Monday, October 30, 2006

New Shooter Report

This is Emily...

...Who REALLY likes this picture, because unlike most of her normal pictures she doesn't think this one makes her look goofy. Pretty girl isn't she?

Emily is a good friend of ours; close unto family even. She watches our kids, she nearly lives at our house, and she's almost sorta kinda seeing my best fried Jim (almost sorta kinda, because Jim is an inconsiderate idiot who does things like not show up for dates; but he's cute and charming enough that he gets forgiven afterwards).

Emily is also English, born and raised until her pre-teen years; though she's been living in the Phoenix area for the last 10 years.

Unfortunately, like many women; Emily has been in some physically abusive relationships. Like many women, she was made to feel that she had no power or control. Like many women, she stayed under the power and control of these abusive men until she absolutely couldn't stand it anymore.

Thankfully, she decided that she was going to do something about it, and she's out of those situations, and learning to take control of her own life, and her own power.

Also like many women, up until Saturday, Emily had never fired a gun.

We definitely needed to change that.

So, after briefing her on Thursday night about safe gun handling, and the basic manual of arms of all of the guns we would be taking with us to the range...

Actually, wait a sec, let me interrupt the progression of the story here for a lesson on instruction:
One thing I always do, before I ever go to the range with a student, is sit them down in a comfortable setting, and show them how to safely handle weapons, ammunition, and their own bodies around firearms. I give them as much time as they need, in a place where they feel safe and un-intimidated; and I let them ask as many questions as they want.

I also run them through what we're going to do, and talk about; during our trip to the range. Finally, I warn them that I WILL yell at them if they are doing something dangerous; but the yelling will be "trigger", "muzzle", or "stop"; and is absolutely and only for their safety.

The range is no place for someone with no experience with guns other than television to handle their first firearm; they are often scared enough as it is. With all the noise, and unfamiliar things, and pressure to do things right... some people just shut down and can't handle it; and that is the LAST thing you want to happen.

A persons first experience with firing guns should be pleasant, and fun. It shouldn't be scary, or intimidating, or disappointing.
Anyway, back to the story.

So, Saturday afternoon, we packed up the truck, and went out to a popular shooting spot in the desert, where we could be informal, move around a bit, and use all of our gear as we wanted. The more casual atmosphere, without any strangers around can sometimes be a better setting to introduce new shooters.

I started off by demonstrating grip and stance, repeating what I had done in our house two nights before:

Unfortunately at this point my Walther P22, decided to develop extraction problems (I probably just hadn't cleaned it well enough I.E. barely at all since the last range trip... ooopsie), so we weren't able to start her on it like we planned.

Another note: When you are shooting with a first time student, always test fire the gun for at least five rounds, ensuring proper function, and demonstrating proper technique and safe gun handling to the student; THEN let them emulate you.

We had set up a .22 popper about 10 yards out; and I still wanted to start her with a .22; so I got out my Marlin 880SQ. Normally a scoped heavy barreled target .22 with a bi-pod isn't what you want to demonstrate basic shooting with, but hey, you make do with what you have. The good thing is, the Marlin is a pure joy to shoot.

Like most women who have never shot before, Emily had some trouble adjusting to a shooting position, especially with the proper placement of the butt of the gun (men arent much better by the way, just different). Like most women, she naturally want to put the butt either in her armpit, on her bicep, or put the point of the stock, on the point of her shoulder. This just feels more natural to most women at first, because they aren't used to having something high up on the pectoral. It can be very uncomfortable in fact for women with large breasts, or high breasts; or who are wearing a pushup bra (and have you noted that pushup bras have become the norm lately?).

Also, like most students, Emily had the habit, of reverting to what she was doing before she was shown the proper technique. So we would put the rifle and her hands in the proper position, and then without even noticing she would adjust herself back to the improper position she was in before we started. She also kept moving her head and hands around on the rifle, rather than moving the rifle, especially when adjusting aim.

This is all normal for first timers. It's extremely unnatural to have a 3 foot long piece of metal rigidly fixed to your body. It's extremely unnatural for people who are trying to adjust what they are looking at to move their whole body, instead of their head or eyes. It takes a lot of practice to develop the habits, and muscle memory for the positions, of a shooter.

This is a part of the process of learning to shoot. You shouldn't let students re-enforce their bad habits, but don't be so strict about position and the like that they don't have any fun.

After a few minutes of coaching, she was ready to go; and here she is, about to fire her first shot from a firearm, EVER:

She hit it too.

So after about 20 rounds on the rifle, she was a little uncomfortable from being in the unfamiliar body position; and she'd popped enough spinner plates and random range debris; so we moved on to pistols.

At this point, we were going to start her off with Mels .357 (shooting mild .38 of course), but Emily really wanted to try my 625; and honestly, the 625 is even easier to shoot than a 3" SP101 (bigger frame, but still OK for small hands, soft rubber grip, quite a bit heavier etc...) so we put her on the 625.

Yup, her first pistol shot was with a big'ol .45

And she didn't have a problem at all. This is a woman who barely has the hand strength (see how thin those arms are?) to cock the hammer or rack the slide on most of my guns (even after showing her the easy way); but she was able to handle the recoil of the .45 just fine, in the right gun.

Her very first shot was just to the right, and just high of the 4" aiming circle.

Now again, she has the first timers bad habits. She kept shifting her grip, she kept twisting the gun left/right/up/down rather than moving her whole gun/arm/upper body unit etc... These motions just aren't natural to the beginner. She also has the typical first timer issue (especially with women), of wanting to lean back, so we kept having to move her back to nose over toes (that's what you see me doing above, I'm holding her hip and back position, but even then just before firing she is always trying to lean back). Also, as I mentioned, she has a little problem with upper body strength, and cant hold a heavy gun like the 625 out at arms length for too long without getting unsteady.

Again, these are normal issues for first times, especially for women. Yes, we want to teach them proper form, but we should also just shut up and let them shot some times. So long as they aren't doing anything dangerous, and you keep reinforcing the proper technique, they'll get it eventually.

So after a few cylinders full from the 625, we put up a clean target, and had her shoot two cylinders full from Mels SP101. When she was done we pulled the target and held it up to my chest.

"See here? All these holes are in the lethal zone. This is your first time, but you would have been able to put all ten rounds into the kill zone on a bad guy. It's not hard to be able to defend yourself."

I think that is one of the most important lessons we can ever teach a newcomer to firearms. The media and the gun banners are lying; you CAN defend yourself. You can and will be able to hit the bad guy and you can and will be able to stop him. Your gun wont be taken away before you can shoot them, and you don't have to be an expert marksman to put a goblin down.

You just have to know the basics; you need to have a gun; and you need to have the will.

Friday, October 27, 2006


So, there I was, minding my own business, when WHAM!!!

Actually what happened was, I closed the lid of my laptop normally. I didnt feel anything wrong, I didnt drop it or hit it; there are no marks on either the outside or the surface of the screen itself, but when I opened it it I had this:


To make it worse, I have a rondelet going in my head of Gilbert O'Sullivans "Alone Again, Naturally", Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things", Charlenes "I've never been to me", and "We Don't Have to take our clothes off" by Jermaine Stewart.

Truly, the gods are punishing me today.

Let's play a little game...

I think we've all played this one before, it's a favorite of gunnies everywhere: The "One Gun" game.

Now everyone has a favorite variant of this game, and I'm no different. This game is going to be in two parts.

For part 1, let's say you can jsut have one gun in a particular category, and I'll specify several categories.

For part 2, we narrow the selection down to just one single solitary gun; for everything.

Oh, and a rules note. The weapons in question must either be readily available (new or used), readily customizable for a reasonable expense by known smiths, or already in your collection. This should keep down the "ultra super custom gold inlaid" etc... etc...

Oh, and not "I'll take 10 of the most expensive guns, sell them all and buy a bunch of cheap ones".

First, the categories

1. Rimfire Handgun
2. Rimfire rifle
3. Centerfire hunting rifle
4. Centerfire carbine (either hunting or defensive)
5. Shotgun
6. Battle rifle
Milsurp rifle or handgun
8. Pocket gun/Concealed carry handgun
9. Open carry handgun/service pistol/general duty sidearm

My choices? Well, they may surprise you... or then again maybe not. I pick weapons for their utility, their reliability, and their mechnical excellence; and perhaps to some my choices will be obvious.

1. Rimfire Handgun: This is actually one of the hardest decisions in thsi game... I love the woodsman, the Mark1 through 3, the buckmark, and the little P22 and mosquito... but... If I can only have one single rimfire pistol, it has to be a Smith and Wesson K22 of some kind. Any one with adjustable sights adn a 4-6" barrel will do, up to and including the 617. It's incredibly reliable, incredibly accurate, and if you manage to get a pre '69 model, some of the finest machine work known to man; plus it's an excellent training pistol, and perfect companion to a K frame revolver.

2. Rimfire Rifle: Another incredibly difficult choice... there are so many fine rifles in this segment that almsot an one of them would fill the bill... If I had to pick jsut one, it would be a good quality boltie, with pretty but tough wood, a good sized magazine, good open sights, and a good scope mounting option. I think I'mna have to go with... a CZ-452 Lux. There is jsut no better factory .22 out there right now, even the high end Kimbers.

3. Centerfire Hunting Rifle: I have a thing about ammo commonality; and I never hunt anything bigger than Elk, so I'm'na start this one out with a caliber choice, and pick .308. The fact is, I can get decent .308 just about anywhere in the world, and it will take anything up to small elk at close range. Now this may be cheating just a bit, but I'll take the commercial M24 system from Remington; based on a specially accurized Model 700 action, and including an excellent stock and optics, it is both an excellent hunting rifle (though heavy), and a good tactical rifle.

4. Centerfire Carbine: No question about it, I'll take a lever action rifle, in stainles if possible, and in a magnum pistol caliber. Specifically a Marlin 1894 in .357 magnum, or something just like it. Why? Handiness, hardiness, and versatility. With a .357 carbine I get killing power all the way up to large deer at short to medium range (with the right load selection), defensive power, and options... LOTS of options. Oh and of course like I said, I have a thing about being able to share ammo.

5. Shotgun: Well, as much as I love my shotgun, it is really set up specifically and only for tactical duty. I think I'd be better off with something a bit simpler, so how about a Mossberg 500, with two changeable barrels; one 18.5" and one a 24" barrel with interchangeable choke tubes. Give me a stock adapter for AR stocks, and an adjsutable LOP stock... or even better a Knoxx specOps stock on the thing. Get the SP version with the 8 shot mag tube, add a sidesaddle, a weapon light, a ghost ring sight with a fiber optic front, and a QD rail with a reflex sight on it; and you've got both a hunting weapon AND a home defense weapons. Use an advanced slug, like Hornadys SST (a saboted blackpowder expanding hollowpoint rifle bullet inside a shotshell), and you have in effect a short range .50 to .75 caliber rifle.

6. Battle Rifle:
Although there are a lot of great weapons in this role; there is no question in my mind as to what I would pick. An M14, in the 18.5" Enhanced Battle rifle configuration, with a SAGE chassis and collapsible adjsutable LOP shoulder stock; plus two different optics on QD rails, one Acog, and one night force scope. I personally owned one of the handbuilt Ron Smith EBR's (it was stolen earlier this year), and I have never had a finer combat weapon of any kind.

7. MilSurp rifle or pistol:
Although there are a huge number of Mil Surps out there deserving of attention; I'm going to consider the AK a Mil Surp (even if new productions), and go for a quality AK conversion in .308, with a good folding or collapsing stock, a decent optic on a top rail of some kind, a replacement foregrip and handgrip, and a replacement trigger and safety (like the Krebs pictured here, except in .308) . Yes, it's kind of cheating, but If I'm limited to nine guns, I'mna keep ammo commonality as high as possible.

8. Pocket Gun:
I love my kel tec; but if I can only have a single pockt pistol, it's got to be an S&W 340 PD. 5 rounds of .357 vs 6+1 or .380... I gotta take the Smith, though it's close.

9. Duty Pistol:
So, y'all know I'm a big 1911 kind of guy. I carry a 1911 daily; I love them, I think they're the best auto pistol ever designed or made (when properly tweaked)... But I'm not choosing an auto pistol here. If I only had one sidearm choice, for all time, it would be a 4" Smith and Wesson 686 plus, cut for moon clips. There is no defensively useful round more versatile than the .357/38 combo. It is the most effective personal defese chambering period (as proven by historical record), itscheap and easy to practice with unsing .38s. The ammo is in common with 1/3 of the guns here... really the only disadvantage in comparison to a 1911 is lower ammo capacity; and with a seven shot capacity, and moon clips, honestly you arent giving up much.

So, did I shock anyone? You'll note, not an auto pistol in the bunch, not a 1911, not a .45... for me this list is more than a little uncharacterstic. What drvies these choices is quite simple. If you can only have one, ever, get the most versatily, most durable, and most useful thing you can get. Nothing is more useful in handguns than a .357 revolver; very little is more reliable, and nothing is more versatile.

Now, if I could only have one gun whatesoever, what would it be?

That's such a hard question; because I shoot for many different reasons. I shoot for the joy of it, I shoot for skill, I hunt, I shoot for competition... but to me, the most important thing I shoot for, is to defend my life, and the lives of others.

So how do I weight all that? Clearly defense is the most important purpose, but having the capability to do all the others is important to me as well, and it would be hard to do it all in one guns.

I could easily do it in two; I'd just pick an S&W 386 mountain light, and a 12ga shotgun as I described above. This would give me all the hunting, and personal defense capabilities I absolutely need, except for a pocket gun. The shottie can be used for everything from quail to bear, and the 386 is a full framed gun that weighs almsot as little as a picket pistol (though the muzzle blast is a sight to see); plus it's easily concealable under light clothing.

If I am limited to a single ung, I'm going to have to make it a concealable handgun of some kind; because there are many times in my life when I absolutely will not go unarmed if I can help it.

Honestly, given those criteria...

I have to go with the 386 Mountain light. It's both powerful and concealable. It's light, it's fast to handle ( used to own one, I loved it), and it's very versatile. I don't like how short the barrel is, but it's the tradeoff for packability.

Now if I could have just TWO guns in each category, I'd be able to cover just about anything I'd ever want to do; oh and yes, THEN you'd see a 1911 or two; in fact a couple .45s in general.

Of coure if I could have thre...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Perhaps I should have said "re-balancing" instead of Recalibration

I recieved an interesting response from a reader about my post "Recalibration" where I talked about upping the intensity level of my workout, and further chainging my diet around.

"I just stumbled onto your page by accident but started reading. I am an ACE certified personal trainer and a Nutrition and Exercise Science major. If you want to keep from "eating up your own muscle mass" you actually need to not cut your carbs (unless you are eating an unusually high level of carbohydrates.) Carbs are what your body uses for its main source of energy.

I know you want to burn fat so you figure if you don't eat carbs, you will use fat as energy, but that is not true for all body processes. First of all there are parts of your body that can ONLY use glucose, if they don't have it, they will synthesize it from other sources...most likely MUSCLE. Also, if you are doing cardio at 80% of your max HR, this intensity brings the body towards more carbohydrates during substrate utililzation, so once again, if you don't have carbs stored in your body, it will use other sources, i.e. MUSCLE.

Studies actually show that working at 50% of VO2 max intensity results in the highest percentage of fat burn during cardio. Now as you train the HR that correlates with this 50% VO2 max will change and you will need to train at a higher intensity, but the basic point is that 80% HR is going to give you greater cardiovascular benefits, but result in less fat utilization.

And I would watch it on all the protein, a.a.'s, and vitamins. Even if you are heavy weight lifting, your body only needs 1.8-2 g of protein per kg body weight. Anything over this level will just be stress on your kidneys/liver and you will just pee it big waste of money. Eat your carbs, don't cut them, so your body doesn't have to eat up your muscle to make up for its carb deficits. And eat lots of dietary protein too. It is so easy to get all the protein you need just from your diet so you don't need to waste your money on supplements.

Anyway, like I said, I just stumbled on here and wanted to leave a comment. Take it as you wish"

Firstly, I thank you for your advice; and I'm aware of the fast burn needs for simple carbs, and the dangers of too much protein (I am constantly warning people off of atkins, at least without doctors supervision).

You can see my diet and excercise here:

Chris and Mels fitness log

And you'll note that currently, carbs and fat make up perhaps 75% of my caloric intake; and that my overall protein intake is too low for my activity level, my body mass, and my muscle mass.

I'm not getting enough dietary protein, because my caloric intake is too heavily weighted towards bread, potatos, and rice basically.

Just as an example, two days ago my total caloric intake was 2011 calories, and the only significant source of protein I had was an 11oz new york strip, for a total of less than 60 grams of protein; when I should be somewhere up around 200gr. For that same day, my total carbohydrate intake was almost 400 grams, and my fat intake almost 150 grams.

I currently weigh 178kg, and I'm targeting 130kg. For my 130kg target I should be eating at a MINIMUM 130gr of protein a day, up to over 250g. I should also target no more than 95g of fat, and no more than 425g of carbohydrates, with ideals more like 65g and 285g.

Of course at my desired activity level, and current weight those numbers change a bit. I want to have a somewhat elevated simple carbs number, a somewhat elevated complex carbs number, a bit less fat, and to come close to maximizing protein.

Also, the reason I vitamin and mineral supplement greatly, is because, especially for my body mass, I dont eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables; having perhpas 8 or 9 servings a week, instead of the 3 or 4 a day I should be eating. I don't take any other dietary supplements, protein powders etc...

Also, I suffer from ulcerative colitis; which complicates matters further. If I eat too much fat, or too much carbs I have problems. If don't eat enough protein, I have problems. If I eat too MUCH protein or tooLITTLE fat I have problems. I have food sensitivities, I dont digest vitamins and minerals as well from my food, and I can develop anemia very quickly if I'm not careful.

As I said, I've been doing this for 15 years now, very freqeuntly under the supervision of doctors, and especially sports medicine trainers and dieticians. I know whats health and what works for me; I was jsut too lazy, and too busy to do it for the last few years.

Oh, and currently I'm working out in the 70% max range; do you think that a lower intensity would be better? Honestly anything less than that, and I really don't feel much effect; but I was a guy who worked out a LOT before my injuries, and I have a greatly elevated stimulus threshold.

I can be cruising along at 75rpm, and 14mph on the bike, with my heart rate right at 120 for 30 minutes, and I'll barely be sweating with only slightly rapid breathing.

I have to push the resistance level up and the speed up to get into 135-140 range to get into the 70% zone. Last night I did 35 minutes at 15.8mph around 80rpm and I barely broke 133.

Now, doing the circuit training, it's a different story. I don't wear a heart rate monitor while I'm working out; but I am DEFINITELY expending greater energy, and exerting greater effort than on the bike; and my heart rate is definitely peaking higher than on the bike. By the end of the workout I'm breathing harder, and sweating much more.

For the last couple weeks I've been doing the circuit every day but weekends. Right now I'm doing the bike every day, and the circuit every other day. When I was doing the circuit every day, and I found I wasn't giving my muscles enough recovery time. Then I tried doing lighter circuits every day, and it wasnt as effective, and STILL wasn't giving enough recovery time; so I've decided I'm going to do the circuit with a medium weight level, every other day.

I'm going to work that in for a bit to get fully used to it, and then see if I can do a heavier circuit day, followed by a lighter circuit day; and then start throwing in heavier weight training in place of the heavy circuit days as my general fitness level comes back towards where I want it to be; so I can rebuild some of the lean mass, keep my anabolic activity high, and do some spot work.

Once I'm happy with my general fitness and muscle tone, I plan on moving to a heavy weight regimen every other day, with rest days in between; and to maintain the bike every day for cardio.

And yes, I know, I need to eat my fruits and vegetables... but I won't wanna mommyyyy wahhhhhh...

Sorry, couldnt stop myself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Why Condition One?

I, along with a lot of firearms and personal defense enthusiasts, carry a 1911 type semi-automatic pistol as my primary sidearm.

Like most people who do, I carry it "condition one"; which means I carry the gun with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the safety on.

A frequent question those of us who carry in that way is something along the lines of "Why are you carrying it with the hammer cocked, isn't that dangerous or ready to go off or something?".

It’s a common mistake. Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that carrying a cocked weapon with a safety on is unsafe; mostly because in Hollywood, when someone is about to shoot some other person they almost always visibly cock the hammer (or rack the slide).

It is assumed by people who don't know any better (even some gun owners) that carrying with the hammer down is normal, and safe, however for almost all guns where condition one carry is possible, condition one is in fact the safest way to carry that weapon with a chambered round.

"Condition two", where there is a round in the chamber, but the hammer is down; is in fact the most dangerous way to carry a 1911 type pistol (even more dangerous than having the hammer cocked, but leaving the thumb safety off - sometimes called condition 0).

The only safer way to carry a 1911 (than condition one), is "condition three", with no round in the chamber; which to my mind requires too much time, and too many motions in order to bring the weapon into action for it to be used effectively in self defense.

OK, why?

Well, above all else, there's the human factor. Carrying a 1911 in condition two, requires chambering a cartridge, then manually decocking the hammer onto a live round. The most vigilant person in the world could have a slippery thumb that day, and negligently discharge.

In general, the less often you cock and decock (also the less often you load and unload, or holster and unholster), the safer you will be.

However, it is mechanically unsafe as well. First, a bit about the 1911. A 1911 is a single action pistol, meaning that you must manually cock the hammer before firing the first shot. This is as opposed to a double action pistol where the trigger will both cock the hammer, and release it to shoot.

Classic 1911s have two safeties: one a manual thumb operated safety, and two, safety in the back of the grip of the gun, that prevents the trigger from being pulled unless the gun is firmly gripped. "Series 80" type 1911s (and some others), have an additional internal safety that acts directly on the firing pin.

Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that the firing pin is on the hammer. This is not correct for most modern firearms; and in fact was generally only correct for older revolver designs from the 1890s through 1970s.

In a 1911 (and many other automatic pistol designs), the firing pin moves back and forth in a tube cut into the slide; and isn't long enough to actually ignite the primer if the hammer end of the firing pin is simply pushed flush with the frame. The firing pin actually must be struck with significant force, for the inertia of that strike causes the pin to fly forward (beyond flush with the frame), and strike the primer, igniting it.

When the hammer of a classic 1911 is resting on the firing pin and there is a round in the chamber, as in condition 2, there is nothing mechanically preventing the hammer from impacting the firing pin, except the fact that the hammer is in a resting position. If you then drop the weapon, the force imparted to the slide and/or hammer may be (alone, or in combination with impact and rebound forces) enough to cause the hammer to impact the firing pin and ignite the primer.

This is why condition two carry is considered mechanically unsafe.

1911 models with a Series 80, or other type of firing pin safety actuated by either the trigger or grip safety, add in an additional mechanical lock on the firing pin so that unless the trigger or safety are compressed, it is not possible for the firing pin to travel forward and ignite a primer (presuming the firing pin safety is functioning properly).

When a properly functioning 1911 is cocked, the hammer cannot fall unless the trigger is pulled, AND the grip safety is compressed. This is a direct mechanical restraint on the hammer. When the safety is on, there is an additional mechanical lock preventing an accidental discharge.

Even if for some reason the hammer fell without a trigger pull, the hammer would generally fall onto the second notch (the half cock notch), and not impact the firing pin. It is for all intents and purposes impossible for a 1911 with a properly functioning safety engaged, to fire.

No matter how you drop it, a 1911 in condition 1 (round chambered, safety on) will not fire; unless you drop it straight on the hammer hard enough to break both the safety and the sear, or straight on the muzzle hard enough for the inertia firing pin to strike the primer with enough force to ignite it (either would take a 30 foot drop into concrete. It’s been tested). If the pistol in question has a firing pin safety, it simply will not fire period (at least not with an 80 foot drop onto concrete it won’t. It’s been tested).

The only way to make a properly functioning 1911 fire from condition 1, is intentionally (or negligently); and this is why condition one carry is considered the only safe way to carry a 1911 while still having a round in the chamber.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


So, I overdid it on my knees Saturday (actually, Friday night, but Saturday didn't help), and I took the weekend off from working out.

My weight has been really fluctuating rapidly. My water retention is all over the place, and my weight readings have been varying as much as 16 pounds during a single day.

Plus I'm burning a hell of a lot in excercise, and with the high protein and the supplements... well I've only been working out again for two weeks now, and I can already see strength and endurance gains.

It's six weeks in to my diet and excercise program, and near as I can tell, my baseline weight is between 391 and 396; about 25 lbs below where I started on september 11th; but my weight on a given day may read anything from 391, to as high as 407 the next day (like yesterday and this morning).

As of a few days ago, I'd lost over an inch on my pants, an inch of fat on my arms, and here's the kicker, TWO FULL INCHES of fat on my chest; plus I've upped my muscle tone significantly. I've also put almost half an inch on my neck, probably just in tone.

This probably means I've lost a couple percentage points of bodyfat in the last month, but because of my high mass, and fluctuating water levels I can't get an accurate or consistent reading; and the tape is just a wild ass guess.

I've got pretty odd muscle structure; I tend to bulk up rapidly, but tone slowly past a certain base level of muscle tone. I'm at that tone level now in some muscle groups, and I can see actual mass gains in two weeks.

Anyway, I've decided to up my aerobic workout intensity and duration a bit. I've been doing 20 minutes a day on the excercise bike, at resistance level 1-2, and keeping my heart rate around 125-135. Today, I upped my program to resistance level 3-4, upped my heart rate range to 135-145, and increased my duration to 30 minutes.

That brings me up to about 70-80% of my peak heartrate, which would qualify as fairly vigorous excercise. For a guy my size, that's about 870 calories worth of burn (according to the instant read calorimeter on my bike anyway); and a nice solid aerobic workout.

I'm pretty happy with maintaining 2600 calories average intake level; it seems to be giving me a good balance between energy, total intake, fullness and hunger, and portion size. Actually, most days I'm coming up a bit short, and filling in the gap with a dessert, or some snacks.

My hunger level has reset very rapidly. Most days I'm not at all hungry, and in fact have to overfill myself a little to make my intake. Better, the more I work out, the lower my appetite (I've always been like that, unless I'm in a heavy mass building period in which case I can't eat enough).

I COULD jsut reduce my average intake, but I'm already in famine mode, and I want my body to stabilize at the 2600 calorie intake level. Plus, with the excess burn from excercise, I don't think that's a good idea at all.

I'm doing enough aerobic work, between the bike and circuit training, that I'm going to have some catabolisis if I'm not careful. I don't want to reduce my excercising, in fact I want to increase it; so I'm going to have to go with a heavier supplement regimen (back to the full stack in a few weeks I think), and up my protein intake, because my diet is somewhat heavily carb weighted at the moment.

Also, I'm going to put in some heavier large muscle training in a few weeks, to up my anabolic processes. Heavy leg work once or twice a week, with a complete workout to failure and exhaustion once a month, and some upper body work to balance it out ought to do it... if I supplement myself properly (lots of vitamins, protein, and amino acids), otherwise I'll end up eating my own muscle through catabolisis.

If I have the time, I'm also upping my circuit training routine, to include more balanced upper and lower body work; and increasing the total time to 60 minutes, instead of 45; at least every other day, and if I can manage it, every day.

This will give me up to 90 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every day (and at least 30); with breaks on weekends. I'm going to have to work hard at preventing catabolisis here.

My goal is to burn fat off, rebuild muscle mass, and re-tone; not eat my own muscles, so again it's time for recalibration. Up the protein, up the vitamins and amino acids, cut a lot of the carbs... and then figure out what intake level I need to keep up to avoid muscle loss.

I expect between famine mode, the water retention, and my muscle mass starting to build up; that my weight is going to plateau for a while, but my fitness level is going to increase rather rapidly; at least I hope so.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ha ha, my evil assault shotgun plan is complete...

...and now I shall rule the world!!!!

Or at least be the envy of tactical tommies everywhere.

Lets total up this build eh...

1. Mossberg 500a special purpose: $399 retail ($300 street)
2. Knoxx Sidewinder conversion kit: $249.95
3. Knoxx SpecOps stock: $129.95
4. B-square Weaver rail: $6.99
5. Cabelas open red dot sight: $69.99
6. Fiber optic front bead: $18.95
7. Padded sling: $20
8. Cheek piece: $20
9. Sidewinder drum mag: $99.95

Total: $1015 retail
Total I actually paid: $640

Actually, either way it's a lot of scratch for a plain old 12ga; but it's a hell of a lot less than one of those fun little Franchi, or Benelli bad boys.

As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't have a better home defense long gun.

Oh, wait, I need a weaponlight… damn.

How not to have your life ruined by the ATFU part two

A few months back, I wrote a post about "How not to have your life ruined by the ATFU", regarding short barreled rifles and shotguns, and AOWs.

Well, today I posted about the SKS I'm modifying, and a reader brought up another fine piece of ATFoolery, 922r. Specifically, he was concerned that I was non-compliant, and had assembled a rifle substantially identical to a non-sporting firearm which has been banned from importation. This is a felony.

For those of you who don't know what this is, basically a number of different "non-sporting" rifles, are banned from importation; including all variants of the SKS rifle.

Now, this wouldnt be a problem for guns already in the country, except for purpose of law, the ATF considers a rifle to have been "assembled" when certain parts are modified, changed, removed, remanufactured, or reassembled; and it is illegal to assemble, manufacture, re-manufacture or reassemble a foreign rifle that has been banned from importation.

It gets funnier however. For the purposes of law, a "foreign" rifle, is one that has with more than 10 of the following parts:

1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings
2) Barrels
3) Barrel extensions
4) Mounting blocks (trunions)
5) Muzzle attachments
6) Bolts
7) Bolt carriers
8) Operating rods
9) Gas pistons
10) Trigger housings
11) Triggers
12) Hammers
13) Sears
14) Disconnectors
15) Buttstocks
16) Pistol grips
17) Forearms, handguards
18) Magazine bodies
19) Followers
20) Floorplates

Now, not every gun has all of these parts. For example, of the 20 parts listed above, a Yugo 59/66 SKS has 17 of them (there is no pistol grip, no trunnion, and no barrel extension), some other SKS's only have 16 (no muzzle device).

I have the following US made parts

1 and 2. stock with a protruding pistol grip (counts as two parts)
3. gas piston
4. op rod
5. handguard (not currently installed)
6. magazine body
7. magazine follower
8. magazine floorplate

The muzzle device, bayonet attachment point, bayonet, and night sights have been removed, reducing my foreign parts count even further (only the grenade launcher counts there - the others are extraneous fr purposes of 922r).

Remember, it's only foreign parts which count. It doesn't matter how many US parts you have, only how many foreign parts.

My foreign made parts are as follows:

1. Reciever
2. Barrel
3. Bolt
4. Bolt carrier
5. Trigger housing
6. Trigger
7. Hammer
8. Sear
9. Disconnector
10. Handguard (currently installed)

I believe this has me in compliance without a US made muzzle attachment, and without having yet installed the handguard; but I really do need to get around to putting the handguard on anyway.

As far as I know, with the US handguard, I'm absoltuely without any doubt compliant; because that would reduce my foreign parts count to 9.

Now, the problem is, some of the rules are open to interpretation, and the ATFU is well known for ambiguously interpreting rules against people. For example, the SKS has a double disconnector system, and some folks are concerned that the feddies may decide that they both count seperately as two parts, thus causing non compliance if you don't have the US made handguard installed.

Yes, this is all patently ridiculous, but that's the ATFU for you.

You can pick up compliance parts from vendors like Tapco, SKSman, and SKSparts for not very much money. Heck, I think all three of those vendors sell "compliance kits" which come with the 8 parts I listed above.

I was bored...

There are few more dangerous thing in this world, than a bored man with power tools.


Minus this...

Plus this...

And this...

Becomes this...

So, I was bored today between phone meetings, and I decided to celan up my SKS truck gun project a bit.

This gun started life as a rack grade Yugo 59/66, with an acceptable trigger, slightly boogered up cosmetics, the grenade launcher attachment and sights etc...

I bought it with an ATI folder, on sale at J&G along with a sling, various accessories etc... for.. I think it was $200 with the stock and the cheap NC star scope and mount. I put the detachable mag on the thing soon after the folder, and stuck a US gas piston in there just in case, so I was absolutely 100% ok with 922r.

Anyway, I tried the reciever cover mount, decided it was crap and put the original reciever cover back on. I bought the thing to be my truck gun anyway, so I figured a scout scope mount and a tough tube or reflex red dot would be a better choice.

The three things that irritated me though, were the baynet and mount, the damn near useless sights, and the grenade launcher attachment. Oh sure the cool factor is high for those things, jsut to piss off the gun banners if nothing else, but honestly, for my truck gun they jsut get in the way. Now I DO want iron sights on my trunk gun, but these sights are jsut damned useless anyway.

First step, cut off the baynet and lug. I did that months ago. If I need to stick somebody with something sharp and pointy, I'll use one of my many knives or swords thankyouverymuch.

Today I went the rest of the way, and shortened the barrel.

Originally I was puzzling out how I was going to do this without too much time, money, and effort. I had planned on cutting it down with a chop saw, then clamping the whole rifle up into a drill press (I don't have a lathe and it isn't worth going to a gun smith for an SKS) and using a taper bore bit to recut the crown.

Well, I figured, screw it, it's just an SKS (that's one of the reasons why I love the things so much), I'll jsut do it by hand.

Yes folks, the WECSOG strikes again.

I dremeled off the sight and grenade launcher out to 17” (just in case I needed to re-cut it), then I flush ground the barrel end, ground and chamfered the muzzle face by hand with a dremel tool, some files, and some fine stones, flap sanded it, burr sanded it, and then taper reamed the crown.

All told, it took me about 45 minutes; and the crown LOOKS great, though how it’ll shoot is another question entirely.

The damn thing is almost 8” shorter than it was before, and it’s much handier (and a fair bit lighter), with less to snag on. I was surprised at how much better it balanced though, considering how (relatively) little I cut off.

Next step, a trigger job (why not, it'll only take me 30 minutes), and a cheap red dot. I should have a couple lying around, but I can’t seem to find any of them. That, and upped their price to $60 so I’m not sure I want to pay that much for their rear sight mount… maybe a gas tube mount, but those dont exactly hold a great zero.

Also I haven't decided what I’m going to do for a front iron sight yet. There are clamp on sights (and muzzle breaks if I feel like bothering with one), or I may just stick one on top of a gas tube rail or summat. Oh and I need to change out the wooden handguard for the plastic complaince part, I just havent bothered because I've got enough compliance parts anyway.

After doing some test shooting; if the crown seems to be effecting the accuracy too badly, I'll re-cut and then lapp the crown with some valve compound and the head of a bolt chucked into a power drill, and then burnish it with the bolt and some oil.

While I'm at it I might as well slick up the nasty action. Polish the bolt rails and grind off the tooling marks etc... stick in an SKS recoil buffer... hell I've got some alumahyde lying around, I may shoot the whole thing with that stuff just to make it all the same color.

I said it before, I can't leave a gun alone, until its just right, even if it's a $150 SKS.

If you want a happy, well behaved dog; treat him like dirt

No, I'm serious, and theres a good reason for it.

I see all these people walking around with dogs in purses, pampering their dogs, giving their dogs everything they want... basically treating their dogs like spoiled children.

Hell, there's a major ad campaign out there right now for "pet parents".

What utter horse hockey.

If you want a happy, well behaved dog, you need to do exactly one thing; let him know where he stands.

All modern domestic dogs are varieties and breeds of prehistoric small wolves (or jsut plain domesticated red or grey wolves in the case of some recent breeds like the German shepherd, or some wild dog breeds like the african wild dogs).

From the biggest great dane, down to the tiniest chihuahua, dogs are all wolves who have been domesticated.

Wolves are pack animals, always have been, always will be; and folks, I don't care how much you think of them as your children, I don't care how much the PETArds say "dogs are people too", DOGS ARE WOLVES.

Wolves are among the most social; and among the most socially stratified animals on this planet. In wolf "society", there is a very clear hierarchy of dominance, submission, and status. Every wolf has their place in the pack, above another wolf, and below another wolf; excepting the pack leader, the Alpha. There are generally two status lines in any pack, the male hierarchy and the female hierarchy, and the alpha bitch also has the most powerful position, though the stratification on the female side is generally far less than on the male. It is also entirely possible for females to be dominant to males; especially high status females over low status males.

The Alpha male of any pack is the unquestioned leader. He leads the pack by being the most dominant there; and if at any time he is not the most dominant, another male will challenge him for the leadership position. Note, most dominant doesnt necessarily mean biggest or strongest; dominance (in any species, not just dogs) isn't about strength of body, it's about strength of will; but it certainly helps, because dominance challenges can be VERY physical, often resulting in significant injury, though relatively rarely in death.

This interplay goes down along the whole line of the pack, from strongest and most dominant, to weakest.

Now, you have to understand something. If a dog doesnt know what his position in the hierarchy is, he gets confused. He'll behave erratically. He'll attempt to rise in the hierarchy until he is sure of his place (this applies to bitches as well, but the behavior is less pronounced); and in the human world, this is very bad behavior indeed.

You may think of your dog as a member of your family; but to your dog, you are all members of something much more important, you are his PACK.

There are millions of years of evolution here folks; a few hours of watching animal planet arent going to get you to change that. You are your dogs pack, and he expects pack hierarchy to be in force. You can't treat your dog like another one of your children, and expect him to behave properly.

So, how do you make your dog happy and well behaved?

You show him that you are the alpha, your wife is the alpha bitch, and your kids are your puppies; and you don't just show him once, you show him all the time, every time.

If your dog is in your way, dont walk around him or step over him; make him get up and move.

If your dog gets a little nippy, hold his muzzle closed with your hand. If he gets overexcieted or starts snapping at things he shouldn't, come up behind him and wrap your arm around his throat, then hold his muzzle closed.

If your dog growls at you, or stares at you; growl at him right back (or the human equivalent) and stare him down, until he turns away.


As counterintuitive as it seems, this is what your dog needs. He needs to know that you are firmly in charge, OR HE WON'T FEEL SAFE. Dogs that don't feel safe, become agressive and erratic.

If you are dominant to your dog, he will feel comforted by this fact, secure in the knowledge that he is protected by his alpha.

If you've ever had your dog behaving badly, and you punished him, then he goes up and licks your mouth, or rolls over and presents his belly to you; don't be confused there, he's just showing you that you've won. In doing these things, he's showing that he is submissive to you.

The WORST thing you can do is indulge your dog in his bad behavior; or allow dominance challenges to go unquestioned. If you do this, he will think that HE is the alpha of the pack, and therefore he will behave exactly as he sees fit. He will expect YOU to be submissive to him, and if you do not, he will become agressive, to protect his position.


If you do, then that dog will shred your furniture, urinate and defecate wherever he wants, hump whatever walks by, and start fights with other dogs.

Our dog Mac is a friendly, affectionate dog; almost to a silly extreme, especially when you consider the fact that he's 100lbs of solid muscle. Mac is a mature dog (he's about 8 years old), but he's definitely playful and energetic as a puppy.

There is no question that Mac loves us, or that we love him; but Mac knows his place. The person who rescued him had a lot of behavior problems with him; mostly tunneling, digging, a little agressiveness to other dogs, and the like.

When we first got him, I made it VERY clear to him that I was the boss, that Mel was my alpha bitch, and the girls were our puppies; and he has been extremely well behaved ever since, with a few notable exceptions. He is a food thief, he's a bit food agressive; and being a border collie mix, he's an explorer and a bit of a wanderer if let off the leash (though he'll always come back of course).

Unfortunately the food agressiveness and food theft is the result of past abuse, and at this point in his life there is nothing we can do to train him out of it; and the exploring tendencies are in his genetics. Importantly though, every day, in every way, we show Mac where he is in the pack hierarchy. We make him move. He sits and lays places at our sufferance. We make him show submission to us, and we punish him when he breaks the rules.

In return, he doesnt bark, bite, or scratch; except for barking at people who come into the area of the house (strangers or otherwise he alerts), or at hostile people. He doesnt bark at other people or dogs when he's on the leash, and he follows commands very well.

No, he's not perfectly behaved; if he gets too excited he will ignore commands (for a little while anyway), and if you try to take food away from him as he is eating it he WILL get agressive over it (I can back him down, Mel and the kids can't); but those are small issues common to most dogs; and when he does them we don't tolerate it, we punish him.

Heck, the only real problem we have with him is that he wants to be as close to us as possible, all the time; which is another common dog behavior. If we leave him alone in the house too long, he'll sleep where our scent is strongest, which of course is our bed, and our couch, leaving hair all over the place.

Mac knows that we are his pack, and he knows his place in the pack. He has positioned himself as our enforcer and our guard. He guards the house, the yard, and the puppies, and in return he gets love, food, and above all safety; and he loves it that way.

But, and here's the hard part for a lot of people; Mac knows that if he crosses the line, he will be exiled from the pack. He knows that if he crosses the line too far, I will kill him. He KNOWS this, because I AM the alpha male, and I WILL do these things; and that resolve and force of will is obvious in me.

If you don't have the guts, the hardness, the capability of hurting your dog if he gets out of line, he will know this; and he will take advantage of you.

No, I'm not saying you need to show cruelty to your dog. I have never been cruel to Mac, only hit him once, and rarely have to physically discipline him in any way. I'm not saying you wouldnt be reluctant, or it wouldn't kill you. Your dogs understand how much you love them, and that doesnt diminish your resolve or purpose in this level of dominance.

What I'm saying, is that your dog needs to know you are the unquestioned alpha, and that any challenege to you will result in him being in a world of hurt; possibly losing his pack, possibly losing his life.

There is no way around this. Your dog needs to know that you are in charge, and if he doesn't respect your authority, things will go badly for him. So long as you can project that, and MEAN IT, you won't HAVE to hurt him; because he will know you as alpha, and he will submit.

And you will be a happy owner, and he will be a happy dog.

We'll be just fiiiine

Friday, October 20, 2006

Overheard in my household...

Mel: ok I'm officially tired of the liberals harping on the fact that the U.S. population has hit 300 million

Chris: Hell, I'm just tired of liberals

Thursday, October 19, 2006

the latest accessory

Taking the Range With You

So, I need some shooting stuff as well. First thing, I need a portable shooting bench. Either something commercial, or something that I can easily build without welding (I have all the normal power tools but no welder right now.

Important to me are stability, versatility, portability and packability with an SUV, comfort for a guy my size, and value at a reasonable cost (under $200 would be appreciated).

I'm also looking for some target stands, clangers, and other portable, easily visible, easily resettable reactive targets that won't cost me a fortune, or require a huge amount of cleanup.

I've tried dozens of different types of target stands, and I've never found any that I particularly like. Generally, what I do, is either take some metal garden stakes, and cardboard or chicken wire; or staple some cardboard to wooden garden stake; mostly because they're so cheap I don't care if they're sturdy or last long.

Besides, you can really easily hang clay birds off of garden stakes, and they make great reactive targets.

Anyway, what I'm looking for here is basically portable range setups for shooting out in the desert; with an eye towards durability, and value.

Out in the woods

So, I love camping.

I’ve hiked and camped through both the AZ and NH white mountains, the Adirondacks, the Alleghenys, the Great Smokies, the Rockies and various subranges like the Sangre de Cristos; and several places on uncles dime. I’ve lived out in the rough for a few weeks at a time even.

Unfortunately, all of that experience is now at least 8 years old, and most of it is really roughing it; with minimal equipment, and mostly consumables for weight.

Backcountry wilderness stuff basically; and entirely unsuitable for camping with the family.

It’s been even longer than that (since scouting), since I’ve done any heavyweight camping.

Well, it looks like the wife and I are going to be doing some truck camping, up in northern Arizona this November; but probably making it a regular occurance, all throughout the southwest and mountain states.

So, we’ve picked up our sleeping bags (actually we’ll be zipping two “king” sized sleeping bags together); and I have a general idea of what I want to get; but other than flashlights, knives, rope, and other survival type gear, it’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve bought any outdoors gear and I don’t know what’s currently good, or a good value.

So what I’m looking for is the heavy weight camping gear for two people, to camp in comfort in most weather; and be able to entertain ourselves and some friends, and store and prepare enough food and beverages for said folks.

We’ll be doing this out of a Ford Expedition, full size SUV; with a luggage rack, but no trailer (kind of hard to get into and out of some places with a trailer).

1. Housing: The first thing, is an SUV tent. We plan on sleeping in the SUV; but having an attached SUV tent, for gear, dressing room, ventilation etc… and for when the girls are camping with us. I’m trying to decide between the Napier/sportz, and the Cabelas models; or get info on any other models you folks know of.

2. Sleeping: Second thing, is an air bed for the truck. Should I just get a decent quality regular air mattress, or shell out for one of those truck bed mattresses that’s fit to the bed of the SUV

3. Cooking: I’ve had a bunch of different types of camp stoves before, but almsot all smaller packable models. The base camp/outfitter type that I also have experience with is way too big. I don’t mind having to depend on canister fuel so long as that fuel is reasonably available and reasonably inexpensive; but I want to be ablt to comfortably cook a two pan meal for four.

4. Cooling/refrigeration and food storage: So the current plan is a medium size camping cooler, and a powered peltier cooler that we can run off the trucks power to give us active refrigeration. Personally I’m thinking cold packs not ice, because they last longer and aren’t as messy; and a base of dry ice covered with towels. I’m wondering about peoples experience with different coolers, and cooler techniques, and their experience with the portable refrigeration units

5. Power: I’m looking for a decent quality inverter for the truck, with a reasonable capacity for say, two laptops, maybe some small power tools, a ham rig, and maybe a portable TV at some point etc… (though I’m more likely to just build a TV into the truck when time allows). I’m also looking for a small, quiet, relatively inexpensive generator, that will support our general power needs, and will also allow us to recharge the trucks battery. Plus, it wil be used as part of my emergency bugout kit. I may grab some solar charging panels as well, and any experiences or recommendations there will also be appreciated.

6. Seating and other accomodations: I’ve got some decent folding camp chairs, but my experience with folding camp tables has been almost universally negative. Any recommendations?

7. Lighting: I’m a flashlight nut, and I’ve got enough for a small army, but I don’t have any lanterns, either electric or gas; at least not that aren't of the “spotlight” type. I’m very interested in modern LED based lanterns, but gas/propane/butane lanterns work too. Any recommendations or experiences?

8. Waste management: I’m looking for a portable toilet system. I’ve always been a trench in the ground kind of guy; but that’s often not even possible ; and it’s a bit hard on the knees (and on the ladies). My first inclination is a 5 gallon bucket chemical toilet, because they’re cheap, they work, and they’re relatively comfortable, but I’m open to suggestions.

9. Water management: I’m familiar with a ton of filter and storage systems, but if anyone has any particular recommendations, I’m all ears

10. Pet management: We want to sometimes take the dog with us, and I’m wondering about a good portable dog run or stake system. Something that will let him run around within a limited range, but not wander off; or wander onto an active firing range.

What else? Yes I know all the basic stuff. I have tons of first aid, and survival items. Knives, hatchets, small saws, machetes, various ropes and cords, hurricane candles, sterno, emergency batteries, purel hand sanitizer, and tons of babywipes and shop towels; spare EVERYTHING etc…

But what am I missing? What am I not thinking about? What should I have that I havent mentioned?

Also any tips, tricks, experience that you want to share, I’m listening.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wir haben die Kittens Springer und Kimber

Yes, we've decided, the kittens are to be named...

Springer and Kimber.

Yes Mel loved the idea.

We tried getting input from the girls, but they couldnt come up with any names that werent the names of people they already knew; which we set as out of bounds.

Wow, I didn't think it was possible...

There is a function of government which is NOT bogged down in red tape, bureaucracy, or employee incompetence.

We're in the middle of a rather heartbreaking, annoying, and long-lived legal battle concerning the kids. I won't go into details here, just that it looks like the whole ordeal is going to take twice as long as planned and be 4 times as annoying.

Anyway, Sunday I was served with papers which were faxes of copies, and therefore not very good quality. Since I needed to drop by another courthouse in the same area (three blocks away actually) in order to file something with the clerk, I decided to go by the District courthouse and request a copy of the case for my own easily-read records.

$3.50 and 10 minutes later I was out the door again.

Evidently since 2005 all Federal District Court cases have been filed electronically. So thanks to the fact that I had a valid case number and was a human being, I could walk into the court clerk's office, get a few instructions in how to use the computerized docket system, and print the entire case file (separated into separate motions, summons, etc) for $.10 a page. No fuss, no i.d., no records rooms, no overworked clerks. Just a few really nice women at the clerks counter and a cashier to take my money when I was done using the printer.

Why can't all government functions run this efficiently?

So despite the fact that this is a sucky situation (and no we will not go into detail, even after it's all said and done) there was one nice, simple, and efficient procedure involved. Now if only I could learn legalese...


Just call me Mel, everyone else does.

Ehhh, not far wrong

But it's too short, and some of the questions are off/ambiguous

You Are 60% Sociopath

You're not a sociopath, but you're very prone to antisocial behavior.
Other people's opinions matter little to you. You live your own fringe life - for better or worse.

I thought everybody knew that?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pulling the Circuit

We finally finished assembling it last night, probably 8 hours all told including breaks, and with thanks to the able, and much appreciated assistance of Kommander and JohnOC.

So I did my first full circuit tonight on the machine, and man I am really hapy with it.

I started off with a stretch, then a shot warmup on the bike followed by 20 minutes in the zone (with the heart rate control program keeping me around 135) and a 3.5 minute cool down; then I switched off to the circuit for 40 minutes.

I was really happy with the speed I was able to run the circuit. My heart rate never really dropped, and by the end of it I was POURING sweat, but still breathing well.

The point of circuit training is to use light weight, as fast as you can with good form, and keep your heart rate up; and believe me I managed it.

I don't have the routine down yet, but what I did was pretty much this (mostly in order, but I don't remmeber 100%):

1. military press, 15 reps
2. leg extensions, 15 reps
3. pec flys, 15 reps
4. Leg curls, 15 reps
5. deltoid flys, 15 reps
6. behind the neck lat pull downs, 15 reps
7. Back squats, 15 reps
8. Seated row, 15 reps
9. back row, 15 reps
10. Front push downs, 15 reps
11. Preacher curls, 15 reps
12. leg press, 15 reps
13. Crunches on the decline bench, 15 reps
14. shoulder shrugs, 15 reps
15. Bench press, 15 reps

Doing all that, the only configuration I had to change was to move the bench out of the way for the floor excercises, and adjust the bench back and preacher pad settings; and the whole circuit took me 40 minutes.

I'm thinking about adding hack, chest, and dumb squats, and some elevated calf raises; because I need to add more leg to balance out the arm and chest work. I'd love to add lunges just for the heart rate benefits (lunges are VERY hard if done properly) but I really can't because of the knee strain. I should note, that I do a ham squat, where the back of my hamstring is just below parallel to my knee, because any lower causes knee strain (any higher causes knee strain as well, dont think a half squat is any better, it's actually worse).

Also, it's important to note that you shouldnt do heavy back squats on a smith machine, because the restricted range of motion is bad for your knees, hips, and lower back. Hack squats on the other hand work reasonably well on a Smith.

I may also add some decline presses to balance the upper, lower, and mid chest work.

If I was strength or size training, I would have slowed things down a lot, used a lot more weight for less reps, and varied the weight between excercises a lot. As it was, I just left the same weight in place for the whole circuit, because I wanted to change from excercise to excercise as fast as possible.

I didnt do any rep to failure; and during circuit training you generally don't want to. That said, doing some limited range of motion leg presses to failure is a really great way to kick up your overall muscle production, and toning; because putting so much stress on the large muscle grounps involved kicks your bodies anabolic reaction into emergency mode. When I feel better about my knee strength, I'm going to add some leg press to failure into the routine.

When I was done, I felt great; and I almost got back on the bike for another 20 minutes; but I had to make dinner. I'm definitely thinking hard about doing two circuits and two rides a day at this point.

Oh, and yeah, I definitely need to pick up more weight. I think at least another 320lb set. I'll probably pick up another full weight set without the bar (I've already got two, the rail bar, and a free bar), which is actually 275lbs, an easy curl bar, and two dumb bell bars; and then 4 more 45lb plates, for a total of 730lbs. That way I can get some good squats and leg presses going, I can leave enough weight on the various stations and not shift the plates from station to station; and also have the variety of smaller weights for use with the dumb bells and preacher bar (especially for Mel).

Oh, and I definitely need a new pair of lifting gloves now (the knurling tears up my hands, and I need the wrist support); and a belt and straps for when I start to go heavy again (probably in the spring).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Unbearable Cuteness of Being

Yes folks, we've entered Kitten country.

This past Christmas, we promised the girls that we'd get kittens as soon as we were settled.. Well we're pretty settled in the new place after 8 months, and besides Mel is feeling the need for babies around, and we can't afford the human kind yet so...

Yeah, I know I'm just a big softie. So sue me. I am SOOOO not a catblogger. Besides, it's not friday.

Mac has been introduced to them, and he's cool without, though they are definitely not sure what to make of him. They WERE birthed and weaned in a house with dogs, so all should be well there.

Oh, and the girls don't know yet. They're coming back from Grandmas as I write this, and I eagerly await their shreiks of delight.

Now, what to name them.... we're open to suggestions. You should know, they are both females from the same litter. I've been trying to think of a pair of literary twin sisters, or even sisters that I like, and lots of names pop up, but I'm jsut not sure.

One month in, and it's time to pick it up

So, it was a month Wednesday since we started our diets. Mel is down to 217. I was at 395 this morning on the scale, and I'm retaining a bit less water; probably about 4lbs now vs. the 8-12 I was retaining before; so let's say 391.

I've lost an inch off my pants (I wont say waist, since I wear my pants between my waist and hips) since this whole thing began, and my energy, alertness, and general fatigue are all WAY better.

24lbs in 4 weeks, now if I could only keep that rate up for another 4 months, I'd be at my goal before my birthday. Of course that's physically impossible, but a guy can dream right?

Honestly, I expect it will take me the full 19.5 months I've set for myself to get back to the fitness level I want, at the weight I want; which is 265-285lbs at near my 18 year old muscle mass levels, and under 18% bodyfat. No I can't be 18 again; but at 18 I was at 13% bodyfat, I figure I can spot myself the extra 5% for being over 30.

So, I said once I got below 400 I would really kick up the excercise levels, and I meant it; but having to go to the gym means you won't do it if you aren't "in the mood" so today we pulled the trigger on a home gym setup. Yes, it's expensive, but we've been paying $720 a year for two gym memberships we aren't using; and having it at home means we WILL use it (I actually LIKE working out, and Mel is going to do it whether she likes it or not).

Of course, this is me, so I'm not talking about any stupid bowflex crap.

I've been checking out home gyms for a while, and I was trying to decide between a Smith machine, and an olympic leverage machine, both of which use olympic free weights. The Smiths incorporate a power rack and a hack rack on rails, with a weight bench; and a pully system so that you are using real free weights, or free weights riding on rails for your resistance. The leverage machines use pivots and pulleys without the rack.

Here's an example of the Powertec Olympic Leverage machine I've been considering:

Anyway, Mel said to me today "I've got all this excess energy and no way of getting rid of it outside of the bedroom" (which is another thing that has much improved in both frequency and duration thank you) "I'm tired of it, we need to buy the gym stuff now".

I was all for it; since I've been feeling the need for more excercise anyway, with this excess energy. Plus, I'ver really got to build my legs back up again, or my knees are just going to fail even further. I need to do my own physical therapy, and in addition to losing the weight, I need to build my leg strength back up.

I learned a long while back from the sports medicine specialist that got me back to walking without a cane in the first place, that the only way I was going to last til 45 without a knee replacement, was to have my legs strong enough that my joint wasn't taking all that weight unsupported.

Anyway, those Powertecs are EXPENSIVE, so we were going to just go ahead and pick up a recumbent bike for now; but the place we picked the bike up at had a half decent Smith machine on sale for a terrific price, so we picked up both this:

and this:

Those are the Marcy SM4000 Smith machine, and the Schwinn/Nautilus 213 recumbent bike.

Normally I wouldn't even consider buying a Marcy product, but you wouldn't believe how solid this thing is; plus it's got a lifetime warranty; and I checked out the reviews which have all been positive. This particular machine has a hell of alot of options, AND it can be used with or without the bench as a regular free weight bench, and a regular power rack/power cage, and as a preacher bench, and a row bench etc... etc...

Basically it should do almsot everything I would do in a full gym. Sure, I'll have to spend more time changing configurations, but it means I can do everything I want, with free weights, all in one machine.

Yes, one of the more conventional home gym plate machines would be easier for Mel to use, and faster to switch between excercises. Unfortunately, all but the top professional gym grade machines have pathetically small max weight stacks of less than 300lbs; and they have a very limited range of motion, that just doesn't exercise your muscles as well as free weights can.

I'm less sanguine about the bike, because usually consumer grade excercise bikes are pretty flimsy, but it feels solid, and it rides well; plus it's got a good warranty. Given the price we got it for, even if it dies right outside of the warranty period we will have got our money out of it.

We were planning on spending well over $1000 for the Smith machine, and $1500 for a used lifecycle; as it was we ended up paying $200 under list for EACH of these bad boys, AND got a 300lb olympic weight set in the deal. All in all, we spent less than what the bike alone would have cost us, for everything; so if they hold up to our use, then we got a great deal.

I can't tell you how much I've missed working out. If you've never really worked out heavy you don't know what it's like, but after a good workout I'm so pumped up, and yet so tired at the same time, that I get this weird kind of relaxed high. It's great.

Anyway, I had my first real workout in three years tonight. I did 20 minutes of fairly heavy effort on the recumbent bike, managed just under 5 miles in the process and kept my heart rate in the 135-155 zone for almost all of that time.

A note on heart rates: For "ideal" aerobic and systemic benefit, you want to keep your heart rate at 65-80% of your maximum heart rate (which is 220 minus your age) for at least 20 minutes; and don't eceed 85% or you'll quickly exhaust yourself. For any significant excercise benefit at all, you want to get your heart rate up to at least half your maximum heart rate, and at least twice your resting heart rate, which for me is around 54.

So, around 95-110 is the minimum heart rate for me, for aerobic benefit; 135-155 is the ideal excercise range; 165-180 is the exhaustion zone where you are overstressing; and over 180-190 or above is dangerous tachycardia.
I cooled down a bit, and then lifted for a half hour. Moderate effort, high reps low weight shrugs, squats, leg presses, bench presses and dead lifts at 135lbs for 20 reps, then 205lbs for 5 reps each excercise.

When I say high rep low weight, I mean that's nothing weight for a guy my size. I can do 205lb bench presses until my arms give out. A single pushup puts more tension on me than 205lbs. The point of this wasn't to do serious weight lifting, it was to get into the circuit, and keep my heart pumping... to get the high going.

I haven't built the curl bench, butterfly attachment, or pull down attachment yet so I didnt do a full circuit (which takes about 45-60 minutes, and consists of one full set of high rep low weight fast as you can do them with good form; then one set with medium weight and low reps to finish it off) but I still got the high, which is great.

Once this thing is dialed in, and I get some more weight (320lbs isn't much weight for leg excercises in a guy my size. I need to pick up another 300lbs for any kind of serious leg work, and 500 lbs to max the machine), I'm going to get a solid routine going.

My plan is to do 20-30 minutes of cardio on the bike twice a day. I'm also going to do a full circuit every day at relatively low weight just for the fitness and weight loss side of things; plus some spot work on legs, arms, chest, and core (pelvis, back, neck, and abs). These machines should let me do what I need to do; I just hope the Smith setup is convenient enough to switch between stations that I can keep a good circuit going.

Now, what do I do in my circuit?

Well, what I DID when I was training a lot, was a long circuit; starting with a 10 minute stretch and warmup, followed by a 20-30 minute bike session, and a weight circuit consisting of 20 reps of each excercise at a light weight, followed by 5 reps of each excercise with a higher weight; as fast as I could do them and switch between them, but still keep good form; and finally a short cooldown and stretch.

If I did everything right, it took me about 90 minutes to two hours to do it. When I was working out my heaviest, I'd often do it twice a day every other day, and then heavy lifting on the days I wasn't doing the circuit.

My circuit consisted of (not necessarily in order - you want to mix it up to not overstress a particular muscle group during the circuit):

Hack squats
Leg presses (sled)
Calf raises (8" - 4" elevated toe to 4" heel extension)
Single leg extensions (left and right)
Leg curls (left and right)
Bench presses
Military presses
Lat pull downs
Preacher pull downs (pull down curls)
Standing rows
Low rows
Preacher curls
Dumb curls (left and right)
Seated butterflys
Dumb flys (lay down)

Let me tell you, after 20 reps light and 5 reps medium of each of those, fast as you can, you feel like rubber; but it's a GOOD tired.

Given the machine I've got, I can do all of that, except the dumb flys, dumb curls, and preacher curls; and really for those all I need to do is pick up a preacher bar (it's already got a preacher bench), and a couple of dumb bells.

You know what's funny? My knee isn't screaming at me. Oh I know it will be tomorrow after I wake up (hell, both of them probably will be), but for now, the pleasure of working out is dealing with the pain.

Now if I can only manage to get out of bed and walk in the morning....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dianne Feinstein Memorial Assault Shotgun - Part Deux

So, about six weeks ago, I picked up a new shottie, christinging it, the "Dianne Feinsteain Memorial Assault Shotgun" because of course it is evil and nasty and scary to liberals with its powers of making ordinary every day gun owners into total psychopaths, merely by having a prominanent and protruding pistol grip, and a detachable ammunition feeding device capable of holding more than five rounds.

Ooooh, isn't is scary?

Or rather, wasn't it scary? Because I've recently modified the DFMAS, so that it is actually useful in it's intended capacity as a home defense weapons thusly:

The gun as it came from the pawn shop was essentially unworkable; which I'm sure is why it was sold to said pawnshop after having less than 10 rounds put through it. I took it out to the range, and after 10 reduced recoil buckshot rounds I said "Yeah, I don't want to shoot this anymore".

Of course I knew that would happen, having fired a crusier gripped 12ga before; and having a basic understanding of physics and biology. Thus, I had planned on installing a Knoxx recoil reducing stock; and as you can see from the photos, I have done so.

With the addition of the Knoxx SpecOps stock, and a fiber optic front sight, my Sidewinder conversion is almost complete. The only thing I need now is a picatinny rail and a red dot for it (I'm thinking one of the Trijicon reflexes so we don't have to worry about batteries); because Mel has trouble aiming it without a rear sight reference for the front bead (yes I know, it's a shotgun and you point not aim, she still doesnt like it).

The only problem I have is, does this make it less evil and sacry, or MORE evil and scary, because now it's not a "concealable weapon", but it does have an evil military style collapsible stock...

Range report to follow shortly.

I Can't Believe I'm Saying This...

But, I actually like something that Markos Zuniga Moulitsas a.k.a “Daily Kos” has written:

The Case for the Libertarian Democrat

In this article, Kos attempts to describe why he thinks there is a more natural alliance between those with libertarian principles, and the Democratic party; as well as why the Republican party has been losing so much of it’s traditionally libertarian center…

…and but for two important points, I’m agreeing with what he’s written (which by the way isn’t what I think he truly believes. I’ve read enough of his stuff over the years that I know he’s way more to the left than he’s presenting himself here).

The first principle that I utterly disagree with, is that corporations are the ultimate evil in this world; and that capitalism must be strictly regulated and monitored by government or it will inevitably become a totalitarian evil.

The funny thing about that one is; it’s not too far wrong. Oh it is completely wrong in reality; but the difference between reality, and this socialists paranoid dystopian fantasy future isn’t very large. Mercantilist fascism is a distinct posibility if certain elements get tweakend in certain ways.

The irony of this principle, is that this result is exactly what we KNOW to be true, and will ALWAYS happen with an unfettered government; which brings us to the second issue I have…

The second principle he espouses here that I completely disagree with, is the core philosophy which separates Liberals, Democrats, Libertarians, libertarians, Republicans, and Conservatives alike.

Those on the left and the right (presuming a continuous linear spectrum as presented above) both believe that government can to some degree or another, do good; and be a legitmate and positive force; either for change, or to maintain stasis.

Those who are Libertarians, or libertarians; in general believe that all government is inherently a negative thing, but that some government is less negative than the alternative.

This principle was once the guide of the centrists wings of both the Democratic, and Republican parties; however those wings are severely weakened (in the case of the republicans), or have simply been purged from the party over the past 40 years (the democrats).

This means that there is no longer a functioning constiuency for severely limited government in power today. Both major parties are operating under the principle that with THEIR guidance, government can and WILL do good (or what THEY consider to be good - which is nothing of the sort), no matter the consequences.

One thing that these types never seem to understand, is the law of unintended consequences, and it most important corolary, the corolary of intentions.


No matter what you do, what you know, or what your intentions are; every word you say, every thing you do, will have consequences you did not intend, forsee, or understand. Good intentions matter, but good results matter more.

Oh, and I suppose there’s one other principle that Kos is espousing that I can’t take: The idea that the way to fix the country is by voting democratic; and that if enough libertarians come to the democratic party, things will be alright again (or it's corrolary, that tactically voting against republicans will force them to become more libertarian as a reaction to their electoral losses).

I reject this concept as utter folly; and dangerous folly at that. If the democratic party is ever allowed into the kind of power position it had in the late 70s again; it will destroy America utterly, and possibly kill us all in the process.

No, I’m not being hyperbolic, I am simply doing that which is prudent: the consequences of following what democrats say are, or have proven to be, their policies; will be the utter subjugation of the west to political correctness, weakness, appeasment, “tolerance”, and “multiculturalism”; and that WILL get us all killed.

The Democratic party, and the left who have chosen the Democrats as their represntatives; are in fact not liberty oriented at all (though some individuals may be). They are controlled by totalitarian transnational “progressivists”.

If these political philosophies are given reign over the country, it will weaken us to the point where we would be unable to resist the muslim and communist assault on our society, and we would all be killed or converted.

This is not to say the Republicans are all that much better; but I do not fear for my immediate safety, or the safety of my children given Republican principles and track record. Yes, taken too far, we COULD become that totalitarian mercantilist fascist state that frothy leftists have paranoid wet dreams about… but I for one would rise in bloody revolution first, as I know would at least hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens; and we’ve all got plenty of guns.

Of course we wouldn’t if the transnational progressivists had their way, now would we.