Recently in Firearms Category

A minor diversion...
March 27, 2020 2:51 PM | Posted in: ,

One of the silver linings in the COVID-19 stay-at-home protocol is that we have time to pursue trivial matters that previously would have been preempted by more important things like...well, don't ask me. I'm retired; I can pursue all the trivial matters I want, at any time. But, perhaps you aren't that fortunate, but you now have time to enjoy MY trivial pursuits.

That's a long and ridiculous introduction to the following gif that I made with my own two hands. It's a big file (4.5mb...if you scoff because you have high-speed internet and unlimited data, keep it to yourself), so it may take a while to load. But if you can watch it, give it a shot (no pun intended) and I'll tell you some stuff about it below.

Animated gif: slow motion ejection of a shell casing from a pistol

What it is

This is a slow-motion time lapse of a spent ammo casing being ejected from a pistol being fired by MLB at a target in an undisclosed location in West Texas. The gun is a Springfield Armory XD-40 Sub-Compact, firing .40 caliber S&W ammo. The XD is a sweet shooting firearm and I like it a lot, the downside being that .40 cal. ammo is more expensive than the more popular (but generally less powerful) 9mm.

How it was done

The original video was shot via an iPhone 8 using the slow-motion feature of the Camera app, and I selected about a two-second interval from that video. I did this in iPhoto, and I worked backwards from the point where the casing disappeared from sight. I clicked frame-by-frame in reverse (iPhoto tends to jump forward more than one frame at a time, hence the reverse approach) and took a screen capture of each frame using a desktop app called Snapz Pro X for Mac. Each screen capture was automatically saved in Photoshop format (.psd) for editing purposes. I captured about 65 frames in this fashion.

I decided to convert the images to grayscale for two reasons. First, grayscale allows for a sharper and smaller image in gif format. Second, I wanted to showcase (no pun intended) the casing throughout the sequence by leaving it in its original color.

To achieve this effect, I applied the following steps to each frame using my ten-year-old desktop version of Photoshop for Mac (version 12):

[Warning: Extreme geekiness ahead]

  1. Immediately after opening each frame image, I enhanced the contrast, vibrance, and sharpness using the respective tools in the app. 

  2. I zoomed into each frame 300% so get a better look at the casing. Using the lasso tool, I outlined and selected the casing, then copied it into a new layer (Layer > New > Layer via Copy).

  3. I returned to the original layer and converted it to grayscale via the Image > Adjustments > Black & White > Darker option. This yielded a slightly higher contrast image than the simple Grayscale conversion that's available in Photoshop.

  4. I then flattened the two layers and saved and closed the edited file. I opened the next frame image and repeated steps 1-3, until all frames had been completed.

  5. The images were still in individual .psd files, but in order to create the animated gif in Photoshop, I needed one file with each frame image loaded sequentially into a separate layer. I accomplished this (rather laboriously, I might add) by creating a new master .psd file, opening each frame file one-by-one, and dragging the image into the master file where it appeared as a layer.

  6. I then opened the Animation window in Photoshop and selected Make Frames From Layers. Photoshop automatically created the animated gif and I selected the option to have no delay between individual frames.

  7. I then selected File > Save for Web and Devices, selected "GIF 128 No Dither" from the optimization options in the resulting pop-up window, made sure the looping was endless, and saved the finalized animated gif to my hard drive. I uploaded it to the Gazette's server (using Fetch as my FTP program), and then crafted this post a pixel at a time (kinda) so that it appears in the glorious, mesmerizing incarnation you're now looking at.
The entire process took a couple of hours, time that I would otherwise have spent plopped down in front of the TV. Being plopped down in front of a monitor is a MUCH MORE worthwhile use of time, right?


You really need to affirm the wonderfulness of this effort; otherwise, I might be forced to upload an audio file of my clarinet playing. You've been warned.

Shooting an iPad: It's what we do.
October 9, 2015 12:29 PM | Posted in: ,

My mom's iPad recently cratered. It wasn't a huge deal, since it was a hand-me-down of my 1st generation model, and I replaced it with another hand-me-down of my 2nd gen tablet.

I was able to coax it to life just long enough to wipe it clean and destroy the SIM chip, and I planned to drop it off in the dead electronics box at Best Buy for recycling. But then I had a brilliant thought: "what do guys do when their stuff breaks beyond repair?" The answer is pretty obvious. They shoot it!

I can't explain it, and I won't even try to justify it. It's just one of the rules, and I'm nothing if not a rule observer (especially if the rules are fun). So, I propped the old and busted iPad against a back porch wall and hauled out my AR-15 12-gauge shotgun .40 S&W pistol pellet gun. (I may be crazy but I'm not insane.)

Standing at an angle to avoid ricochets (remember kiddies, always be safe when shooting electronics in your back yard), I took careful aim from a distance of about fifteen feet. The results were remarkably satisfying.

iPad with bullet holes in screen

Several observations:

  • The glass screen is quite durable, and evidently shatterproof. The glass pulverized where the pellets impacted, and the impact caused spiderweb cracking, but no glass shards broke off.

  • The electronics are also durable. As you can see from the photo, the display never shut off. (As to why it's displaying in the Dutch language, well...that's another story for another time.) However, the touchscreen no longer responded to, um, touch. The on/off button did work, but the home button did not.

  • The rainbow of colors caused by the trauma to the display is actually quite pretty. (Even guys who shoot defenseless electronics have a sensitive side.)
I now sorta hate to take it to Best Buy. Maybe I'll get it framed as a companion piece to the G4 mother board.

Deciding how to categorize this post was a challenge. I started to put it in the DIY category, contemplated the Art category, and ultimately landed on a combination of Technology and Firearms, even though a pellet gun hardly qualifies as either.

Contest! Turn this shotgun into yard art!
November 8, 2014 10:42 AM | Posted in: ,

I recently took possession of a 1960s-vintage 12 gauge single-shot shotgun, formerly owned by my father-in-law, who says the gun was shot only a few times. This was partly because the unchoked barrel made the gun pretty uncomfortable to shoot, but he also wasn't a hunter. So, the gun has been rusting away in a closet for decades.

Closeup of Model 94 shotgun

It's a Stevens Model 94 manufactured by the Savage Arms Corporation. According to this article, Savage turned out more than a million of these shotguns, starting in the 19th century, in a variety of gauges. They were inexpensive, and by the time this particular model came into being, "inexpensive" was an acceptable synonym for "cheap." What looks like a nice walnut stock is actually grade-A genuine plastic. These shotguns generally sell for around $100-$150 dollars in the aftermarket.

Model 94 shotgun

I've cleaned the gun a bit, although as you can tell by the first photo, it's still rusty. Somewhere along the line the bolt that tightens the stock loosened, and I can't tighten it so there's a wiggly gap (that's a highly technical gunsmithing term, I'm sure). In short, this shotgun is no longer destined for shooting. So, I've removed the firing pin, and I want to "repurpose" the gun.

Here's where you come in, oh gentle and creative Gazetteer. I need your ideas for turning this gun into yard art, either as a standalone piece or something that will hang on a brick wall. I could always just mount it as is and stick a flower in the muzzle, but that's awfully cliched (although perhaps age-appropriate for a hippies-vintage gun) and I'm sure you guys can come up with something better. The only caveat is that it has to be something that I can actually try to think like a third-grader.

And, seeing as how today marks the 12th anniversary of the Fire Ant Gazette, I figured we should make this a little more special than usual, so if you have the "winning" idea, I'll immortalize you on these pages as a character in a short story. (Eventually.)

So, if you can think of some creative uses for a shotgun that has a little sentimental value, but none otherwise, please share them via email or on the Facebook post that links to this page. Thanks in advance, and may the blast be with you.
One of our local TV stations posted a link on Facebook to its report on the decision by Midland Park Mall to prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns on its property. It's unclear whether these are new signs, but the mall's policy and the station's spotlight on the signs are drawing the reactions you'd expect from a conservative West Texas community like ours.
Against my better judgment, I skimmed through the comments left on Facebook, and amid the usual misconceptions ("that's the mall's rule and you can't be charged with anything but trespassing if you violate it") and overreactions ("I thought this was America") - and despite the almost unanimous condemnation of the mall's stance, there was one subtle-but-common thread: nobody suggested ignoring it.
I realize it's risky, if not downright stupid, to draw any sociological conclusions from a Facebook comment thread, but that observation obliquely affirms one of the basic arguments in favor of granting the right to bear concealed weapons - or, perhaps more to the point, against the idea that prohibiting concealed carry makes things safer. It's a trite saying that when firearms are banned, only criminals will have them, but the Facebook conversation seems to confirm that those who support concealed carry are also generally a law-abiding group, and are apparently not willing to break the law even if they deem it to be unfair or illogical. 
And in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I think I can safely assume that this same philosophy is not held by the criminal element in our society. Otherwise, they would not be, you know, criminals.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a concealed handgun permit. And while I fully comply with lawful prohibitions posted by businesses - and would never boycott a business simply for implementing that prohibition - I absolutely don't buy into the argument that they're making things any safer. Midland Park Mall may or may not lose any business over their stance on this issue, but its management has lost credibility with a chunk of its customer base.

Slinging Henry
December 7, 2013 3:25 PM | Posted in: ,

After almost a year of fearful contemplation, and thanks in no small part to a bit of cabin fever (it's been really cold for TWO DAYS!), I finally worked up the courage to mount a sling to my Henry Golden Boy rifle. If that doesn't sound all that courageous, then you've never seen that beautiful walnut stock and entertained the idea of drilling a hole into the heart of it, a hole that can't be undrilled if not done perfectly the first time. I'm not a gunsmith and the risk of defacing a beautiful firearm was not one I take lightly.

As it turned out, the contemplation was worse than the execution, and it's with great relief that I present the results.

Photo of rifle stock

This is where the drilling came in. See what I mean about the beautiful wood? That simple-looking fitting was complicated by the fact that it required drilling a 5/32" hole inside a 7/32" starter hole - with each having to be drilled to a specific depth - along with the additional facts that I don't have (1) a gun vise or (2) a drill press or (3) a drill bit depth collar. Or, for that matter, (4) any inherent skill to perform this task.

I've never let lack of proper tools or basic proficiency stand in my way of performing delicate operations on expensive equipment, relying instead on God's grace for children and fools along with a knack for Texan engineering (and a spooky ability to cover up mistakes). So I addressed the first three issues with a shop vise, some microfiber towels, and a strip of orange duct tape.

Photos of southern engineering

Fortunately, the fourth shortcoming was set aside for the next job, and the outcome of this little project was pleasantly successful.

Photo of rifle with sling

The only remaining task is to change my name.

Studebaker Fish: The Backstory
December 22, 2012 7:15 AM | Posted in: ,

I'm a sucker for sculptures constructed from found objects. Are they art? I'll leave that debate to those who know what they're talking about, but I find such pieces to be a pleasant addition to my environment, and that's all I demand from my art. I also like the idea of making something whimsical for no practical purpose whatsoever (forgive the redundancy, and try not to apply that test to the Gazette).

Anyway, when we discovered the Artisans at Rocky Hill Gallery in Fredericksburg, Texas, a week or so ago, I felt like a crackhead who'd just won a free house in East L.A. (no offense to East L.Aliens, or to crackheads, for that matter). The gallery is chock-full of cool stuff (a technical art term) and if we ever figure out how to make "spending our way into prosperity" into a workable financial strategy, I know just where to start.

I thought I showed remarkable restraint when we walked out of the joint with only one piece...but what a piece it is:

Photo of the Studebaker Fish

This construction is entitled "1949 Studebaker Nose Cone Fish." The name is interesting not simply because the base of the sculpture is the nosepiece from a Studebaker, but also because all the photos and text I've found indicate that this particular style didn't appear until 1950. So, either time travel was involved in its creation, or we should chalk the title up to artistic license. Personally, I like the former theory, but I'm not entirely objective.

As you can probably discern from the photo, the fish has golf club heads for fins, a pair of tin snips for a tail, and old ceramic door knobs for eyes. The dorsal fin appears to be a section from a big honkin' saw blade. Two boxend wrenches serve as the "legs." And nestled in the belly of the fish is a padlock and a handgun. [Insert hipsterish Noah joke here.]

The artist is a man named Terry Jones, and he calls the east Texas town of Jewett his home. Many of his sculptures incorporate [non-functioning] firearms. Jones works with several law enforcement agencies to "decommission" guns that have been seized in raids, and in return for this service, he's allowed to use them in his creations.

Closeup of Bryco 48 handgun

I did a little gumshoe work and discovered that the handgun in this piece is the chassis of a Bryco 48 .380 semi-auto, a cheap (in every sense of the word) "Saturday Night Special" with a rep for finding its way into all sorts of nefarious endeavors. It's not surprising that it ended up in one of these sculptures. And if you were the former owner of Bryco 48 #624643, well, shame on you.

The fish is one of Jones's more playful works; some are simply stunning in their intricacy and flowing design. If you happen to find yourself in Fredericksburg - or in another of the galleries that carry his work - be sure to take a look. You also might find yourself enhancing your yard art* collection.

*Uh, let's let this be our little secret, m'kay? I'm not sure that Mr. Jones intended for this particular piece to be planted under a Mexican Elder tree in West Texas.

Two Things
September 29, 2012 7:15 AM | Posted in: ,

This is the first in what I hope will be a periodic - if not regular - series in which I share, well, two things. Each pair may or may not have some relationship to each other; it's possible that the only thing they have in common is that they happened to catch my eye at approximately the same time. If that seems lame, you won't get any argument from me. I'm still gonna do it.

Thing The First: The FLIZ

The website is in German, and Google's literal translation feature is occasionally lacking in clarity, but the photos tell the story: you hang from a crotch-chocking harness and try to run/glide, for reasons that are inexplicable no matter what language is used to describe them.

The FLIZ in action

I will readily admit to being attracted to unusual forms of human-powered transportation, but this crosses the line between unusual and creepy/painful. Still, I can admire the quality of the build of this prototype, and the use of dual disc brakes on an apparatus that likely will never go more than 15 mph has a certain irrational appeal. And Schwalbe makes great tires, so it has that going for it. But even the sporty Tour de France-yellow paint job won't save it from being an eternal solution in search of a problem.

Tip o'the cycling cap to My Life In Recline

Thing The Second: The Kel-Tec KSG 12-Gauge Shotgun

Kel-Tec is known throughout the shooting community as a manufacturer of inexpensive-but-competent handguns. Its palm-sized P3-AT .380 Auto is extremely popular as a concealed carry weapon. I've owned one for years, but I only recently learned that Kel-Tec makes rifles, and is a new entrant into the market for tactical shotguns. And their first offering in that category is a fascinating piece of firearmory:

The Kel-Tec KSR shotgun

The KSG (Kel-Tec Shot Gun...they apparently don't spend a lot on branding research) is one bad-looking piece of equipment with its dual-tube magazine tubes (holding 12 rounds) and industrial grade Picatinny upper sight rail. This is not your father's quail hunting boomer, and you wouldn't be allowed through the gate at any trap-shooting establishment. But if you're a shotgun enthusiast, the KSR is almost too cool to ignore.

Got a suggestion for something that's Two Thing-worthy? Email it to and you might extend your 15 minutes of fame by a nanosecond or two!

Concealed Handgun License Renewal
July 6, 2011 8:32 AM | Posted in: ,

Around the same time that Janie was qualifying for her Concealed Handgun License (CHL), Debbie and I were taking the renewal class. Texas CHLs are generally good for five years, but through a quirk in the scheduling and the way our birthdays fell, we got only about 4½. So we found ourselves at Gaylene Stansberry's renewal class on a Monday evening for the 5 hour refresher course required by state law.

Contrary to what you might think, the Texas CHL process is geared toward convincing you that using a handgun against another person is a Very Serious Idea. The educational classes focus on the legal and emotional implications of carrying and using a gun for self-defense. If one is paying the least bit of attention, one will leave the class understanding the full burden of responsibility that accompanies the decision to carry a concealed weapon. It's not glamorous nor exciting.

The renewal class is mostly geared toward any recent changes in Texas laws and regulations concerning concealed carry (for example, since we took the first class, Texas now has a statute that allows anyone to carry a handgun in their car, for any reason and for any duration, provided they're not subject to other restrictions on handgun ownership. Previously, you had to be "traveling," and the definition for that term was the subject of ongoing debate). And there's the expected refresher on the basic rules for concealed carry, and a focus on the difference between the use of "force" and "deadly force" in a self-defense scenario...along with the aforementioned implications of what to expect if you decide to use the latter.

Screenshot of CHL renewal status
Even so, the class did have its moments of levity. At the beginning, we went around the room, introducing ourselves and giving one reason why we each decided to renew our permits. Most had the expected usual reasons of not wanting to be a victim, or wanting to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights, but some were, well, a little different. More than one person mentioned that they'd never gotten a speeding ticket since they got their CHLs; police and DPS officers seem to be more willing to cut you some slack if you have a CHL. You can guess at the possible reasons for this, and I've never experienced the phenomenon personally (perhaps only because I've not been pulled over since I got my CHL), but the anecdotal evidence to support it is plentiful. I'm not suggesting that if you have a leaden foot you should run out and get your CHL, but a couple of speeding tickets would more than pay for the course and the license fee.

The class went well, although we ran behind schedule which meant that some of the students were doing their target shooting in the dark. I was a little disappointed in my shooting performance, shooting a few points less than the first time around, but I do have an excuse.

The guy to my immediate left on the shooting range was a rancher who was firing a Kimber .45 auto (complete with a laser sight). It's a beautiful gun, and he knew what he was doing; he was extremely accurate - in two directions. You see, the Kimber ejects its brass straight out to the right, and I was right in the line of "fire." Almost every time he fired, a spent cartridge would plink me in the head. One even caught me in the eye just as I pulled the trigger, resulting in a complete miss. I realize that I shouldn't have been distracted by something like that; it wasn't painful or dangerous, but I wasn't ready for it and so it affected my shooting. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway, we all passed both the classroom and shooting tests, and our renewed licenses should be on their way very soon. The Texas CHL website provides an updated status of the process, and we hit the final milestone less than two weeks after submitting our paperwork.

I suspect you may have a simple question at this point: "Do you generally carry a concealed handgun?" The answer is equally simple: "It's none of your business, but the important thing is that the bad guys don't know the answer either." Uncertainty often equals deterrence, and crime/conflict avoided is an even better solution than that which is confronted and defeated.

Unloaded Open Carry (UOC): What's the Point?
February 28, 2010 5:29 PM | Posted in:

George over at Sleepless in Midland has run across an interesting tidbit: it's legal to openly carry a handgun in California as long as it's unloaded. At first glance, this seems like a senseless legal right. As I mentioned in a comment on George's post, carrying a hammer would actually be a better choice than an unloaded gun in a self-defense situation.

But then I ran across the FAQ on the California Open Carry website, where we learn that it's also legal to carry ammo at the same time; it just can't be loaded in the firearm. This considerably evens the playing field, given the speed with which one can pop a loaded magazine into a pistol, with a little practice.

Of course, laws and lawyers being what they are, the definition of "loaded" is subject to, um, nuances. Read this discussion thread to get a feel for some of those subtleties.

I'd be interested to know how often people exercising their right to UOC in California get stopped and inspected by the police to ensure their firearms aren't loaded, and how strictly the definition is applied.

In Texas, anecdotal evidence suggests that Concealed Carry Permit holders are generally treated with beneficent respect by law enforcement officers (I've never had a chance to prove this myself as I've never had an encounter that required me to present my permit to an officer). The CCP is evidence that the holder has passed a background check, and has been trained not only in firearm use, but also in the legalities that accompany it, with the implicit assumption that holders and peace officers are, so to speak, on the same team. I wonder if California police have the same attitude toward UOC?

My guess is "no," as UOC appears to not be accompanied by any training requirement or background check. In fact, here's what the aforementioned FAQ has to say:
You may also have encounters with law enforcement officers. You must be prepared for this. Know all the laws. Carry the flyers and memos with you. Many Open Carriers carry personal voice recorders to record their police encounters. You may be detained. You legally must allow police officers to inspect your firearm to ensure that it is unloaded (where applicable per 12031). You may even be arrested. This shouldn't happen if you follow all the laws, but from many of the experiences shared on the forums, it appears that many police officers do not know or do not understand the law. Remain patient, and if you can, share with them what you know. If however you are placed under arrest, immediately stop talking.

If you are unwilling to accept this risk of false arrest, or are unable to bear the significant financial burden for your legal defense, then don't Open Carry in California.

Too Many Judges
July 27, 2009 4:44 PM | Posted in: ,

Update (8/5/09): Yesterday, I sold the firearm described below to a fellow who wanted to carry it as a snake gun. I just couldn't justify hanging onto it. My only regret is that I never got to shoot it.

My brother and his wife live in rattlesnake country. Walking onto their front porch after dark on a summer evening is an act of courage (depending on your definition of "courage").

They also frequently encounter roving bands of javelina. Those wild pigs are unpredictable and it takes more than a sternly worded command to deter them. In fact, a large caliber bullet is probably the surest method of self-defense.

The combination of those ongoing threats is seemingly what Taurus International Manufacturing had in mind* when they designed "The Judge." It's a revolver chambered for the .45 Long Colt ammo as well as the .410 shotshell. You can mix-and-match the ammo in the five chambers if you want to be ready for anything. The .410s are effective for killing invading poisonous snakes up to about twelve feet, and the .45s handle everything else beyond that range.

Anyway, we stopped by the Cabela's store in Buda (just south of Austin) last Tuesday, and they had a couple of The Judges in stock. I decided that one would make a fine Christmas present** for my brother; I even rationalized that my parents would likely be willing to split the cost and thereby avoid the inevitable shopping hassle when December rolls around. So, I bought it.

During our regular Sunday night conversation after we returned to Midland, I told my mom about the plan. I didn't get the expected reaction. Instead, she described to me a trip to a nearby town taken by my brother and his wife, ostensibly to shop for his wife's birthday present. While wandering around that town, they happened upon a gun store. You can probably see where this is headed, can't you?

Let's summarize, shall we? On the same day I was 300 miles away buying him the gun, and probably around the same time of day, he was buying the same one for himself. It's like a redneck version of an O. Henry story. OK, maybe not, but it's still weird.

The upshot (no pun intended) is that he has a gun he wanted, and I have one that I didn't want but now that I have it am finding to be pretty cool, provided I can ever find any ammo for it. Perhaps it was just meant to be. I know I never look a gift revolver in the barrel.***

*OK, this is probably untrue. The Judge is being marketed as a self-defense weapon, and in fact derives its name from the fact that a fair number of the judiciary carries the gun for protection. Or so Taurus would have us believe.

**If you're thinking that a gun makes a lousy Christmas present, you obviously don't live in Texas.

***You don't have to be a Texan to understand the wisdom of this statement.