spain's leading philosopher of the 20th century. Born in Madrid in 1883 and died there in 1955.

I present the quote here with minimal commentary other than to say it applies beyond the context to hunting. Indeed, it applies to all, that are disingenuous of their intent.

"In the preoccupation with doing things as they should be done -which is morality- there is a line past which we begin to think that what is purely our whim or mania is necessary.  We fall, therefore, into a new immorality, into the worst of all, which is a matter of not knowing those conditions without which things cannot be. This is man's supreme and devastating pride, which tends not to accept limits on his desires and supposes that reality lacks any structure of its own which may be opposed to his will.  This sin is the worst of all, so much so that the question of whether the content of the will is good or bad completely loses importance in the face of it."

What Jose said bears considering and understanding, sometimes ulterior motives drive people with good intent to do things they know are dishonest.

A duplicitous spirit never notices how foolish the actions are, to those engaged in the truth who perceive the nature of malcontent and dishonesty.  To those ignorant of the truth the matter seems cloudy, to those possessing the truth the dishonesty could not be clearer.

Apply judiciously to everything.

29 November 2012

Hill People Gear 'Kit Bag' a Hunter's Perspective

 My first impressions of the kit bag were good, and have really only gotten better since I started using it. I've tried different loadouts almost weekly except for a two week period where what I was carrying remained static, a result of hunting season but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Hill People Gear (HPG) is a small family based company producing some truly innovative products designed for backcountry travelers, their gear more designed for users, not so much North Face pimps who never leave the sidewalk.

From their website:
There is a bewildering array of outdoor gear you can choose from in this day and age, with REI and EMS being almost as common as 7-elevens. However, the popularity of outdoor pursuits have pushed a lot of gear design in the direction of fashion rather than function. "Fast and Light" is just as much of a fashion imperative now as the neon clothing colors were a few years ago. In some cases there is real function there, and in some cases not.
At Hill People Gear, our focus is timeless designs that solve unsolved problems using the best advantages of modern materials. We think in terms of what will work for someone living close to the land day in and day out over a period of time. Some of our products will appeal to hunters, some of them will appeal to soldiers, and some of them will appeal to folks who are looking for simple, functional, and reliable gear. Most of all, we'd like to think that our gear would be the first choice of our "Hill People" forebearers if they were around today.
The company is headed up by brothers Evan and Scott Hill, both of whom grew up out of doors and never got far from that root. Their experience coupled with input from other users has given them a unique perspective in my opinion. They've used top end gear themselves from other makers, and they've found ways to improve certain products while also bringing very original designs to market. Their Mountain Serape for example is a truly innovative piece of gear. I'll be writing about that one in the future.

I don't remember where I saw the first kit bag, or even if the first one I saw was indeed a HPG kit bag or if it was a Kifaru Koala which is a similar piece of gear, and in fact there is a reason for that, Evan designed it. What I do remember thinking was that 'there's a damn fine idea', and the reason it's a damn fine idea is simple really. The original concept was to facilitate discrete pistol carry while also carrying a full sized backpack on your back. Carrying in the kit bag put the handgun at center chest, I guess you could say at a classic position sul, albeit a bit high. The design is such that for those who wish to carry a handgun while wearing a pack on the back, likely with a waist belt, can do so comfortably on the chest in a kit bag.

That was the original intent. It didn't take long however for users to see the benefits, even if they were not packin' heat. Any one who has to carry stuff, wants to stay organized, has a need for quick access to things or will be repeatedly accessing certain items like a compass for example, will find huge benefit in the kit bag. Which incidentally is one of four models now, and the largest of the four. Others are seen here. As an example of use without a handgun in the mix, during rifle season I carried my Leupold 10x42s in the center compartment with a spool of bankline and a tracking + field dressing kit, a 10x7 ultralight tarp in the pistol compartment with a couple granola bars, and all of my navigation, fire, and other miscellaneous goods in the front pocket.

We all carry stuff, be it day to day, backcountry, runners, gunners, drivers, you name it we carry stuff. For me personally, there are some critical pieces of gear that I classify as first line, meaning they need to be attached or on my person in such a fashion that I cannot be easily parted with them. I'm not a fan of stuffed cargo pockets, I hate being disorganized, I don't like having to sort through my backpack for critical to me gear and kit. I like having things at my finger tips. The kit bag puts whatever you want, in a highly organized manner, right at your fingertips and under your eyes, literally.

Kit Bag in Ranger Green in this image there is a full size Glock 35 in the rear compartment.

The material is highly durable and abrasion resistant, 500d cordura, they are sewn in the USA by First Spear. If I had a fault with the material it's related to how noisy it can be under certain circumstances. Because of the material, the weave and nature of it any limb that it hits, sapling limbs or branches for example, walking through thickets etc, all of this makes noise when the contact occurs. To me it seemed very loud, in context this is the wilds, it's quiet or at least I'm trying to be quiet. This material isn't. I've adapted to it, putting my arm which is usually covered with wool up between the bag and object that might pop or rub against it. This is a short term solution, longer term I believe I'm going to mod up a piece of wool or fleece that can be connected to the bag's top two and bottom two tabs. In the image above for example, you can see the coyote brown d-ring. This would make a great place to attach a simple rectangular piece of cover made of some soft and silent fabric.

Zippers are stout and unfortunately loud, which can be combated by gripping the zipper base in the palm of the hand with the hand closed instead of just pulling the zipper pull itself. Sounds more complicated than it is, just imagine trying to muffle the sound the zipper makes by cupping your hand around it while using it.

 There are three compartments.  The first, on the front of the bag is a flat pocket with two internal slash pockets for organization. Also a couple points to dummy cord important things like a compass.

The middle compartment is the hauler, ample space for a fair bit of kit and another two organizations pockets. The rear compartment is for concealed carry, or other items of course. It does not have slash pockets but does feature a strip in the center of loop material for affixing hook and loop organizers or holsters. There's also a loop in the bottom center for dummy cording.

Straps and back panel are same material, back panel is mesh and using it under a pack was not an issue. It's thin, offered no problems or bunching, worked like a charm. Easy to get on and off. Well thought out and executed.

In this image there is a pair of 10x42 Leupold binoculars in the center compartment and a 10x7 tarp in the rear.

I don't foresee any quality concerns, stitching is top shelf, material and zippers are both highly durable and plenty rugged. Color availability is Ranger Green, Coyote Brown, Foliage, and Multicam. I'm starting to swing towards Ranger Green, sometimes called smoke green as it blends here better than any of the other offerings. In fact it doesn't do a bad job of blending in during all four seasons here.

I've seen commentary around the kit bag elsewhere, suggesting the kit bag is too large if you only intend to use it as a chest mounted possibles bag. I completely disagree with this suggestion, for hunters. Perhaps if your soul intended use is concealed backcountry carry then this might be true, however, for myself and most of the actual hunters that I know this bag is used for more than a pistol centric carry option. Game calls, for example, binoculars, communications when  using GMRS radios or the like. Of course all of these things could be relocated to belt pouches on the backpack or in the backpack but now we're back to being tethered to the backpack at all times. Hunting out of a base camp, which is my preferred method, usually means I'm going light and leaving the bulk of my gear behind. The kit bag offers a comfortable carry option for the critical necessities I like to carry. Again, if your central purpose is using the chest pack as a pistol carry platform then I guess maybe so, I just find it damn hard to believe that a pack with so much to offer would be relegated to a simple pistol humping platform. Each his own.

All of the miscellaneous items I consider first line critical kit are in the bag and it's completely out of the way and utterly unobtrusive. I've affixed a spudz lens cleaner from Kuiu Gear to the zipper pull, this makes cleaning lenses on scopes, binoculars or even glasses easy, and keeps the microfiber cloth out of pockets where they pick up debris and end up scratching lenses. 

The kit bag is designed with tabs at the top where grimlocs can be used, for hanging on another pack, or for use with a Lifter Kit for docking to a host pack.  There are a pair of bottom loops on the kit bag that are located at either end that are used to connect another pack or in conjunction with a stabilizer kit that will keep the bag from bouncing while running. I would encourage you to review these features at the HPG website as I've not used either as of this time. If you follow this link and scroll down below the picture set you'll find the instructions for using the lifter straps. I simply haven't needed to. One of the reasons I was drawn to the pack was carrying critical items independently of my backpack. For this reason I really don't see me ever using the docking capability, at least right now and since I don't do much running through the woods I don't think I'll be using the stabilizer either.

So far I've been pretty satisfied with the kit bag, really satisfied. I've been able to shed the pockets off my pack's waist belt which I was never fond of anyway. All of my critical gear is affixed to me, the items I access a lot are right where I needed them, not in a pocket, not hanging around my neck.

I'll do a longer term thoughts and impressions in a couple months, right now I'm still in the honeymoon I guess. I'm stoked about this kit bag as it's fulfilling multiple roles and completely eliminated some other carry options. Even beyond handgun carry it has proven itself at carrying glass, or camera lenses, along with shelter, hydro, navigation, fire and so on. If you've been considering alternatives to traditional carry methods or if you are looking for a pistol carry option in the backcountry you could do a lot worse than HPG's kit bag. For the price point, quality, and layout and features you could definitely do a whole lot worse.

Check out the Kit bag and the other three models, I'm pretty sure that if you're looking for a chest pack they have what you want.