Screw WordPress

I hate infinite scrolling. If I don’t check my facebook every day, then my news feed gets so long that my computer freezes before I get caught up. Unfortunately, I have learned that WordPress forces all blogs to use infinite scrolling, or the equally bad ‘load more posts’ system.

I’m planning to leave WordPress over this stupid bullshit. In the mean time, please use the monthly Archives links to the right if you want to read my older posts. Do not submit to this ‘infinite scrolling’ insanity.

More info here:

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Can’t Stop the Signal




3D Printed guns have been in the news again lately. To explain the current state, I’m going to go back several years.

Several years ago, Defense Distributed hosted a website with plans & information on how to make a gun at home, using a relatively new technology called “3D Printing”, which is a computer controlled machine that slowly builds layers of plastic into a complex final shape. Defense Distributed was shut down by the Department of Justice for supposedly violating a US law called “International Traffic in Arms Regulations” which forbids exporting military technology to other countries. Yes, that’s right, the US gov’t considered a crudely-made single-shot handgun to be a military grade weapon. If that’s true, then I’ve got bad news, because there’s a literal arsenal at your local Home Depot or other hardware shop (more on that later). Technically speaking, it’s a violation of ITAR to distribute any information about military weapons. From what I’ve read, you could interpret ITAR against Wikipedia because their article about the M-16 rifle includes detailed information about it’s length, weight, and other basic features.

After fighting with Department of Justice for several years, Defense Distributed settled out of court. I’ve read comments from the pro-gun side that DOJ knew they would lose in court, so they settled out of court to prevent creating a precedent. With that hurdle cleared, Defense Distributed was set to begin distributing the information again.

Although, just to be clear, the information never went away, it remained widely distributed online through back channels such as BitTorrent and other decentralized or offshore sources. Further, innovation did not stop. I recently read about one builder who designed a bolt-action rifle that uses the barrel, bolt, and trigger mechanism from an AR-15, but replaces all of the semi-auto parts with bolt-action parts.

[insert bolt action picture]

Now, several judges have blocked the spread of information about 3D printing guns. However, this is a clear 1st Amendment issue. If a book like “The Anarchist Cookbook” can be published for over 20 years under the First Amendment, then what right does a judge have to censor something as common place as a gun design? By the way, the “Cookbook” is not rare or banned. It’s even on Amazon Prime.

3D Printing a gun sounds scary, but it’s already easy to build a gun for anyone who wants to.

[insert drawing]

Look at this technical drawing. It’s meaningless to the average person, but any skilled machinist could use this information to make an AR-15 receiver. Of course, skilled machinists are relatively rare in our society, and the typical skilled machinist has better things to do with his time that building something that he could buy for $60 at the local gun shop.


Frankly, the AR-15 lower is a simple design. How simple? One guy carved an AR-15 lower out of a 2×4 board!

[insert board gun]

And there are DIY kits that have been on the market for decades (and yes, they are legal). These kits are called “80 percent” guns because the parts are about 80% finished, requiring the final builder to finish several steps that involve drilling some holes and cutting certain slots. To make the process even easier, there are “80 percent” kits that use plastic to make it easier to cut the slots and drill the holes with common household tools.

[insert 80 lower]

And that’s just for something as complex and expensive as an AR-15, which requires a bunch of metal gun parts to be added to the 3D printed parts. Something simpler like the fully-3D-printed Liberator pistol can be made even easier. A crude shotgun can be made out of 2 pieces of steel pipe. The user loads one pipe with the shotshell, slides the loaded “barrel” into a larger pipe, and slams the barrel back to set off the shotshell!

[insert youtube video]
The point is that you can’t stop the signal.

Guns are mechanically simple devices. I would argue that they’re one of the simplest devices in modern society. The only challenge to building them is making sure you get all the measurements right, and making sure it’s strong enough that it won’t blow up in your hands.

Again, you can’t stop the signal.

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Surplus Rifles

People forget. After WW2, the US government sold semi-auto military war rifles to civilians.

Not “military style” rifles. Literal state-of-the-art military rifles.

Now society is freaking out about semi-auto rifles made for civilians, by civilians.

For that matter, the AR-15 has been available to civilians for over 50 years, yet these mass shootings have become a problem in the last 20 years or so. What changed? It’s not the guns. As said, the AR-15 has been around for 50 years, and many civilians owned semi-auto rifles long before that. The guns are part of the violence, but they didn’t *cause* the violence.

So again, what changed?

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custom 22LR AR-15

I recently built a very special AR-15 pistol, and a friend liked it so much that I decided to write up a short summary of the parts that went into it. Please note, though, that this gun is not actually complete. For example, there’s no dust cover, and nothing where the forward assist would normally go. I might install those parts eventually, I might not. Also, there are still upgrades that could be done to improve this gun. 

Also, I do have some concerns about the number of “flyers” I’m getting. I need to shoot it suppressed & unsuppressed on a paper target, to determine if that’s a possible issue. I also need to try a few different kinds of ammo. If all else, maybe I just need to swap the micro barrel for something a little longer. 

Anyway, here’s the parts list & recommendations. 

The Upper Half


The Lower Half 

  • Any “pistol” lower will do, and it doesn’t need to say “pistol”. Just make sure you get a “virgin” receiver that has never been assembled as a rifle. Check out sights like Palmetto State Armory for inexpensive lowers & parts. 
    • Personally, I would recommend the New Frontier Armory LW-15 pistol lower.
    • It only costs $150 (plus S&H and local dealer fee), so it helps keep costs down, and it weighs less than a standard aluminum lower with steel trigger group. The LW-15 pistol version comes with the KAK tube and Shockwave Blade pre-installed, which would cost at least $60 if bought separately, so the real cost of the LW-15 lower $90! That’s excellent considering it already has a trigger & all the small parts. I would have used a LW-15 for my 22LR pistol, but the pistol version didn’t exist when I built my pistol lower. I have a rifle version of the LW-15 that I love. I really wish I could combine my short barrel with the LW-15 lower, but I would have to file a $200 SBR tax stamp. 
  • I have a KAK buffer tube with Shockwave Blade arm brace, and recommend it strongly. It’s really nice to have a way to align your face/eyes with the sights.
    • Alternatively, if you want the shortest pistol possible, Spikes Tactical makes a plug that replaces the buffer tube on 22LR AR-15s.
    • If you’re willing to register as a SBR, you could use the AGP Arms folding stock for 22LR AR-15s. 
    • Also, if you’re willing to register as a SBR, VLTOR makes a tube that has a storage section instead of a buffer section. It’s hard to explain. 
  • If you do use a buffer tube, then you’ll need a spring and buffer, just to keep the 22LR bolt group from slipping backwards into the tube. I have a standard carbine buffer spring with a home made wood “buffer”. You can use any kind of buffer, but the buffer isn’t important to a 22LR, so I made a wooden one to save weight. I just cut a short piece of 1″ dowel rod and sanded it until it fit in the buffer tube (approximately 0.98 inch diameter). 
  • You’ll also need a trigger guard and a pistol grip. I like the Magpul MOE trigger guard and B5 Systems Grip 23, but there are many other great choices and this is really about personal preference. 
    • While I’m at it, I really like ambidextrous short-throw safeties. 
  • If you’re willing to make this a 22LR only lower, then you should check out the AR Catch22 from . The Catch22 allows for true last-round bolt hold open (bolt locks open on empty magazines) when using S&W M&P-1522 magazines. 
  • I have a RRA Varmint trigger that I got on sale for 1/2 price ($60+S&H), but any good trigger will be fine (Geissele, Hiperfire, Franklin Armory, etc). For a budget trigger, I’m quite fond of the ALG ACT. The ACT is an improved milspec design. They’re far better than a standard AR-15 trigger but only costs about $20 more. If you get a New Frontier Armory plastic lower, the plastic trigger that comes with it is pretty good, and saves more weight. 

$50 cheap lower
$30 lower parts kit without trigger
$20 KAK tube
$40 Shockwave Blade
=$200 at a minimum, not counting S&H from multiple stores

Assemble a shopping list from multiple vendors, and then compare the price to a NFA LW-15. I think you’ll find that the LW-15 is a great option for a simple plinking gun. As an added bonus, you’ll find that the completed gun is also very lightweight if you combine a LW-15 lower with the upper I designed. I weighed my LW-15 rifle lower, and weighed my pistol upper (separately). If they were combined, they would weigh significantly under 4 pounds (unloaded, without suppressor or optics).

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Insurance for Gun Owners

Originally written in August, 2014

This is an incomplete rough draft. I think it’s better to finally publish it than to let it gather any more dust.

There has been a recent trend of anti-gunners suggesting that gun owners should be required to pay for special insurance to “pay for the damage caused by guns”, by which they mean crimes committed with guns. They compare it to car insurance, but there are several problems with this concept.

Although I do often compare guns to cars, the comparison breaks down in this situation. Drivers are required to be insured, but that is to DRIVE, not to own. There is no insurance needed to drive a four-wheeler on private property, or to own a classic car that is in storage (and never driven). A car is operated on public roads, in public spaces.  To extend the metaphor to firearms, it would be the equivalent of taking my rifle out to the front yard and shooting at targets on the sidewalk.

Next, there is the nature of insurance. Car insurance covers accidents, even negligence, but not willful criminal activity. To be more direct, if a maniac gets into a giant frackin truck and [VERBS] through a school picnic, there is no chance in hell that State Farm is going to pay the victims!

Although in some aspects, I would enjoy a requirement for accident protection insurance for gun owners because it would just prove us right. Firearms are relatively safe machines in our culture and accidents are very rare. Let’s look at some stats from the CDC: (I need to make a table)

accidental deaths:
firearms: 851 deaths in 2011, 2 were infants (606 in 2010)
motor vehicle: 34,676 deaths in 2011, 92 were infants (35,332 in 2010)

“Overall, there were an estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States according to a 2007 DOT study.”

So from this, it seems that there are probably more firearms in the US than motor vehicles, yet accidental vehicle deaths outnumber accidental gun deaths more than 40 to 1. Many car crashes cause multiple deaths, such as a car that collides with a van. In one case during a police pursuit, a runaway pickup truck accidentally hit a SUV, killing 6 family members inside. When was the last time you heard about somebody accidentally shooting an entire family?

Aside from the loss of life, we must also consider the potential property damage of accidents. Unfortunately, I doubt there is any source for the estimated property damage from motor vehicle accidents vs firearm accidents, but I would bet dollars to donuts that it is far more than 40:1. Car accidents are often brutal, damaging multiple cars. Many times, one or more cars are “totalled” at a value that easily reaches into the tens-of-thousands of dollars each. Hit a shiny new sportscar on the highway? Congrats, you just did $50,000 of damage! A car accident can even destroy a store And then there’s the damage to *your own car* to consider. What is the worst property damage a gun can do? A damaged wall? A broken window? I cannot conceive of any way a gunshot could do $50,000 of property damage unless it happened in an art museum or some other extraordinary circumstance.

Whether we examine the loss of human life or simple property damage, car accidents are far more dangerous than gun accidents. Correspondingly, gun insurance should be far cheaper than car insurance. “Should” is the key word. Insurance companies are notoriously over cautious and over priced.

insurance at shooting ranges
And even if insurance did pay for crimes committed with guns, it still wouldn’t work because the majority of gun-crimes are committed by … criminals! They already steal or buy their guns illegally, you think they’re going to pay for insurance? Some of the very worst gun violence happens in big cities where they either have an outright ban or a de facto ban on gun ownership. Those many, many homicides would not be covered by insurance. Even if a shooter were insured, he would need to be caught before his victims could file a claim against his insurance. … Unless they think that MY insurance should pay for his crimes.

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1-Year Review

Here we are, quickly approaching the end of 2015. It’s been a hellish year. I lost by dear friend a little over a year ago, I was sick for the first 6 weeks of 2015, I spent 2 weeks in the hospital in May, and spent several weeks recovering after that. My wife changed jobs so we had to move several hundred hours north, leaving behind several good friends in the south, and losing the option to visit several others.

Dear God, I hope 2016 goes better!

Priorities include getting a job and spending more time working on worthwhile projects, instead of wasting time on stupid crap.

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New version of FourSevens Preon

There’s a new version of the FourSevens Preon lights. Although I dislike the new version of the Quark, the new Preons are an improvement over the old version in almost every way.

Personally, I think the old version looked more graceful. Also, you can currently buy replacement bodies, switches, etc for the old model so it’s possible to convert a P1 to a P2 or vise-versa.

And I still wish that a reputable manufacturer would offer a light that uses a 10440 battery! (Since you might not know, a 10440 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’s a similar size to a traditional AAA battery. They deliver 4.2V instead of 1.5V like a traditional disposable batteries, allowing even higher outputs).

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Flashlight Review: FourSevens Preon 2

A few years ago, my wife bought me a FourSevens (formerly 4Sevens) flashlight. This one is a Preon P2. The P1 uses 1 AAA battery and the P2 uses 2 AAA batteries. This makes the P2 a lot longer size but the second battery makes the flashlight significantly brighter. The difference in brightness is minor at Low but really significant at High. Note: all brightness outputs and battery lifespans discussed here are for the P2 model.

The Preon series has the same simple user interface as the Quark Mini series. It has 3 basic brightness settings: Low, Medium, and High. The flashlight starts at Low when you turn it on, and tapping the power switch increases the output to Medium and then High. Tapping the button again switches back to Low. Going Low-Medium-High over and over again eventually unlocks 4 ‘hidden’ modes: Strobe,  SOS emergency, high signal beacon, and low signal beacon. It’s nice that these modes are ‘hidden’ so that they don’t get in the way in day-to-day life, but they’re still available if ever really needed. For example, the SOS emergency mode will run for almost 5 hours on 1 set of AAA batteries.


  • The finish on the pocket clip wears easily around the edges.
  • The light turns on accidentally in my pocket because I have a click-button switch. Loosen the head to guarantee it doesn’t get bumped on by mistake.
  • Short battery life! AAA batteries have low capacity.

A high-output flashlight fed by tiny batteries inevitably has a poor battery lifespan. The circuitry in the light regulates the current to the LED, controlling brightness at the lower levels. On High, the flashlight doesn’t restrict the current at all for maximum brightness. As the batteries start to die, the High setting gets dimmer and dimmer until there’s no difference between High and Medium. However, the brightness of Low and Medium don’t decrease until the batteries are very depleted.

It still took me some time to notice the decline since I don’t use High mode very often. Since this happens over time, the decline is not readily apparent until High matches Medium. The first time I replaced the batteries, I kicked the High output back to full power, and it was like discovering the light all over again.

But what should you do a bunch of half-dead AAA batteries? They’re too good to throw away but too low to serve in a high-use capacity. I guess you could put them in the TV remote or something.

Me? I personally went to rechargeable batteries about a year ago. It started when I was given one flashlight with a rechargeable battery and an almost-universal battery charger. Just having a quality charger (Nitecore I2) was enough to break through the barrier. Now all I needed was to buy batteries, I didnt’t have to research and buy a charger. Now, whenever the batteries start to get low, I just charge them. Yes, NiCad and NiMH batteries should be fully drained and fully emptied, but I’m OK with wearing out my batteries a bit sooner. Even if I charge them every week, they’ll still last a few years, and they’re still a lot cheaper than running disposable batteries. Best of all, I don’t have an ethical/ecological debate every time the power starts to drop. I don’t have to hold-back to save batteries anymore. I just use the light at whatever power level is best for the situation, and don’t worry about draining expensive AAA batteries.


  • Incredible brightness for its size: 160 Lumens (Gen 1) or 190 Lumens (Gen 2)
  • Three brightness modes
  • Slick, simple, convenient user interface
  • Thin, sleek, and lightweight: perfect for the edge of your pocket.

The output on High (160 Lumens) is brighter than the top-level tactical/defensive lights a few years ago. More importantly, I cannot emphasize enough how slim and light this thing feels. It’s by far my favorite flashlight because of the comfort factor. I prefer it over my full-power Quark. The Quark feels complicated compared to the Preon. The P2 is 5 1/2 inches long, about 1/2 inch thick, and weight less than 1 ounce without batteries. My scale indicates that a set of 2 AAA batteries weighs 0.80 ounces. Honestly, carrying the P2 clipped in my pocket feels a bit like carrying a writing pen.

I recommend the Mini-Quark and Preon series to anyone looking for a practical, quality flashlight for day-to-day use, but I recommend them with special enthusiasm to anyone who isn’t normally a ‘flashlight guru’. The Preon is a better choice for a light that will be carried daily and used occaisonally. The Mini-Quarks use bigger batteries, so they’re less convenient to carry but have significantly longer battery lives, making them a better choice for a flashlight that will live in a drawer, glove box, backpack, etc. There is a downside to the Mini series, but that’s a discussion for another time.


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Warning: Sub60Ounces

I’m back! Yes, after 6 months away, I’m finally ready to resume my sporadic posts. As a start, I’m going to resume my series on ultralight weight AR-15s. I’ve spent a fair bit of time gathering details on different parts such as their weight and cost. Of course, I’m relying on manufacturer’s claims, which may my inaccurate or inconsistent. But today, I bring you a warning about a fellow ultralight enthusiast.

Throughout these posts, I will sometimes refer to a tumblr account, Sub60Ounces.

A sneak-peak posted by Sub 60 Ounces (edited by me)

A sneak-peak posted by Sub 60 Ounces (edited by me)

Sneak peak of his finished build

It’s a great resource and I came to many of the same conclusions that he did, but some of his other decisions were very poorly thought out. For example, he decided to use a nut instead of a magazine release button. It forces him to disassemble the gun to reload it, and it only saves him 0.04 ounce. He made some unwise and potentially dangerous decisions, so please, read on to help avoid some potential pitfalls.

Continue reading

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No man …








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Featherweight AR-15 Barrels

Today’s post will focus on barrels for lightweight AR-15s.


People far wiser and with far more experience than me have said that a carbine’s balance is far more important than it’s overall weight. I tend to agree. More than anything, I like the idea of a carbine that is easy to point & swing, and that means a light weight muzzle. The easiest way to cut muzzle weight is by getting a lightweight barrel and handguard. However, there are practical limits to the weight of the barrel. We’re dealing with extremely high pressures here. Standard 223 Remington has a chamber pressure of about 50,000 PSI. It’s dangerous to have a barrel that is too thin.

A shorter barrel is lighter weight, but a carbine must have a barrel that is at least 16″ long under federal law (NFA 1934). You can build an AR-15 pistol, but that has other issues for another discussion. One way to shorten the barrel is to permanently attach a muzzle brake or flash hider to the barrel, but that causes problems with disassembling the rifle if anything is damaged. A lot of companies make “lightweight” barrels, but most of them don’t publish any details of the barrel profile. All we can do is compare them visually and search the internet for other people who have made comparisons. Some “lightweight” barrels really are not, but I forget which companies have a bad reputation for misrepresenting their barrels.  If you’re seriously interested in building a carbine with a 14.5″ barrel, please go read this post:

Mag Tactical Systems

Anyway, the lightweight barrel from Mag Tactical Systems seems to be an extremely thin profile. It appears that MTS was FAR more aggressive than most companies when they were designing their lightweight barrel. It looks like they cut every bit possible to create a true ‘pencil’ barrel. It should be noted that is uses a 0.625″ gas block and a midlength gas system. That’s generally a good thing, but the 0.625 gas block limits your options, but you were probably going to choose a lightweight gas block anyway. It’s also noteworthy to me that the MTS barrel is only $110, which is cheap for an AR-15 barrel. They claim the barrel weighs “1.2 pound” which would be a tiny bit over 19 ounces!!!

Update 2015: I have since learned that this is actually a Faxon barrel, and is about $30 cheaper from MTS than from Faxon. Also, I do believe that it is the lightest barrel that is commercially available.

barrel profile Mag Tactical

VooDoo Innovations

Second is the lightweight barrel from VooDoo Innovations (which is connected to Adams Arms). While VooDoo barrels have a good reputation, but main reason I’m showing them is to illustrate the differences between barrel profiles. I used two pictures from their website, and put them side-by-side. You can clearly see the difference in how they’re cut. I think this is a good ‘baseline’ to compare with other barrels.

barrel VooDoo profile comparison

V7 Systems

And of course, I have to mention the V7 Systems barrel, just because it’s from V7 Systems. If you don’t know, V7 Systems is a company that specializes in ultra light weight parts for the AR-15. You’ll see more of their parts show up in future posts about ‘Project Featherweight’.

However, the V7 Systems barrel doesn’t even show it’s profile! Overall I’m not interested in the V7 barrels. Their 16″barrel costs $468! It comes with a titanium gas block pre-installed. It weighs 24.5 ounces with the gas block, and the gas block alone weighs 0.78 ounce, so we can deduce that the barrel itself must weigh 23.7 ounces, which is a full quarter-pound more than the barrel from Mag Tactical Systems! The fact that it comes with a gas block pre-installed means that if you were planning to use any other gas block, then you’ve basically wasted money on an expensive titanium gas block for nothing. I’ll explain later why I would *not* choose a titanium gas block for an ultralight carbine, especially if money doesn’t matter.

On the plus side, the V7 barrel uses polygonal rifling and a match grade chamber for better accuracy. This is one case where we need to determine what we want. If we want an affordable featherweight, the Mag Tactical barrel is a better choice. If we want a more accurate light-ish carbine with no price limit, then the V7 barrel is a better choice.

Custom Barrels

Of course, if you cannot find a barrel that you like, and you absolutely must have the perfect barrel, then you can get a custom barrel made or have ADCO modify any barrel you want (except those treated with hardening techniques like Melonite). However, you can expect to pay $120 just to have the barrel modified, not including shipping both ways, and the cost of the barrel.

Overall, I would personally choose the barrel from Mag Tactical Systems.

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Featherweight AR-15 Introduction

This is the first part of many dealing with ultralight AR-15 carbines. As you may know by now, I am a light-weight junkie!

Light weight is EXPENSIVE! But I dream of building an ultra light weight carbine. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I hereby dub this “Project Featherweight”. I will be attempting to figure out the details of the lightest weight components.

However, I haven’t figured out my  exact goals yet, or my cost/benefit breaking point yet. For example, is it really worth an extra $100 just to save 1 ounce? This issue comes up again and again, because lightweight is expensive. Do I want to make the lightest carbine possible, regardless of price? Regardless of function? I can save weight by removing important parts. Even the lightest flash-hider is still 1 extra ounce that isn’t technically necessary. Even more weight can be eliminated from the forward assist, dust cover, sights, etc. A carbon-fiber handguard is lighter than an aluminum handguard, but cannot attach accessories. Is it worth the extra weight to be able to add those accessories?

Those questions will have to remain unanswered for now. Maybe I’ll find an answer by the time I’m finished with this series.

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Glock-magazine Carbine Roundup

This is a ’roundup’ of all the pistol-caliber-carbines that use Glock magazines.

Why? Because Glock magazines are lightweight, affordable, common, and reliable. They’re also single-feed, unlike the typical Uzi, MP-5, or Colt 9mm carbine magazines. In case you don’t know, some double-feed magazines will spew out ammunition if bumped or dropped the wrong way. Also, unlike an Uzi magazine, Glock magazines work in Glock pistols, so it is possible to have a carbine and a pistol that share not only ammunition, but also magazines!

Also, I have wanted a Glock-magazine pistol-caliber carbine for years! Hopefully this post will help me organize my own thoughts  and feelings, so I can finally choose a carbine. I’m going to start with the least expensive carbine and work up to the most expensive.  Not coincidentally, the most expensive gun on this list is a fully-custom AR-15. Hey, custom AR-15s are expensive! But they’re great for people who like to tinker. Continue reading

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Affordable AR-15 (some assembly required)

I never thought I’d write this, but you can now get an AR-15 for around $600. They used to be $800+ for the cheapest models, and then the buying craze of 2013 happened. Now, the bubble has burst. Everyone bought a bunch of AR-15s during the big panic about gun bans, and the now no one is buying. The AR-15 companies are struggling. Rifles and parts are just collecting dust as they sit on shelves. The end result is that several AR-15 companies are having HUGE sales, just to get rid of excess parts.

Rifle Kits

A “rifle kit” includes everything to assemble an AR-15 except for the receiver, sights, and magazine. (Some kits do include a magazine.)

$50 lowers

The lower is the part that is legally classified as the “firearm”. You must ship it to a local gun-dealer, then go in to the shop, fill out paperwork, do a background check, etc. You can expect the gun dealer to charge you a fee of about $35 to $50. You should call and ask before you buy a receiver. If they want much more than $50, you should probably call some other gun shops.


After you have a receiver and rifle kit, all you need are some magazines and a rear sight or some kind of scope (like a red-dot sight). Magazines are extremely common, so I won’t go over that here. Traditional sights (aka iron sights) are extremely reliable, but they’re only OK, not great. A red-dot sight is nice, but they use batteries. If you plan to leave the sight turned on constantly, make sure to change the batteries often, and you should probably choose a model with a longer batter life (like an Aimpoint or the AA model from Primary Arms).

Iron Sights:

Inexpensive Red-Dot sights:



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Outland Tracker sandals review


The Good:

The Bad:
Flimsy construction

If you wear sandals on a regular basis, these sandals will not last long. I bought a pair at Big 5 Sporting Goods sometime around April, in preparation for a trip in late May. I really appreciated the adjustable back strap compared to the Columbia TechSun sandals that I ususally buy. They were also cheaper than Columbia sandals by about $10. They failed only 4 months later.

I wear sandals daily and I wear them when I drive. With my leg extended to the pedals, the weight of my foot rests against the back strap of the sandals. My issue with Columbia TechSun is that the back strap is too loose, allowing my heel to rub the floor and the edge of the sandal, causing callouses. I loved the Outland Tracker sandals at first because I could adjust the back strap tighter. Unfortunately, it seems the strain of holding the weight of my foot was more than they could bare. The stitching gave out while I was running errands with my wife, only a few hours before a road trip. I spent the next week wearing hot, sweaty Fila Skeletoes shoes with only 1 pair of now-very-stinky toe socks.

If money were no object, I would consider just buying a dozen pairs of Outland Trackers and replacing them whenever they break. However, they are not cheap enough or comfortable enough compared to Columbia TechSun sandals to make me buy a new pair every 4 months. I’ll admit that my Wonderlite dress shoes are comfortable enough to justify buying a new pair whenever they wear out. I think Wonderlites are several steps above all other dress shoes in comfort.

Update: They were recently sold on “closeout” for $20/pair. That’s actually fairly tempting. My new TechSun sandals aren’t nearly as comfortable as my Trackers. I cut the defective ankle strap off, and am still using the Trackers as slip-on sandals for around the house, getting the mail, retrieving items from the car, etc.

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Innately Harmful

“Banning guns is the only sensible solution to the problem of gun deaths and injuries in the United States. The idea that we can’t ban them because someone will still attempt to own one, is fallacious and empty headed. If you feel that way, then all laws are useless because they get broken everyday. Why bother to have laws banning murder when people will still murder each other? You can easily see that you lack any ability to think critically. Logic escapes anyone who doesn’t understand that fewer guns means fewer gun deaths.” – Bill W on youtube

Generally speaking, we pass laws against things/actions that are harmful, especially to others. Murder hurts people. Theft hurts people. Heck, even running through a Stop sign is dangerous (although it doesn’t always hurt someone). Even many so-called “victimless” crimes are still harmful. Cocaine harms the user and has no possible harmless use. Cocaine also contributes to other crimes as addicts engage in profitable criminal activity to finance their addiction.

Guns, however, are not innately harmful. There are many legitimate uses and users of firearms. It’s been a while since I looked up the exact numbers, but there were about 7,000 homicides with firearms in 2013. Also, one firearm builder (Ruger) sold over 1 million firearms in 2013. There are easily more than 200 million guns total in the US, but no one is really sure. (The BATFE estimated 223 million in 1995, and many more have been sold since then). So in a country that owns well-over 200,000,000 guns, I think 7,000 murders a year is a very low percentage. That’s about 0.035% – no, not 1/3 of 1%, it’s more like 1/30 of 1%. For the sake of our rough-math, we’ll say that it’s about 1 out of 2,800 guns. Regardless of the roughness of my numbers, I feel quite confident in saying that 99% of guns are not used for homicides, that homicide is the exception, not the rule. Even if we expand the list of gun “victims” to include suicides (any seriously suicidal person will not be deterred by “gun control”), the number is still well below 1% of misuse.

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Internet in the 90s

I really need to get back to blogging … I have a fair number of posts written that I just need to edit & post.

But this has been on my mind for a few months. I watched a viral video called ‘Teens react to 90s Internet’. It did not live up to its promise.

It wasn’t really teenagers reacting to 90s internet, so much as teens reacting to a 1997 educational/instructional video about how to use the internet. It described opening a browser, connecting, internet safety (like not giving out personal information), etc.

I’d really like to see teenagers use a dial-up 56k internet connection, running a simulated/recreated AOL browser (shouldn’t be hard to find one of those old CDs). I want to see the shock on their faces when they see a 4-gigabyte (not terabyte) hard drive and a processor running at 220 megahertz (mine is running at 2.16 gigahertz). I want to watch them download a file with a maximum speed of 5 kilobytes per second (I’ve seen my own downloads exceed 2 megabytes per second). I want to watch them search the internet without ‘google’, to watch them struggle with search sites like Excite or Ask Jeeves. I want to see them use AOL ‘keywords’ and to be restricted to only AOL-approved websites.

I remember those days. I remember trying for days to download an single song without getting disconnected (ahhh, Napster…). I remember my father’s “huge” 20 gigabyte hard drive (I have more than that in my cellphone). I remember a time when only the rich had cellphones, and smartphones didn’t exist at all.

In some ways, I feel like we’re cycling back around to AOL’s business model, just with more processor power. Look at  products like the iPad. Apple restricts what kind of applications you can install on an iPad, and what those apps are allowed to do. The web browser is the one place they don’t restrict content.

Although I haven’t used a Chromebook, from what I understand, they’re barely even computers. They’re really more like glorified terminals that are entirely dependent on cloud computing, and are nearly useless without an internet connect.

Windows is a bit better because you can install apps (which Windows usually calls ‘programs’) from any publisher. In addition, even the smallest & weakest Windows machines still have some internal storage and are capable of working offline. However, instead of just creating a user-account like in previous Windows editions, Windows 8 strongly encourages you to sign-in to Windows using your Microsoft account. Yes, the same Microsoft account that links in with their Outlook email service, Bing Rewards, and any other Microsoft web service. It just strikes me as a lot like the old AOL model of trying to unify all services under one company.

Yeah, I know I’m just letting this drop. My thoughts got off topic, and I seem to have lost my original point. I think it was something about “kids these days don’t know how good they have it” or something like that.

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Self-fulfilling Popularity

You may be familiar with the concept of a “self-fulfilling prophesy.” They occur when a person makes a prediction and then that prediction makes the person act in a certain way. For example, a student says “I’m going to fail my math test.” Since the student is already expecting failure, there’s a lack of motivation to study for the test. The end result is that the student fails the test and says “See, I knew I would fail.”

I think there is also “self-fulfilling popularity.” If a system is innovative and revolutionary, it becomes the new gold-standard to which all competitors are compared. Buyers adopt the new system while competitors race to catch up, and the new system becomes entrenched. Third party companies begin offering ad-ons for the system whether they’re apps for a device, speakers for an iPod, or grips for a rifle. These aftermarket accessories and third-pary support offer additional incentives to buy the original system, which further helps the system endure competition. The system’s early popularity guarantees it’s ongoing success. People continue buying them just because they’re popular. Continue reading

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Firearm Accessories 4: Get a Grip on It!

Ok, you have a gun, a case to transport it, a kit to clean it, spare ammo, spare parts, tools, and maybe a laser, light, or red dot sight.  So what else could you POSSIBLY need, right? Well fortunately for your wallet, there’s nothing else you really need. From this point forward it’s all about comfort & convenience.

Holsters & Slings
If you ever, ever think you might need to carry your gun, then you should have a holster for your handgun and a sling for your long gun. There are too many holster companies and types to list, but make sure you buy quality.

Slings come in 3 basic types: single-point, two-point, and three-point slings. I don’t have any experience with 3 point slings, so no comment. Single point slings generally suck, but they can be convenient in some situations (and I actually have 1 rifle that can only use a single-point sling). Two-point slings do a much better job of carrying a rifle, but they’re a bit less maneuverable and they can become tangled around the gun. To prevent tangling, check out the $6 Blue Force Sling Sleeve.

Personally, I like the idea of “convertible” slings that can either be used as a single-point or a two-point sling. For example, check out the Magpul MS3 and Tactical Link Convertible. I have an older Magpul MS2, and I generally just leave it as a two-point sling, but it’s nice to be able to put it on another rifle as a single-point if the situation ever calls for it.

“Ergonomic” Upgrades
Strictly speaking, putting a new grip on your rifle won’t make it any faster,  accurate, or more powerful. It is arguably a complete waste of money, but it’s also arguable that if you can make your gun more comfortable, then it is worth a few dollars. Just don’t get carried away spending huge amounts of money to make your gun look feel nicer.

For pistols, check out Hogue Grips and Talon Grips. For the AR-15 I’m especially fond of the UCWRG Grip 23 and anything from Magpul. Other AR-15 products are available from Troy Industries, Mission First Tactical, Bravo Co, VLTOR, B5 Systems, and Ace Ltd.

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Firearm Accessories 3: Getting on Target

Ok, you have a firearm with a carrying case, ammunition, magazines, cleaning kit, and maintenance tools. You have everything you really need but there are some more things that can help you put shots on target.

Continue reading for a summary of Lasers, Lights, and other Sights.
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Firearm Accessories 2: Keep It Running

Ok, you have a firearm and a way to transport it. Now, you’re ready to start shooting but you’ll need a few things if you want to keep shooting for very long.

I’m going to cover ammunition, magazines, cleaning kits, and tools in this post, so click here to see more –> Continue reading

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