Monthly Archives: May 2015

Sunday Slowness

Saturday was Crazy Day. Blogbrother’s schedule meant he was available only intermittently, and the weather was bad for it — too windy — but we were committed to prime most of the rest of the empennage parts. It went like this:

  1. We brought the parts up and inspected them. Every one that wasn’t deburred well enough got extra attention. Because we knew our sharpie markings wouldn’t survive the wash, etch and prime process, we added little toe tags with the descriptions of part matching and orientation that we had marked on the parts.
  2. We hung all the parts from one of those 10′ x 10′ canopies you can get at any big-box store. Sacrificed most of our cheesy metal coathangers to make hanging hooks.
  3. Washed them with Stewart EkoClean. This removes the mung and oils our fingers have left on the parts as we cut, shaped, drilled, test-fit, clecoed, and generally messed with them. With those oils, the primer wouldn’t adhere to the aluminum.
  4. Rinsed them off with tap water, a hose and a spray wand. (Strike One against the toe tags).
  5. When they were dry, etched them with Stewart EkoEtch solution. This prepared the metal to take the primer — a very important step.
  6. After letting EkoEtch do its thing for some minutes, we rinse it off. You want to etch the surface of the aluminum, not rot it. After all, we’re trying to prevent corrosion here.
  7. At this point, Blogbro turned into a pumpkin drawn by a team of mice, and went home for dinner with family. Your humble blogger continued to attack the problem.
  8. When the water had dried, then we fired up the Graco turbine sprayer again, this time with Stewart’s EkoPrime. (We think that’s what they call it). We painted almost everything we intended to paint, even as night fell and we had to work under floodlights. (Lord knows what the neighbors think. They’re not right upon us, but they can see our strange pavilion and wind chimes in the form of all the pieces of a plane’s tail feathers).
  9. The small parts were not suitable for spraying. They’re too light and even the default air cone of the Graco (which is flowing all the time the system’s on) blew them all over East Overshoe.
  10. What to do? Made a hanger hook, but used it to dunk the small parts in the Graco’s spray-gun bottle of mixed EkoPrime.
  11. Spent 40 minutes trying to extract a small spar cap doubler dropped in the paint bottle. Didn’t want to dump it out, as we had more stuff to dunk.
  12. Took a break to apply DEET and permethrin. Returned to task.
  13. Spent another half hour or so seeking the spar cap doubler. Gave up for now and resumed dunking.  Lost another small part in the paint can; fished this one out. Was encouraged to try for the spar cap doubler, no joy.
  14. Blogbrother, having put his bairns to bed,  arrived in time to rescue the dunked doubler, and help clean up and break down. The Stewart Systems paint dried rapidly and we’re very happy with it. It’s all water based so we just rinse everything off and run a few ounces of water through the spray gun.
  15. We finally got a good look at the parts in the bright lights of the basement mad science lab no, lair, no, workshop — which you dear readers may be seeing some parts of shortly — and were generally quite thrilled with them. There are a couple individual parts that will need to be re-done.

We have a bunch more priming and riveting to do, because Van’s has let us know the wing kit is on the way. We need to get the empennage and tail cone finished to make room for the next adventure.

So far, it’s all going together well, we’re learning a lot and having a blast, and we cannot praise the Van’s instructions and plans more highly. Everything’s logical and orderly and fed to you one bite at a time.

Other Saturday events included a short but thigh-burning bike ride, which led into the several hours of standing work on the priming job. That’s probably where all the pain came from. That, and age, and mileage, and a few unfortunately-kinetic PLFs over the years.

Today — Sunday — we may get the Saturday Matinee up. (We were supposed to watch it yesterday, and didn’t, so we’re that far behind the power curve). And we will be making ready for a new week. Monday will kick off with a gun story, and at 1100 Monday we’ll have an update on the Recycled Rangerettes. (BLUF: nope, none passed. A few are getting a second recycle, to Day One  this time. And the Chief of Staff, General Ray Odierno, is hinting at moving the goalposts).

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws Will Have Silverware

ForkSomebody doesn’t know “stick a fork in her,” is just an expression. People do get testy about chow, especially in gourmand circles, but this is ridiculous:

The Star Press ( ) reports a 45-year-old woman was arrested Sunday night on a preliminary charge of criminal recklessness.

An affidavit says the woman was attending a barbecue in Muncie when she raised the ire of the host’s daughter by “taking the last rib from the kitchen.”

The affidavit says the woman told police that the daughter accused her of “taking all the food,” so she stabbed her in the eye.

Police say the woman maintains she acted in self-defense and that the homeowner’s daughter was brandishing a knife.

via Indiana woman gets fork in eye over last rib.

She didn’t get shot, so whatever Hoosier got forked, it wasn’t Tam.

Q: Is a fork deadly force?

A: IANAL, but it’s gotta be when some jerk sticks it in your jeezly eye. 

Q: Is this self-defense?

A: Well, she’s making that claim, but I don’t think she’s read Andrew Branca’s book.

Q: How rare is this kind of thing?

A: An EMT-P friend says it’s not unusual, over the years he’s seen a few. The patient may or may not lose the eye.

It is unclear whether the weapon was an ordinary dinner fork, a larger serving fork as used by Golden Corral professionals, or a deadly assault barbecue fork with the shoulder thing that goes up. Moms will be Demanding Action for Fork Sense as soon as they eat the next plate of ribs.

The last person who had such a costly rib has to have been Adam.


For more information, this page at the Star-Press has more details. The perp is one Sabrina Davis, 45, and from the build evident in her mugshot, this isn’t the first time she’s eaten all the food at the pigout cookout.

That woman confronted Davis “about taking all the food,” and told officer Amy Kesler that Davis responding by stabbing her in the left eye with a fork she had been using “to take meat from a pan.”

The victim had “at least two small lacerations on her left eyelid,” Kesler wrote, and her eye was “swollen and bloodshot.”

A witness told police the victim “was frustrated that Davis was taking so much food from the house,” and after being wounded in the eye, “grabbed a knife from the counter and was trying to get to Davis.”

However, Davis maintained she was acting in self defense, insisting the other woman was already brandishing the knife when she stabbed her in the eye.

Davis — who remained in the Delaware County jail on Tuesday under a $5,000 bond — confirmed “the dispute was over the last rib in a pan,” Kesler wrote.

This may crush people who believe in the absolute randomness of life, but it seems Ms Davis was already a familiar face in the courts of Muncie. Color us shocked.

Foreign Policy: Why Are ISIL Leaders Better than Iraqis?

ISIL flagNow, if this were a courtroom drama, somebody would say, “Counsel asserts facts which are not in evidence.” Because the Iraqis, yes, their leadership (especially at political level) sucks. But so does ISIL’s. They’re winning not because their Joes Jamals are better, or because their leaders are better, but because they (1) know what they’re fighting for and (2) have support.

The Iraqis, conversely, are not fighting to win, but not to lose; and they have only half-hearted, grudging support from both of their external supporters, the USA and Iran. Both nations are willing to give the Iraqis a little boost, just enough so that they don’t lose; but neither really wants the Iraqis to win. That’s why ISIL is winning: in wars where only one side commits to victory, the outcome is foreordained.

Yet the clueless, who find their geographic centroid south of Philly and north of Richmond, are writing stuff like this, reporting on the statements of others with recklessly low levels of Vitamin Clue:

Furious American policymakers blasted the Iraqis for effectively abandoning the city. The Iraqi army “was not driven out of Ramadi,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters at a NATO summit in Brussels last week. “They drove out of Ramadi.”  Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, meanwhile, used an interview Sunday to publicly accuse the Iraqis of lacking the “will to fight,” The White House quickly tried to walk the comments back, but there is little doubt Carter was speaking for many inside the Pentagon.

“Walk the comments back.” That reminds us that there are two types of suits in national-security policy positions currently: academics with fashionable ideas about how America needs to decline, and former speechwriters and spin artists who think you can lie your way out of anything.

It takes some balls for a couple of palace eunuchs like Dempsey and Carter to talk about “lacking will to fight.” We have heard that the US “airstrikes” in support of the Ramadi defense were, seven, count ’em, 7, sorties. “Here’s your bombs, little brown guys. Make ’em count.”

We don’t know where Martin Dempsey and Ash Carter got the balls to say that stuff, but they ought to spit ’em out — any balls in the possession of either one of those geldings have to belong to someone else.

These two wizards of withdrawal have been the architects of ABED: abandonment, bugout, escape, and defeat.

And they’re preparing to do the same in Afghanistan. Top. Men.

So naturally Foreign Policy, which thinks Tom Ricks is smarter than anyone who ever put on a uniform (in part, because he never put on a uniform), thinks the US has been betrayed by the Iraqis here.

The Defense chief’s comments hinted at the biggest question hanging over both the Ramadi fight and the broader push against the Islamic State: can Baghdad win the war if its generals seem to be continually out-thought and out-maneuvered by their counterparts from the militant group?

via Why Are the Islamic State’s Commanders so Much Better than the Iraqi Army? | Foreign Policy.

I don’t know if that post was Ricks — perhaps not, it’s not bursting its banks with self-regard, the very Presidential-selfie of defense reporting — but it’s the sort of miscued nonsense he’s written his whole career, and naturally he’s now orbited by young, ambitious versions of his unaware-but-never-uncertain self.

Exercise for the reader: imagine Armchair Admiral General Ricks with his never-leaves-Acelaland attitude, transported in time to World War II.

“Why can’t the Poles stand up to the Germans? Is it Hitler’s leadership?”

“Which Admirals Should Hang for Pearl Harbor?”

“Ploesti Raid: Record Casualties, Production Uninterrupted. Time to Negotiate?”

“Allies Still Bogged Down in Italy. Mussolini Rescued. Are Our Generals Goldbricking?”

It’s a fun game: Beltway Defense Journalist. Anybody can play! Unless you know something about the military and defense.

But the shucking of responsibility in the Pentagon will have serious consequences. It took us fifteen years of recovery (and a couple of wars that would have been unnecessary) to overcome the damage to our reputation illustrated by that last chopper out of Saigon.

Everybody in Iraq who trusted us has been receiving the Delta House president’s answer: “You F’d up. You trusted us.”

4 Weird Airplane Tools We Use Every Day

Here are some tools we use on the airplane project in lieu of the usual tools for that purpose. We’ll probably elaborate on that at the Van’s Air Force Forum, where people building these planes hang out, but we thought that these are odd enough and in most cases versatile enough that gunsmiths, sport shooters, and even home handymen will find them useful.

We’ve listed them in order of coolness — the degree to which they delighted and surprised us.

Black and Decker Gyro Screwdriver

black and decker gyroThe Gyro is not your usual electric screwdriver. For one thing, it has a now-considered-anemic 4 watts, so if you’re driving wood screws into heart of oak, this is not your tool. But for another, it has a unique user interface in the crowded screwdriver market. There’s no on-off or directional switches.

No switches, —–es!? How the heck does it work?

It works by a flick of your wrist. Righty-tighty? Flick your wrist clockwise. Lefty-loosey? Counterclockwise. (Anticlockwise, you Brits). How cool is that?

Not cool enough. Because it works on a proportional flick of your wrist. Want it to turn fast, flick hard and fast. Slower? You got it, slower and gentler. The whole thing is apparently controlled by the solid-state micro-accelerometers that are now getting embedded in phones and every other gadget.

Screwdriver, hell, this is the tool you want for driving deburring tools. Like this single-flute deburring tool or this long-shafted one from Cleaveland Aircraft Tool. It’s so natural to control the Gyro by wrist motion, and when you have to deburr thousands of #30 holes again after redrilling them to real #30 size — thank you, Hertel, not — your thumbs will thank you. The use of the driver feels weird at first but you quickly master it and have control you don’t have with a conventional power driver.

Best yet, in our deburring use it runs for weeks on a single battery charge.

The Black & Decker page also includes a comment from a guy who’s as delighted with his Gyro as we are, and he’s a reloader, using his for case trimming and chamfering and all that good stuff.

We really liked this tool so much that the Blogbrother hied himself to Lowe’s where we bought it, for, if we remember right, $18 and change, looking to get another. He texted back from the store:

Clearance priced for $15 [bleep]

Texted him back; why’s such a great tool on clearance? The clerk tells him that they did not sell; people thought they were a weird idea, and nobody wants a 4w screwdriver any more. We hope that B&D keeps pressing this technology into the market. Buy it, you will love it. We’re going to buy another just to keep in the package in case one of ours gives up the ghost.

Clecall Cleco Pliers

clecall pliersIf you don’t ever make anything from sheet metal, you will probably never see a cleco, a small, removable fastener that sits in rivet or bolt holes, temporarily holding things together. If you make an airplane, you will handle dozens or hundreds of them thousands of times. (They also come in handy on other stuff. We just used riveted aluminum to make a replacement part for a wastebasket top latch, and we used clecos to hold the parts together while we drilled holes through two parts).  The pinlike Clecos are attached and removed by a small plier that has not changed since Lindbergh’s day. Until the Clecall was released recently.

We saw this advertised in Kitplanes magazine — a wishbook for plane builders, like we are now, and wannabees, like we’ve been for the past 30 years or so  — and thought, it can’t be as great as what they claim for it, can it? They say:

– Faster to use. Easier to Activate
– 70% lighter than normal cleco pliers at 4.3 oz!
– Vertical profile installs clecos in tight areas with ease!
– CNC machined and anodized in the USA for strength!
– Reduce fatigue and wrist pain

Boo, hiss: the old Cleco pliers. On the plus side, they're only six bucks.

Boo, hiss: the old Cleco pliers. On the plus side, they’re only six bucks. On the minus side, you can get a Clecall now, so it would be six wasted bucks..

And all that seemed over the top. But there are times when we’re working side by side and each of us could use a Cleco pliers, so we ordered this instead of the 1920-whatever version. Turns out, every one of those claims is true. We love this so much that we never use the old one any more. Instead of both of us Clecoing, we’re back to one guy waiting for the pliers again.

Fortunately, the company just introduced a new version, made of forged steel, with some other improvements. We love the alloy one, but we have to try the new one too.

And just to add a dose of awesome sauce, the guy who invented it built an airplane assembled like ours (a Zenith, designed by Chris Heintz) and prototyped the tool by 3D printing. We wanna meet this guy and tell him how much we love his pliers. Not in a gay way or anything. NTTAWWT.

Buy it at Cleaveland Aircraft Tool  (they only have the alloy version so far, but try them on the phone).

But ’em at Aircraft Spruce & Specialty (they are showing both versions).

Graco-Croix CX-9 Sprayer

This is somebody else's, off of eBay. It's the same model, but ours is nasty with overspray.

This is somebody else’s, off of eBay. It’s the same model, but ours is nasty with overspray. We’ve gotta get a welder cart or something for hauling it. 

When we were looking at how to wash, edge, prime and paint parts we initially concluded we needed a compressor. This led to fits of depression, because a compressor good enough to drive a spray gun isn’t something you buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot. It’s an expensive purchase and a loud bastard to boot. Sure, we could use a lot of other air tools with a compressor like that, but most air tools, including the pneumatic version of the cleco tool, and pneumatic rivet tools, can be used with a less strong compressor.

Cruising Craigslist for bargains, we found this sprayer. Checking it out, it seemed like a turbine sprayer was the answer to all our paint problems. Could that really be true?

So far, we’re very pleased with it. A local painters’ supply can get us parts, not that we’ve needed much; we needed a gasket, but made one of neoprene. We’re still running it with the contractor (coarse) spray gun innards, not the automotive (finer) ones. And the filter is old, but it’s user-cleanable.

It’s very environmentally friendly, “spraying” a cone of air around its paint. It’s quiet; we can converse in normal tones while spraying, unless we have to raise our voices: “What did you just spray me for, you featherbrained imbecile?” And it seems to be very economical with etcher, primer, and paint, which is good news because that stuff is X-pensive with a capital X these days.

We improvised a dust booth from one of those folding canopies you buy at big-box stores, and hang the parts from the canopy frame and a couple of cross clotheslines using hooks bent from old clothes hangers. (So we’re actually using hangers to build something that will go in a hangar).

Our success with the CX-9 turbine sprayer is an illustration of something we’ve long believed, a used professionals’ tool is generally a better buy than a new hobbyists’ tool.

Rockwell Tools BladeRunner

Rockwell BladerunnerBut this one? A hobbyist’s tool, from conception to delivery. Nonetheless, it’s an oddball tool we do use. The BladeRunner is a small saw that we use in lieu of a band saw. Fundamentally, it’s the guts of a jigsaw mounted, fixed, inverted in a lightweight plastic table. There’s an upper level guide that incorporates rollers to keep the blade on track, and has a socket to which you can attach a shop vac for a clean work space.

Compared to a bandsaw, it gives up a great deal of versatility and power, but it’s small and lightweight. The big plus is that blades are readily changeable. It uses any t-shank jigsaw blade. We use a saw mostly for cutting wood for jigs and fixtures, and secondarily for separating parts supplied joined together, so the ability to change from a wood blade to a metal blade in seconds, and the ability to dial speed up and down with a thumb wheel, are wonderful. (Changing speeds on the average bandsaw takes a lot longer and requires monkeying with pulleys and math. Changing blades is a pain in the neck).

Saw cuts are usually rough cuts with a poor surface finish, so we tend to put a lot of finish work in when we cut aluminum parts with this saw. It would not work on steel parts, so it’s not a good gunsmithing tool. It’s great for most of the things we do, though; for example, Van’s tends to supply a group of brackets or components of a built-up hinge as a long strip of angle that’s only partly cut to shape. It’s left for the kit builder to separate the four or six parts from one another.  With care, it’s possible to make these cuts close enough that the edge can be cleaned up with just a red Scotchbrite pad.

(The Rockwell blade marked “aluminum,” by the way, sucks at cutting aluminum. Use the one marked “metal.” Don’t even think about using it on steel. The saw has a speed dial on it, though, so maybe it could be made to work. But the bandsaw is supported at both ends, and only goes one way, and that rigidity and consistency can’t be matched in a plastic-framed tool that grips a reciprocating blade at one end).

The current version, the BladeRunner X2, is even smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the older one we have. (The illustration we used is the old model). Someday we’ll find the right price on a used variable-speed metal-cutting bandsaw, and then this guy will be retired to just do the woodwork. But right now, he’s a member of the plane-making family.

Friday Tour d’Horizon Week 22

We’ll cover the usual subjects: Guns, Usage and Employment, Cops ‘n’ Crims, Unconventional (and current) Warfare, and Lord Love a Duck!


We really wanted to write more about these gun stories. So many guns, so few fingers….

Larry Vickers and an AK-74

The sheer industrial tractor-factory function of an AK here, with the receiver cover and upper handguard (and sometimes the gas tube!) off. Look at those parts bounce!

There are guns that are the product of iterative engineering, and there are guns that are the product of inspired trial and error. The AK has been defending, attacking, and overthrowing most of the nations of the world since only a few years after the first Ivan plucked an MP43 off a cooling German and said, “Bozhe moi! We sure could use something like this. But made with Soviet worker and peasant simplicity and reliability.”

ITEM: The Clock Ticks for Armatix

Armatix, the anti-gun gun company best known for its one-jam-in-ten-shots iP1 “smart” .22, has been in the news a lot, mostly because it’s gone belly up, had a hard parting with its former gun guy, Ernst Mauch of the “Because You Suck and We Hate You” era at HK, and is in the German equivalent of Chapter 11. The majority owner, Swiss Bernd Dietel, is looking to stiff creditors without losing his ownership. The company had been scheduled to attend an anti-gun expo with gun ban activist Joel Mosbacher

Rumors are they’re putting the arm on some American and international anti-gun billionaires to try to relaunch the company, which will depend on rent-seeking: getting governments to mandate their inferior, unsafe product, as State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has tried to do in New Jersey.

Before the smart gun, Armatix made a series of supposedly uncrackable gun locks that are just as low-quality as the iP1 — a video on German TV showed the lock being cracked in minutes, but Armatix had gotten the German authorities to mandate the lousy locks already!

ITEM: A Better Bump Fire Stock?

With the Hughes Amendment seemingly intractably embedded in 18 USC, a lot of people have turned to Slidefire stocks for a simulacrum of automatic fire (and simulacrum is all it is, really). There is an alternative to Slidefire that works, and is made of metal. Downside? More money. Fostech Outdoor has solutions for AR, AK, 10-22, etc.

ITEM: Is Gun Ownership in Decline?

The Violence Policy Center, a group that promotes the banning of all guns, issued a rather thin press release — a five-or-so-slide-deck, which gives you an idea of wha they think of the attention spans of their fellow travelers in the press — suggesting that gun ownership was in steep decline, and the press release was dutifully plagiarized across the major media. Since gun sales continue at record-high levels, and every retailer we know is reporting lots of first-time buyers, we knew it was bullshit, and planned to write about it, but Bob Owens did it pretty well, and probably more concisely than we would have done:

The shooting sports industry is seeing not just record sales growth, but growth with incredible staying power. There hasn’t been the expected surge and then crash many expected post-Sandy Hook. There was a tremendous surge, and then sales of nearly everything have remained near peak levels. From firearms to ammunition to holsters, slings, optics and other accessories, there now appears to be a “new normal” median level of consumption, though we’ve not be able to peg precisely what that new normal is just yet as we don’t yet know what that carrying capacity might be.

That’s just one graf. The whole post is full of wisdom and not long, so go Read The Whole Thing™. Basically, for the VPC to be right, their information, based on self-reporting in an intrusive telephone survey, has to be right and everybody’s sales data has to be wrong.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times (note, nasty ads if you don’t have a popup blocker or NoScript) says, nope, gun sales are soaring.

Some Administrivia

We did manage to get one of our back Saturday Matinees up, Week 18’s. Stukas (1941) was a German propaganda film of World War II, made back when things were looking rosy for Hitler’s boys. We put the review where it should have gone live on 2 May 2015; and yes, we have a number of other Matinees hanging fire, which we’ll try to kick out from time to time.

To continue on to our tales of Usage and Employment, Cops and Crims, Unconventional Warfare, Lord Love a Duck, Veteran’s Affairs and all kinds of cool stuff that didn’t quite rate its own post this week, click “More”.

Continue reading

Ave atque Vale: Land Rover Defender


A 1960s or 70s Land Rover Series II

From deep in the heart of EU-occupied England comes the grim news that one of the few unalloyed successes of British postwar automotive engineering is about to end this year: production of the Land Rover Defender ends in December, 2015, in anticipation of coming EU regulations. British tech-news site The Register:

[P]roduction of the Defender is coming to en end, because it cannot meet (or be made to meet) new car emission rules from the European Council that kick in in 2020.

Production will therefore end in December. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the manufacturer, has hinted that the production line may be moved overseas, with the vehicle remaining in limited production elsewhere.

But, even if this is the case, the Defender will no longer be available brand new in EU markets, meaning the familiar sight of a Land Rover toiling across the British landscape – a presence that helped make it a stalwart of British automotive culture – will gradually recede from view.

The Register’s reporter took a tour of the plant, with some interesting commentary as he went:

Inside the reception area (which doubles as a gift shop full of Land Rover memorabilia) you are met, identified and provided with biscuits and coffee. You also meet your guide, clearly chosen with extreme care to be amiable, charming and above all, knowledgeable: this tour, after all, is likely to be taken by Land Rover geeks, so the guides have to be able to out-geek the attendees.


Remarkably, the vehicles are still put together largely by hand: a real live green-clad person lifts up a door and fits it to the vehicle. It’s a human workshop on a grand scale, not a clinical, robotic nightmare.

It is obvious that the Land Rover has been steadily updated over its production life and, while the shape remains clearly identifiable, virtually every component has changed during that time.

However, our guide delighted in showing us the two parts that the current Defender still has in common with the original pre-series Land Rover from 67 years ago. One is a small reinforcing bar for the body floor and the other is a tie-down cleat for attaching a canvas hood.

As JLR senior designer Peter Crowley-Palmer told us, you can think of it as “a classic car you can buy new”. But sadly, not for much longer.

Those are just snippets, of course; do Read The Whole Thing™, if only for the Land Rover pictures.

Land Rover history is quite quirky, in an eccentric, English way. There is a Lightweight Land Rover that weighs more than the standard model, and the fact that what many see as a military vehicle was built first as a farm machine — an approximate reversal of what happened with the American Jeep. The vehicle’s history is so complex, The Reg notes, that even the company’s souvenir t-shirt gets it wrong.

We have a lot of history with Land Rovers — real, general, authentic, pukka Land Rovers. The current, soulless SUVs and crossovers produced by the company are no substitute. It’s sad to see them going out of production, squeezed at one end by the practical Toyota HiLux and at the other by rapacious Eurocrats.

When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws Will Have Amtrak

This photo is from an unusual accident. The usual one involves a train and a pedestrian. It doesn't hurt the locomotive.

This photo is from an unusual accident. The usual one involves a train and a pedestrian. It doesn’t hurt the locomotive.

Most of us think of Amtrak as one of those massively subsidized, ill-managed government boondoggles, but it does more than simply haul the wealthy Acela Corridor types, the train buffs, and (naturally) the terrified-of-flying, from place to place in the lap of the taxpayers. Sometimes, it’s an agent of Darwin his ownself.

The train, traveling between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, hit the unidentified person shortly after 7 p.m. just west of the station, authorities said. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.

via Person struck, killed by Amtrak train in Chesco.

To the great irritation of the characters on the train, the dead prole delayed their journey.

The human being is inherently fragile, and many everyday things we never think about produce fatalities. In Pennsylvania, where that accident happened, 20 or 30 trespassers get killed by trains every year, according to the Federal Railway Administration, and a similar number injured. (No, you are not entitled to walk along the railroad tracks, or ride your bike there — as we occasionally do. Technically, you’re a trespasser on the railroad’s property or right of way). There are about 400-500 such deaths nationwide, although numbers for 2015 are way up (if you explore the data on the FRA site). That’s about the same number that perish every year in roughly 300 small plane accidents, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s annual Nall ReportMost people would not know that, because plane crashed get saturation coverage on the news, and some kid or homeless person that gets the Cuisinart treatment from an intercity freight or local commuter train gets a three-paragraph stub like the one the above quote is from. If that.

Unless he delays the Acela Express and inconveniences someone important.

Like small planes and railroads, firearms are actually a trivial cause of accidental death in the United States, but they’re slightly higher than railroad trespasser deaths, coming to about 600 in 2012, the last year for which we have reliable data. (The scary big numbers that come from innumerates like Moms Demand Fascism come from lumping accidents, suicides, and justifiable homicides by police and lawful gun users in as, “gun deaths,” and then implying they’re talking about accidents. They’re not).

In 2012, more people were killed by machinery (excluding motor vehicles) than by firearms. If you’ve ever worked in a metal-forming business you have no problem believing that… almost anything in a machine shop or foundry can kill you, including the hand tools you use for bench work. More children, particularly, died of poisoning or “environmental” causes (think heat and cold injury, exposure); over 12 times as many drowned (708) and over 20 times as many suffocated (1,182) than died from firearms mishaps (58). Yet Wealthy Moms with Nannies Demand Your Guns. It’s an interesting illustration of the innumeracy of society in general, the distorting effects of a dishonest, propagandistic media, and humans’ extremely poor ability to analyze risks in particular or statistics in general. (Our minds are adapted to use heuristics, not analysis, for risk assessment).

Poisoning in the home kills almost as many people (31,800 in 2012, National Safety Council, Injury Facts 2014) as motor vehicle accidents on the road (33,561 in 2012, NHTSA). Since the 2014 edition, NSC has been playing games with the classification of firearms deaths, such as lumping suicides, criminal homicides and justifiable homicides, into a single “firearms discharge” category.

Back to Pennsylvania, where our story began with an anonymous pedestrian losing at Jousting with Amtrak (if his game wasn’t foot Race to the Crossing), an interesting fact arises from CDC firearms accident data. Pennsylvania, home to this train accident, an active and militant gun-ban tendency in politics, and firearms accidents that even penetrate State Police firearms training, had the highest number of fatal gun accidents in the nation in 2012, according to the CDC.  (Two states with less than a sixth of PA’s population each, LA and SC, had higher fatal-gun-mishap rates per 100k population, though). So PA is still on the high side, if not a solitary outlier; sounds like Keystone Staters could work on their safety culture a little. (Preliminary 2013 data suggests that PA may have reduced the rate:

WISQARS Injury Mortality Report 2012-13.pdf

… or perhaps 2012 was an outlier year). Interesting nonetheless.

What’s the Acronym for Thuggish Simple Airheads?

tsa-security-theaterCan you say TSA? We knew you could. We haven’t beaten on them since they advertised on pizza boxes for future traveler-gropers last month. (What’s next, Thunderbird bottles?)

And in the interests of fairness, we’ll give first point to the TSA. They make the utterly reasonable suggestion that we gun owners out to pull our heads out of the region of our anatomy we’ve been using as a head holster, and stop forgetting we’re carrying guns and breezing into the machines.

In 2005, 660 guns were confiscated nationwide. Last year, the number rose to 2,212 – nearly a four-fold increase.
“I think there’s a personal responsibility for any gun owner, that they ought be aware of the rules, where they can and can’t take it,” McCarthy says.

We can’t really argue with that. TSA 1: Humanity 0.

From here it goes downhill for the gropers.

Yes, They’re Gropers

TSA PervLast month, CBS discovered a gay TSA goon and his female enablers were doing what the TSA has always denied its gropers do, singling out attractive people for a lascivious groping that crossed the line into sexual assault. TSA Denver agent Chris Higgins watched a groping live, and he and higher-ups reviewed others on tape, and the groper and enablers admitted it, but the TSA bosses and Denver Deputy DA Bonnie Benedetti simply fired the perv and one of his lookouts (the other wasn’t punished at all). It’s not even the first time the Denver prosecutor has given a wink-and-a-nod to a TSA sexual assault perp. It’s funny how prosecutors lose interest in pursuing sexual assault when the perv is a fellow payroll patriots, eh?

Across the country other passengers have raised concerns over the years about TSA pat downs. But the recent case uncovered by CBS4 is more problematic for TSA since its own employee blew the whistle on the practice, a supervisor observed it happening, the agency fired the employees, and the female screener who was fired admitted to the fondling conspiracy.

No one was held accountable. At TSA, no one ever is held accountable. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression, “Your ass is mine.”

TechDirt has the details on how they did it.

The plan involved him signalling to a colleague who was working the scanning computer. That agent would tell the computer that the individual being scanned was female, which apparently would set off an “anomaly” alert for the groin area, allowing the male TSA agent to conduct a “pat down” of that area. Leaving aside the fact that these computers even have “male” and “female” settings and it can determine an “anomaly in the genital area” if they don’t match — this kind of thing was exactlywhat many insisted was going to happen when the TSA put in place these advanced screening procedures.

And also, the details on how the TSA was able to torpedo the criminal investigation, as they routinely do:

Specifically, the TSA was first told about this scheme on November 18th of 2014. First, it took nearly two months for the TSA to do anything about it, and it did not contact the police during this time. Instead, on Feburary 9th, TSA investigator Chris Higgins observed the screening area and saw the signal/button push/grope of the genitals. Higgins made no attempt to speak with or identify the victim of this assault (this is important). Instead, he just spoke with the two TSA agents who were terminated at some later time (exact date not clearly indicated). The Denver police were not told about any of this until over a month later, on March 19th, 2015, at which point they noted that without a named “victim” there wasn’t much they could do.

In other words, the soi-disant “investigator,” Higgins, deliberately set the whole thing up so his groping buddy was de facto immune to prosecution. Even though there were at least three actively involved in the groping conspiracy, and several layers of enablers who got the perv off, we’ll be ultra-charitable and just count this as 1. TSA 1, Humanity 1.

Really, Gropers

tsa checkpointThe TSA Watch blog (if there were no such thing, it would have to be invented) notes that Judicial Watch has received a partial FOIA response (for which JW had to sue the TSA, who dragged their feet for almost a year before producing these public records). These records mostly document incidents of TSA groping and sexual assault, which is very common and seldom if ever punished. The partial response ran to 58 pages of TSA Pervs, with most substantive data redacted. The TSA has redacted the names of its sexual assault perps, including the one that hit a man so hard in the testicle (“testical” in TSA 70-IQ spelling) that he cried out, and the one that groped an elderly cancer patient and her colostomy bag. Sick, sick, sick people homunculi, all of them.

Even though there are 58 pp. of secret (and unpunished! TSA means never having to say you’re sorry) gropers, we’ll be charitable again: TSA 1, Humanity 2.

And They Lose their IDs in Atlanta, and Dallas-Fort Worth

NBC 5 in DFW found a few… thousand… missing badges (along with TSA uniforms, FFDO credentials, and all kinds of stuff lost, strayed or stolen at various airports).

An exclusive NBC 5 investigation found hundreds and perhaps even thousands of airport security badges, known as Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges, are unaccounted for across the country.
NBC 5 Investigates requested records from some of the nation’s largest airports asking how many SIDA badges are unaccounted for.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sent a response saying more than 1,400 badges were lost or stolen over approximately two years.

So, the TSA moved quickly to follow up, right? Ha, ha. This is the TSA we’re talking about. It moved quickly to cover up.

TSA blocks access to missing badge records after NBC 5 Investigates’ request….

Before NBC 5 Investigates could get missing ID badge information from other airports, like Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration stepped in and said we couldn’t have those numbers.

The TSA said it is security sensitive information and they don’t want to say just how often airport ID’s go missing at each airport.

Note that TSA management didn’t find the lost, strayed or stolen badges, a news agency did, after TSA management neglected the absentee badges for years. 

We’ve established a precedent of only counting all the wrongdoing in one story as 1, so: TSA 1, Humanity 2.

OK, so the DFW TSA droids are reckless with their IDs, but it surely isn’t happening elsewhere, is it?

And They Lose their IDs in San Diego

Says the national NBC site and NBC San Diego, following up on the DFW story.

[M]ore than 270 badges went missing at the San Diego International Airport in the last two years.

And some of those wayward badges were not reported for weeks or months — meaning they were not quickly deactivated.

Workers are supposed to report a missing badge within 24 hours, and the San Diego airport authority said it plans to do more to ensure that rule is followed.

Gee, but we’re sure that’s not happening anywhere else, because TSA supervision and management is made up of the members of this outfit singled out by .gov for promotion! TSA 1, Humanity 3.

And They Swear By Their Machines, But Don’t Know if They Work

During the controversy over what TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology and what the rest of us know as nekkid scanners (like the one made by the British pioneer of the technology, Rapescan), you couldn’t crack a newspaper without some TSA panjandrum of perversity standing by the machines with unqualified statements of support. Based on? It turns out, zip. The Washington Times:

TSA cannot adequately oversee the maintenance of equipment routinely used to screen passengers and their baggage as they travel to and from various airports throughout the country, the report states.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventative maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” the report said. “Without diligent oversight … TSA risks shortening equipment life and incurring costs to replace equipment.”

Hey, sophisticated digital gear don’t need no stinkin’ PM, does it? Well, not in TSA-land.

That makes it: TSA 1, Humanity 4.

And the GAO Finds Plenty of Fail

Let’s consider some of this year’s GAO reports. The first is the one the Washington Times keys on above.

GAO 15-559 T published 13 May 15

Errors in screening system, errors in personnel performance, no concrete plan to address them.  And there’s this:

GAO found that TSA performance assessments of certain full-body scanners used to screen passengers at airports did not account for all factors affecting the systems.

Meaning? The TSA “tested” the systems without the software that de-pervs the body images turned on, and without evaluating the operators’ skills (or, being TSA, lack of the same). In plain English, the tests of the Rapescan and backscatter machines are fraudulent.

GAO-15-465 T published 25 Mar 15

TSA implemented it’s “Managed Inclusion” and “TSA Pre√” programs with no plan for evaluating them, and no scientific rigor in the evaluation; so-called testing of the Behavioral Detection Officer witch-doctors and TSA canines is similarly flawed, or as GAO puts it, doesn’t “adhere to established evaluation design practices”. Of course not: the results are command-defined a priori; they can’t have data screwing up their program.

GAO-15-261 published 4 Feb 15

It turns out that when TSA decides to add or remove items from its Prohibited List (the stuff like your bottle of shampoo that’s verboten in the cabin), they don’t actually do a risk assessment most of the time, and when they do, they may ignore it. They also don’t ask mere stakeholders like pilots, flight attendants, airline executives, or actual security professionals for input into these decisions, even though somebody set them up a committee of folks like that. Hey, they are the TSA. Proud holders of GEDs and defenders of the public from anyone they feel like groping and anything they feel like banning.

So here we are with: TSA 1, Humanity 7. (Each GSA report deserves its own number).

The Summing-Up

The employees of the TSA are the sweepings of the gutters, the scum of the earth, the refuse of the prison system. If you see that agency listed on a resume, you can safely assume that the person is a pervert, a thief, a pedophile, or probably all three.

As we have said once or twice before, “No one good, decent, honest, intelligent, competent, moral or ethical has ever been employed by TSA in any capacity whatsoever.”


3D-Printed 9MM Semiauto (video rich); 3D Guns Update

As we have expected to happen for some time, and as the initial Cody Wilson “Liberator” first demonstrated, 3D-printed firearms made of common addititive-manufacturing plastics like ABS or PLA inevitably had to diverge from common steel firearms practice to take advantage of those plastics’ strength — and overcome their weaknesses.

That means that, while early prints were nothing but, for example, a plastic version of an AR lower dimensionally identical to its aluminum forbear, but destined for a short life (especially in PLA), more and more designs are innovating in different directions.

This series of videos shows the Shuty, a 9mm pistol based on kitbashing the designs of British homemade gun pioneer P.A. Luty and the AR-15 together. It uses several metal parts, including the barrel (which comes from a Glock 17), the fire-control group (AR), and the bolt (home-made). On the other hand, the magazine, upper and lower receivers, and bolt carrier, are all printed from a polymer generally thought unsuitable for firearms parts. Turns out, you can design around materials deficiencies (as the Japanese did when they used chrome bores for strength, to offset the suboptimal alloys they had for rifle barrels, decades before other nations adopted them for durability, and when their aeronautical engineers designed assemblies built-up of  7075-equivalent alloy sheet where every other skyfaring nation would use a 7075 forging).

Here is Derwood’s working Shuty, redesigned from the original, as of 1 May 15:

He says:

After several failed attempts with the Shuty, I decided to beef it up to handle the stress. The combination plastic/steel bolt works very good. After several test fires, the frame and lower is holding up well and no damage has occurred.

The plastic parts were all printed on the SeeMeCNC Orion printer, an entry-level machine, in PLA (polylactic acid), the entry-level printing material that is biodegradable and derived from renewable resources. The bolt assembly looks complex, but:

Its just three steel dowels stacked and welded together parallel with each other. the bottom smaller dowel is drilled for the firing pin. the center dowel is a spacer. the top dowel is the buffer.

Fosscad (an informal, leaderless, cellular homemade-3D-gun resistance) picked up the video and Fosscad user ma deuce posted it on 22 May 15. (Link only because it’s basically the same video, why embed it?)

Here’s Derwood’s next video, 20 May 15, showing a longer test fire. What appears to be a jam at the end isn’t, actually; what it is, is the bolt gnawing on the magazine spring because this work in progress doesn’t have a magazine follower yet — just a spring pushing the cartridges up! Oy.

Well, if you’re going to crib something, cribbing Glock’s feed ramp by using their barrel is a short cut to a working firearm. Glock reliability is not accidental, it’s a product of careful design and iterative improvement.

So that brings us to 27 May 15. It’s fully working, with firing and a mag change, two eight-round mags complete:

Derwood says it’s still evolving, and not finished yet; when he thinks it’s “finished,” he’ll release the .stl files. Until then, he tinkers on at a high rate of speed.

As a practical 9mm pistol the Shuty has its limitations. It gives you all the firepower of a Kel-Tec belly gun in a platform the size of what it is, a mongrel of AR-15 and MAC M10 ancestry. It has no sights, no stocks, and is only slightly more concealable than a basketball. Made of PLA, the stuff used in the dishes microwave dinners come in, it’s destined for a short life, by gun standards (we’ve got guns one and two centuries old here). So, as a practical pistol? A turkey. But as a proof of concept, it is enough to get would-be totalitarians “all wee-wee’d up” (in the locution of one such).

Ah, but bolts? Barrels? Too early to write about, but people are working those issues.

Some Other 3D Developments

Of course, the Shuty is far from the only 3DP pistol in development. Here one is with the Imura revolver (left) and the Songbird pistol (center):

Imura Songbird Shuty Redesign

Joel Leathers of Texas even posted the .stl files for the Glock 17 on Thingiverse. (That link 404s; the files were deleted, due to MakerBot’s political anti-gun position, but there is a story on At least they didn’t unperson Joel on Thingiverse. Yet).


Of course, a printed Glock part will not be usable in a firearm as is. But we can see practical uses for the files. (How about a printed, brightly colored, safety barrel for use in mechanical training? Pennyslvania State Police?)

How has this technology progressed so fast? Some of these guys print a lot. This printer has racked up nearly two months of run time, and used over six miles of filament!

Some of these guys print a lot

This is a 10-22 with receiver and trigger housing printed. We’ve discussed this project before. (Indeed, that story from last month has a photo in it which is a crop of the one below).

10-22 with major parts printed

We’ve shown the receivers before, but here are some printed trigger housings.

10-22 trigger housing printed

AR receivers continue to be developed. This heavily-reinforced AR-10 lower design, the Nephilim (an obscure Biblical reference to a purported race of human/angel crossbred giants) by Warfairy, shows lots of reinforcement and improvement to make a plastic receiver stand in for a 7075 aluminum alloy forging.

AR10 Nephilim by Warfairy

Here at Hog Manor, we’re still on the waitlist for our printer. And we won’t be printing guns with it, but other stuff for our DOD clients.

If You Build It, Nanny Wants to Ban It

Banning this sort of thing is very tempting to anti-gun lawmakers, political appointees, and those executives in the ATF who see the agency’s mission as “to destoy gun ownership.” Indeed, some of the European nations with fewer checks and balances hindering their legislative range of motion have already banned this kind of experimentation.

The problem with that, is that it is but a short step from the Shuty to a select-fire submachine gun. If you drive this design activity entirely underground, the designers are as well hung for a sheep as a lamb, no?

The largely-libertarian tinkerers making these things are doing no harm to a society, and may do some good. They have no sympathy with criminals who would use this technology to harm or threaten people. But let that be the line the law draws in the sand: not the malum prohibitum “if you make this we will hammer you,” but the malum in se “if you do harm with this we will hammer you, and the maker community will help us find you.”

Colt Defense LLC Kicks the Can, Again

colt_logo_mWe regret to use a news slot on this nearly-routine information, but we have to put it up while it still has some news value.  – the Eds.

As the expiration of its May 26 deadline came and went, Colt grabbed for another week for its bond exchange and restructuring plan.

Further, the Issuers also announced today that the “Expiration Date”, the “Consent Expiration Time” and the “Withdrawal Deadline” have been extended to 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on June 2, 2015 for their related solicitation of consents (the “Consents”) to the proposed amendments to the indenture governing the Old Notes (the “Consent Solicitation”).

Despite the firm’s survival of another week in default outside of the looming threat of Bankruptcy Court, the progress on the Exchange Offer front wasn’t good. In this, Colt is asking owners of the in-default 8.75% notes which are due in 2017 to swap them for highly speculative junk debt, paying 10% and maturing in 2023. In today’s environment, where inflation and de-facto negative prime rates from central banks impose negative interest on ordinary savings, 10% is extremely attractive — if it has any prospect of being paid.

What does the market think of the Colt swap? At the end of this week, no more bonds appear to have been offered in exchange than last — just 5.7%, still 92.3% short of Colt’s objective for rolling over the bonds.

The Issuers announced today preliminary results of the Exchange Offer. As of 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on May 26, 2015, approximately $14.2 million, or 5.7%, of the outstanding principal amount of Old Notes had been validly tendered and not validly withdrawn.

Why the can kick?

Well, on one level, it’s that, or see the judge, which would wind up expropriating the current stockholders (and managers). It’s a desperate survival move — Pauline has escaped the cliffside, the train tracks, and the pendulum, and now finds herself tied to a chair next to three sticks of dynamite wired to a clock. The temptation to somehow roll back the time on the clock has to be overwhelming.

Colt includes the same exact paragraph as last time, suggesting that negotiations with the holders of the Old Notes are ongoing.

The Issuers believe it is in the best interests of their respective stakeholders to actively address  their capital structure and are continuing their discussions with an ad hoc group of holders of the Old Notes. The Issuers hope that such discussions will result in a consensual restructuring transaction.

via Colt Defense LLC Announces Extension of Exchange Offer, Consent Solicitation and Prepackaged Plan Solicitation | Business Wire.

And it is possible that Colt could come to some agreement with the bondholders, probably by giving them some indications that a reorganization plan is viable, and giving up some of the equity to them. (Absent viability, the equity is worthless, because it would be erased in a bankruptcy).

What Sort of Investor Holds the Old Notes?

It won’t be widows and orphans, unless they have had irresponsible financial advice. Most probably belong to other Wall Street operators and their operations. Risky but high-coupon bonds are frequently larded in the portfolios of hedge funds and some mutual funds, where they’re mixed with many other investments to provide some spread of risk.

Also, union and municipal pension funds, which are usually not as well run as financial-sector funds, often can’t resist the tempting apple of 8.75% (or 10%) interest in a 0% Fed funds market (fundamentally the current situation; the current Fed Funds target rate is 0.25%; the prime lending rate is 3.25%). For example, many municipal and state pension funds are only solvent if they’re allowed to assume a basic return of 8% in the market. And that 8% was conventional wisdom; the examples in financial accounting textbooks still used by B-school students often use 8% as a sample input. So fund managers are desperate to make that 8%, wind up buying turkeys like the Colt bonds, and sooner or later will want a taxpayer bailout. (This is exactly what happened to cities like Bridgeport, CT, Vallejo, CA, and Detroit).

We also checked with our money guy, and he added some in-the-industry insights, including:

  1. While the $33M that “saved” Colt back in February was reported as coming from Morgan Stanley, the firm almost certainly simply organized private lending, and walked off with a percentage of the $33M, but took no risk exposure.
  2. Right now, there’s a vast quantity of hedge and other private capital chasing very few worthwhile investments. (If you are this kind of investor, you know what we’re talking about). The money has to go somewhere — leave it in a bank and it wastes away do to low or even negative interest and the effects of inflation. Therefore, some of it goes into less worthwhile investments.
  3. Some of the hedge and pension funds are so large that they can have a lackadaisical attitude to this kind of risk. A retired surgeon or executive with a net worth of $3 million and $1 million in Colt bonds is really in trouble — if there is such a person (which brings us back to really bad financial advice). He’s about to lose a third of his wealth! But a hedge fund manager investing $3 billion and holding $1 million in Colt bonds can shrug it off: he’s (well, his investors are) about to lose three hundreths of a percent. It’s the equivalent of the $3M net-worth guy losing $1,000.

Our Prediction:

Tuesday or Wednesday next week, we’ll be reporting another can kick. They can keep this up until they can’t make payroll, or some defaulted-on or stiffed person or company sues. Indeed, they might continue wobbling along even after failing to make payroll — for a short, and finite, time.

Something called Colt will survive, in some form. But it may not be something that retains the residual respect of the dying Hartford manufacturer.