Tag Archives: Gear

Washington State Trip #3

Shooting under the Hellfighter light

This is why I like precision rifle training.

Aside from the fact that our fellow students were an enjoyable bunch, the weather was postcard-perfect and we were shooting on the most picturesque firing ranges I’ve personally seen, it was great to get down to putting some serious flight time onto our 175-grain Sierra Match King bullets.

When is the last time you shot at a confirmed 700 yards and put five rounds into an area you could cover with the palm of your hand?

We don’t make that statement in idle boast.  We did accomplish that feat but with proper training, coaching and equipment, it’s really not much different than shooting a free throw or making a long putt.  Based upon our crippling lack of talent on the sports fields, it’s a good thing we learned to shoot.

The best part of our lengthy training day was the night shoot.  After a dinner of authentic carne asada grilled on the range as the long Pacific Northwest twilight faded into night, we began sending our version of airmail to the tiny steel plates standing on the other side of the meadow.

Twilight in the Cascade range

We utilized some serious military-grade optics to engage our targets.  A couple of rifles utilized front-mounted night vision enhancement while the most interesting course of fire was utilizing the Hellfighter system from Surefire.

This is a flashlight on vitamins and steroids, a veritable King Kong of portable lighting.  It consists of a lighting head and battery pack, along with an infrared filter system.  It is utilized for crew-served weapons by the U.S. Military but can be purchased by anyone if they can come up with the $4000 for a flashlight.

Using the light, we easily illuminated the targets downrange and placed rounds, watching them spark when the hit the steel.   Moving over to the night-vision enhanced systems, the range was dark but through the scopes it appeared to be daylight.

Finally crawling in after midnight after a long day, I could only muster up the energy to wash the five pounds of dust off of my face and hands, eat a Cliff bar washed down a beer from the mini refrigerator and collapse into bed.  It’s now time to shower, pack gear and head out for some REAL long-distance shooting today.

Washington State Trip #2

Unfortunately, there has been a gap in coverage of our little jaunt in the North Cascades- we were captured and held hostage by a tribe of Bigfoot (or is it Bigfeet?).  Either way, we escaped and fled back into town in the hopes that we could post an update.

Obviously that excuse is a load of horse feathers.  We simply spent a day in the high country, shooting rifles, enjoying the scenery and baking under the western sun.  By the time we arrived back at our hotel room at 10 p.m. eastern time, we were a tired puppy and chose not to file a report.

Now, operating on Mountain Time, we got up bright and early (the crack of 9 a.m. at home) to file a report for both of our regular readers.

As stated previously, our objective is to review a long-distance shooting class for S.W.A.T. Magazine.   We have been flown here under the care of SureFire Tactical Flashlights.  The company has been very good to us indeed.

Wednesday dawned clear and dry, as it does every summer day in Yakima.  Though the coastal rain forests of Washington state are less than 60 miles away, Yakima sits in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains and had a dry, Mediterranean-like climate.  However, it is also blessed with ample river water and the region is one of the biggest fruit-producing regions in the country.  All in all, the scenery and weather are outstanding.

We drove into the mountains surrounding Yakima on a tortuous route that offered outstanding scenery and glimpses of the old west.  As we drove higher in elevation, the irrigated fields gave way to scrub land which eventually turned into high mountain meadows dotted by thin pine forests intersperse with aspen groves.  In the occasional river bottoms, grass and willow grew thickly, obscuring the water.

Following directions, dead-reckoning and finally a few signs, we pulled into a high mountain valley straight out of a John Wayne movie.  Surrounded by national forest land, the rancher was busy moving a small herd of recalcitrant cattle into another field.  Wild lupine dotted the thin grass and mule deer stood watching us in the shadows of the tall pines.

It didn’t take much imagination to see The Duke on horseback on one side of the meadow, putting his horse’s reins into his teeth while his hands were occupied with a big Colt pistol and a Winchester lever-action rifle as he prepared to charge a pack of murderous cutthroats in True Grit.   “Fill your hands, you son-of-a-bitches!” he bellows before spurring his horse.

That is good stuff, especially if you are a little boy or unreconstructed writer, not that there is much difference between the two.

The valley where we would be shooting belonged to the Thomas Bass Ranch, one of the original homesteads in the area during the early 1900’s and route of the first stagecoach line between Elletsburg and Yakima.  As we learned about the area it was also easy to visualize a rattling, lumbering stagecoach churning down the wild, dusty high country trail at a time when my own little Midwest town was over seventy years old and already quite urbane.

After disgorging our mountain of gear from the rental SUV we met out instructor Caylen Wojcik, owner of Central Cascade Precision (CCP…not “CCCP” as I continually and inadvertently kept saying.  As a refresher, the CCCP was the old Soviet Union.)  Caylen has a resume that is too long to post here but to borrow a cliche, he has worn out several t-shirts in the Marine Corps and beyond.

Our classroom was set on a high grassy point in the meadow under two portable shelters.  We began with administrative formalities and a few hours of classroom instruction on the finer points of putting bullets onto a target that you almost can’t see with the naked eye.   Judging by student introductions, it seemed that everyone in the class had more than passing familiarity with long-range riflery and it seemed likely that we would be able to proceed at a rapid pace.

After a field lunch of MRE’s (Meals Refused by Ethiopians, AKA military field rations) we settled onto the firing line.

The first afternoon was spent getting our rifles squared away and sighted in after the cross-country trip that most of the students and weapons had endured.   Under the deep blue sky, the temperature rose to the upper eighties and it sometimes grew hot, at least until a touch of breeze would slide up the valley to churn the meadow grasses in ocean waves until it moved along to somewhere else.  Fortunately, compared to the armpit-like conditions of central Indiana in July, the humidity was only in the 20% range so a wet cloth on the back of the neck felt delightfully cooling.

It was a pleasant, low-stress way to spend an afternoon and before we knew it, it was time to break down our gear, have a short talk under the trees about weapon cleaning then head home.  For the record, I was using a new GA Precision rifle topped with Schmidt & Bender scope in .308 caliber.  Considering the weapon system probably cost more than my first two vehicles combined, we are happy to report that Your Humble Servant shot reasonably well.

Today is a late start as we will be going until midnight in order to shoot our weapons during darkness hours.  Surefire has provided some sophisticated night vision optics and this should prove both interesting and challenging.  We must admit that we are also very much looking forward to seeing twilight and nightfall in the mountains.

Until the next report- BW

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Time for bargains

If you are bored this week during those long, muggy evenings, try hitting the local outdoor retailers.

We recently visited two of the ‘big box’ retailers and found that they were both in the throes of the annual “get rid of everything before hunting season”-season.

We are now sporting a killer new pair of outdoor sandals, a great (and expensive brand-name) fishing shirt along with a myriad of other doo-dads and gimcracks.

Among other things, we were surprised to find a huge display of hunting clothes, all on sale.  As we had already loaded up our arms and debit card, we were forced to demur…at least until next payday.

Paddle Fest this weekend

The weather had been great for paddling this year, considering that we have been on the receiving end of a violent thunderstorm every 15 minutes.  However, if you haven’t had enough paddling or want to see the latest in gear and technique, make plans to visit the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Paddle Fest this saturday, June 26th at Fort Harrison State Park.

The event will offer paddling clinics and the latest gear from several retailers.  The event runs 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. and there is no admission fee, though the normal gate charge of $5/car for Indiana residents is in effect.

For more information, visit here.

The heartbreak of garage sale

I couldn’t help it.  My life had grown so chaotic that I committed the ultimate act of despair.

I had a garage sale.

Actually, as these words are being written, the sale is ongoing.  Unfortunately for both regular readers, it will have been long closed by the time you read these words with your morning coffee or evening libations.

I say unfortunately because I am the world’s worst salesman.  That, coupled with the fact that my garage was filled to bursting with cool outdoor stuff priced dirt cheap, makes for a major lost opportunity for those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to stop by our little estate on the prairie this morning.

Like most American males, I hate garage sales with a passion.  In fact, I would choose to voluntarily have a rusty fishhook impaled into my left eyeball rather than submit to a morning of “garage sailing” with my spouse or mother.  However, when the barn clutter reached the point where I was forced to tunnel like a coal miner just to reach the duck decoys, it was time to do something.

I initially thought I could become an internet auction baron, using the services of that hugely popular website that sounds like it was named in pig Latin.  However, once all the accumulated items had been piled in my garage for cataloging, I realized that selling all everything in this fashion would likely require a full-time staff of seven people.

Therefore, I heaved a few dozen giant sighs, steeled my resolve and set about preparing for the day when complete strangers would come into my home and take many of my closely held possessions.

To my great surprise the first shoppers arrived nearly two hours before the scheduled opening, far later that I had anticipated.  Armed with stupid enthusiasm and fifty dollars in change, I opened the garage door and prepared for the onslaught.

I immediately noticed something I found humorous: most women hated my sale.  I found myself laughing at the obvious disgust ladies displayed upon first seeing the bushels of duck decoys and backpacks.  Their men folk, meanwhile, were simpering about, clapping gleefully like toddlers and furtively counting pocket change.

We did have a few token purses for sale courtesy of my wife.  These were snatched up in a heartbeat as the women ran back to their cars, ordering their mates to follow within five minutes under threat of a serious cold shoulder penalty.  Staying true to “the guy code,” none of the men followed within a reasonable time frame, loosely defined as “sometime during the morning hours.”

In fact, the garage sale turned into a giant bull session as the gathering crowd cussed and discussed the various uses of the accumulated gear.  This would then lead from one story to the next, like a bird dog nosing through cover.

One man would pick up a fishing lure from the dollar table and the discussion would finally end with another man standing on a chair, pantomiming an impossible physical position while explaining, “there I was, hanging by my fingernails 10,000 feet over the Rogue River…”

I would have probably heard more of the stories if it weren’t for the chorus of honking horns in the driveway.

The sale made more money than I anticipated but more importantly, I gained valuable space in my barn and attic.  This was the goal, I kept reminding myself, since it was obvious in sales parlance I had been “severely beaten about the head and neck.”

I am a terrible sales person.

I started the morning vowing not to be taken in by any sharp customers.  Unfortunately, there is a sizeable segment of the population who, when not busy negotiating hostage releases in the Middle East, practice their skills on unsuspecting U.S. garage sale proprietors.  Several of these folks stopped by my house.  By mid-afternoon, the following conversation took place-

Customer: “How much would you take for this crossbow?”

Me: “It’s marked $200 firm.”

Customer: “I’ll give you two dollars, three rusty washers and some pocket lint.”

Me: “I’ll take it and throw in the arrows for free.”

Obviously you don’t want to hire me to work at your automobile dealership.

Anyway, the end of the sale is approaching and I should feel good about the world.  By investing slightly over 10,000 hours of my time, I have dramatically uncluttered my home, made a little money, spent an entire day meeting new people and made several local outdoors enthusiasts entirely too happy.

I suppose that is enough good work for one day.  In conclusion, I am indeed tired, very slightly richer, less cluttered and yes, happy.

Have you yet guessed on what I plan on doing with all the money raised via our one-day amateur excursion into capitalism?

`

One hint: there’s plenty of space in the barn.

The vampire season: dealing with bugs

Now that we are firmly in the throes of warm weather, vampire season has begun.  Every outdoor adventure between now and the first frost will include a host of uninvited flying and crawling critters searching for a delicious sip of human blood.  As we sit at the keyboard while trying to refrain from scratching ourselves silly, we would like to offer a few ideas to tip the balance in your favor during hand-to-wing combat.

There are a number insect villains that make an appearance during this time, ranging from tiny no-see-ums with a painful bite far in excess of their size, to deer flies that seemingly gouge out enough meat to build a decent hamburger whenever they bite.  Most prevalent is the ubiquitous mosquito, Indiana’s unofficial state bird.

The number one line of defense against winged and crawling pests is a healthy slathering of a chemical with a huge name: N, N-diethyl-toluamide, otherwise known as DEET.  The military discovered DEET in the 1950’s while trying to find a chemical that would protect the troops against a wide variety of disease-causing insects and arthropods.  Since that time, DEET has been repeatedly tested and found to be one of the only compounds effective against most pests.  A new chemical, Picaridin, has been approved for use but is not yet widely available and it’s test reports have only been lukewarm.

Applied to the skin, DEET offers hours of protection and can remain effective for days if applied to clothing.  Unfortunately, it does melt many synthetic materials and should only be applied to cotton or wool garments.

DEET has been exhaustively tested by many different researchers and found to be fairly safe.  The chemical is freely absorbed through the skin, but seems to cause no problems in reasonable doses for most people though several deaths have been attributed to allergic reactions to DEET.  Anyone who experiences a rash or other symptoms after applying any insect repellant should wash immediately and seek medical attention.

How much DEET should be use?  There is a bewildering selection of products available that range from five to 100-percent DEET.  Though opinions vary, most scientific evidence suggests that products containing 10 to 35% DEET are most effective without risking excessive exposure to the chemical.  Higher concentrations of DEET are best used on clothing and scarves rather than directly on the skin.

For children, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that parents use insect repellents that contain six to ten percent DEET and only apply it to children over the age of two.  Never apply repellent to a child’s hands as they always end up in their mouth.  Pregnant women are advised to refrain from insect repellent altogether.

There are many other preparations and products that claim to reduce insect attack.  According to unbiased scientific testing and painful personal experience, most of these other alternatives appear to be so much snake oil.

Garlic, brewers yeast and vitamin B1 are often claimed to repel mosquitoes when taken orally.  Most of these claims can be traced back to the manufacturers of garlic, brewers yeast and vitamin tablets.

Citronella oil, extracted from a plant, has been used as a repellent since 1882.  Used in candles and “safe” insect repellents, the oil does seem to reduce mosquito activity slightly.  When used on the skin, the strong-smelling oil often reduces social activity around the wearer.

Avon Skin-So-Soft lotion (and a host of imitations) is widely used as a mild insect repellent, especially against black flies.  So far, most research shows that the preparation is ineffective though millions still swear by the lotion.  You will have to rely on your own judgment.

There are several electronic insect pest repellents that promise to work on everything from mosquitoes to rabid grizzly bears.  Scientific tests have shown these devices make great paperweights.

There are several other measures you can take to defeat the tiny intruders.  Light colored, long-sleeved clothing helps, along with battening all hatches such as collars and cuffs against intrusion.  Head nets work well when bugs attack in battalion strength but are bulky and uncomfortable.  An alternative is a bandanna, smeared with repellent, draped around the neck.

When fighting the aerial combat of winged pests, don’t forget about ticks.  After being outside, especially in tall grass, always conduct a tick check.  There are several tick-borne diseases found in our state and the only way to prevent a problem is thorough, unclothed (and hopefully private) body inspection upon returning indoors.  Make sure you lock the bathroom door, especially if your friends are practical jokers with a digital camera.

One other great solution to our problem was discussed by the famed outdoor writer Robert Travers in his book Trout Madness.  He suggested that anglers “smoke cheap Italian cigars, which smell like a flophouse mattress fire mixed with rotting Bermuda onions.  They will, however, keep insects and most respectable ladies at bay.”

That solves several problems.

RESOURCES:

University of Florida repellent guide

National Pesticide Info Center: Choosing and using insect repellents

DEET Fact Sheet (PDF, requires Adobe Acrobat)

University of Nebraska: What’s the scoop on insect repellents?

CDC Insect Repellent Information

photo: www.cdc.gov