Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Docent's Memo (December 1, 2021)


    The fundamentals of marksmanship—a good trigger press, breath control, sight alignment—don’t count for diddly-squat if you can’t hold your rifle still. At 100 yards and in, a competent marksman should be able to shoot a whitetail offhand without difficulty. At ranges beyond that, the rifle needs some type of support. 

    Traditionally, this means mastering the kneeling and seated positions and the use of a shooting sling. These old-school skills are effective but not widely practiced anymore. Bipods are useful provided the legs are long enough to elevate the barrel above any surrounding vegetation, but in the real world that’s often not the case.

    The best way to build a rock-solid position when you can’t lie prone is with a tripod equipped with a flat tac-table and a lightweight shooting bag. With the bag on top of the tac-table and the rifle balanced on the bag, you can make an accurate hit on the vitals of a deer hundreds of yards away, even while standing. 


To maximize your accuracy when shooting off a tripod this way, keep these tips in mind:

  • Place the rifle on the bag lengthwise to maximize the amount of contact between the bag and the stock.
  • Keep the top of the bag about level with your sternum when you shoot from a standing position. If you position the bag any higher, accuracy will decrease. 
  • Use your lead hand to pinch the gun and bag together to steady the rifle and control recoil.
  • Square your shoulders so that you are directly behind the rifle. That will improve recoil management. 
  • Do not overfill your shooting bag. They often come with too much fill and don’t have enough give. Try filling it three-quarters of the way. 
  • Use a lightweight fill like Git-Lite, which will take a solid set under pressure for a steady shot. Don’t use cheap plastic beads. They slide around and aren’t very steady. 

The author, Snow, also recommends using ballistic apps and suggests a couple 100-yard drills to practice making off-hand, snap shots.

        Technology and demand are driving a light-rifle trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Purpose-built, flyweight guns are a dream to carry and shoot, but the additional machining, exotic materials and manufacturing methods that can bring something like an AR rifle down to 4.5 pounds make it expensive. Fortunately, there are cost-effective options for cutting weight on existing rifles, too. This work can be divided into gunsmith-specific tasks which require special tooling and machining skills, and those components which require nothing more elaborate than a screwdriver to install. The latter category is the focus of our efforts here.

        A sizeable chunk of the following component options is AR-specific, but there are also varying degrees of lightweight, retrofit parts for other rifle platforms, including AKs, M1As, FALs and Mini-14s. Options will also be on the table for any long arms that use AR-style stocks, grips and rail-mounted ancillary devices. Speaking of stocks, the included tables show how ounces can be shed in both the collapsible and fixed categories. As with the items shown in other tables, these are just a few samples shown in comparison to standard-component weights. All data comes from the author’s measurements or manufacturers’ published specifications.

    The included table is useful for picking certain items. But I'm puzzled by the author eschewing exotic materials generally, but then including in his list a bunch of expensive small AR parts made of titanium that only save you a fraction of an ounce over using the same parts in steel. As I discovered as I started collecting parts for my lightweight AR-308 build, you get more weight savings for your buck by looking at large items--the stock, the upper and lower receiver, the barrel and the handguard/barrel nut-- than on smaller stock parts like the pistol grip, buffer tube, and small specialty items like titanium magazine release buttons, firing pins, or bolt-release levers. For instance, ROAM is a company that makes lightweight components, and their AR-308 receivers made of magnesium are about half the weight of a standard aluminum receiver, but only cost about 50% more than Aero Precision receivers. You can also save a couple pounds by going with a pencil profile barrel or other lightweight barrel over a heavy contour barrel without having to do anything exotic. For instance, Faxon offers barrels in pencil and "Gunner" configurations that weight quite a bit less than standard or medium profile barrels. 

    • "TFB Armorer’s Bench: General Bench Setup – Quick Tips"--The Firearm Blog. I think everyone knows that working on guns requires a set of quality screwdrivers and various punches. This article goes into some tools, equipment and supplies of which you might not have immediately thought such as: magnets for finding or picking up items, various types of tape to protect parts or the firearm while you are working on it, a bookshelf (for keeping your gun maintenance books handy), a compressor for use in blowing out excess oil or dirt and grime, maneuverable lighting, a vise with padded jaws, a mat or other cover for your bench, and drawers or other methods of organizing your tools. 

        While I have a lamp/magnifier similar to that pictured in the article, I find myself often using a headlamp with a decent lumen output because it puts the light where I'm looking without having to maneuver the lamp. And a good bench block or two is handy. I have a standard one a little bigger than a hockey puck that works well, but I've also made my own on occasion by drilling one or more holes in a piece of wood; and have even used a roll or two of masking tape at times, simply laying the roll on its side to hold the firearm up high enough to push out a pin. The advantage to buying a block, however, is that manufactured bench blocks have grooves and cutouts to keep your firearm from moving around. 

    • "Anatomy of a Misfire"--The Truth About Guns. A look at different types of misfires and how to diagnose them, with special attention to squibs. The author advises:

    If you do experience a misfire, where the gun goes “click” instead of “bang,” the first thing to do is wait a few moments with the gun pointed in a safe direction to ensure it isn’t a hangfire (a delayed discharge). Once you are sure it’s safe to extract the cartridge, continue to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and examine it. Take the round out of the chamber and see if the round has a firing pin indentation on the primer. Is the bullet still in the casing?

    If the bullet is not in the casing, then you may have a squib load with the bullet obstructing the barrel. 

    • "Gun Review: Diamondback Sidekick .22 Revolver" by Virgil Caldwell, The Truth About Guns. Caldwell verifies my earlier conjecture that the Sidekick is a copy of the old High Standard Double-Nine. This is a revolver that has the outward appearance of a Single-Action Army (SAA) but is actually a double-action swing-cylinder. The one thing I hated about the old Double-Nine was the weight of the double-action pull. Caldwell does not tell us what weight was the trigger pull, but he does say that the double-action was pleasant. A notable difference between this and the High Standard is that you can switch between a .22 Short/Long/LR cylinder, and a .22 WMR cylinder. While the author didn't want to get into the merits of .22 Magnum for self-defense, I would note that Greg Ellifritz has had some favorable things to say about it for self-defense purposes--especially if you are going to have 9 shots available to you. 
    • "Hunting Guns in Colonial America" by George C. Neumann, American Rifleman. Neumann begins by noting that, unlike England where hunting was generally restricted to the gentry, the wilds of North America invited hunting by all people.

        ... Rural homes depended on arms to help feed their large families, as well as to provide physical protection and fulfill local militia demands. The heavily wooded terrain of the New World, in turn, provided a bounty of game ranging from turkeys, geese, ducks and game birds to the larger deer, bear, elk and moose. In order to take advantage of this, the provincials employed various combinations of ball, buckshot, or buck and ball in smoothbore flintlock fowlers which were the forerunners of today’s shotguns. (The rifles developed in Western settlements are not included here.)

        These arms generally had long barrels averaging 44" to 60" to permit the full powder charge to burn effectively and to provide an extended sight radius. Such lengths may seem unwieldy, but the dense overhead canopy of the virgin forests permitted far less undergrowth than that encountered in today’s second growth woodlands. The typical gunstocks were walnut, maple or cherry and included a high-raised comb, plus a fore-end that reached to the muzzle—which frequently had the wood cut back 3" to 4" and a barrel stud added to mount a socket bayonet for military service. Second sights were rare; the front blade was usually supplemented by a groove filed into the breech tang as the rear-aiming guide. Sling swivels, too, were omitted as the arms were intended to be hand-carried for instant use.

    A great article for the historian or the collector, with photographs of various firearms, including close-ups of some of the finer details. 

    VIDEO: "How to Start a Prepper Food Pantry"--Guildbrook Farm (16 min.)


    • "How to Siphon Gas in an Emergency" by Rich Murphy, Urban Survival Site. The author's focus is on siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles after SHTF, but there are times when you need to siphon fuel from one of your own vehicles. Anyway, on to how to do it:

    Siphoning functions by gravity, so it is basically impossible to siphon gas directly from one vehicle’ s tank to another. Rather, the gas is siphoned out of the donor vehicle into a container, such as a gas can. It can then be poured into your vehicle. For it to siphon, the container must be lower than the level of the fuel in the gas tank. The greater the distance below the tank, the faster the gas will flow. 

        The safest and easiest way to siphon gas is with a pump. Of course, that means buying a siphon pump before it is needed, as it probably won’t be available when it is. These pumps come in both manual and electric versions, which plug into the vehicle’s accessory connector. The manual ones usually have a plastic bulb that you squeeze to create a vacuum, drawing the gas out of the tank; but there are also hand crank versions, which are more costly but easier to use. 

        To siphon the gas, the hose at one end of the pump is inserted through the flapper in the fuel filler of the donor car and the hose at the other end is inserted into the container. The end in the tank must be inserted far enough to get to the bottom of the vehicle’s gas tank. To make sure that happens, estimate the distance and hold the hose there with one hand; keep feeding it into the tank until that hand reaches the fuel filler.

        It is important that the right hose be inserted into each end, as the pump doesn’t work in reverse. Then just turn on the pump to start the gas flowing. Once gas is flowing, you can stop pumping with the manual pumps, as the gas will flow on its own. Stop the flow by either pinching the hose shut, raising it up above the level of the gas tank or removing it. 

    But he does go on to discuss how to do it with just a hose, and how to remove gas from a tank via the fuel lines.

    • "Can Portable Generators Get Wet? How To Run One In The Rain Safely"--SHTF Preparedness. The portable generators commonly used by preppers are not safe to use if they get wet such as from rain. The author explains how to rig a tarp or other cover to keep water off the tarp, but still allow the necessary venting, including making your own cover and frame.
    • "Prep Your Apartment or Suburban Home for Riots and Civil Unrest: How to Get Ready FAST"--Organic Prepper. Because the riots we have seen over the last several years have been leftist rioting and looting, typically to protest some police shooting or some such, the author's first recommendation is to become the "gray man" by removing American flags, removing "thin blue line" stickers from cars (or parking the cars out of sight), and, as repulsive as it might be, to have a sign you can display with some "anti-racialist" message. (I would note that, on the downside, having such a sign might put you on another list and a target when the inevitable blow back happens). The main portion of the article, however, concerns it with physical preparations including methods to harden your home by securing the outside, deterring entry, setting up a safe home, and funneling anyone that gets through these other defenses. The author also discusses protection against fire and making sure you have an escape route. 

        I especially liked some of the ideas concerning boarding up windows. For instance:

    Many people board up all their windows with plywood. If you plan to do this, get the plywood well ahead of time and pre-drill the holes so you can install it quickly. You can store plywood between your mattress and box springs, or under your bed. I’ll go into this more in a moment but do not cover every single window of your home with plywood. You don’t want to create a prison from which you have no escape. Generally, just cover the front windows and sidelights by your doors.

    And this:

    ... When I was staying with my daughter in her downtown apartment during the COVID lockdowns, we realized that our front hallway was a true weak spot. The front door was solid glass and there were also glass sidelights. The door frame of the old building wasn’t of the highest quality and I could easily see the door being breached, either by the glass being broken or by a strong person simply breaking through due to the weak frame. As renters this is not something we could replace. So, we got plywood cut to fit and I added spacers that allowed the blinds to be between the plywood and the glass, making it look less obvious that we had boarded things up.

    • "30 Kitchen Items that Work When the Power is Out" by Tom Marlowe, The Survivalist Blog. A good list of items to use for preparing food when the power is out, such as, manually powered (handcranked) mixers and can openers, cooking gear suitable for cooking over a fire or on a propane stove (e.g. a Dutch oven), a mechanical kitchen timer, a pitcher pump to pump water from a container into the sink, a Zeer pot to cool things, etc.

        Take Idaho. In 2015, Idaho had 61 students in its trapper education course. In 2016, there were 171 students, and in 2017, there were 456. Then the course became mandatory, and in 2018, the state had 1,500 would-be trappers. Enrollment is still over 1,000 students each year.

        “We’ve seen a tremendous increase last year in the number of trapper education students,” says Bill Seybold, a trapper education coordinator with Idaho Fish and Game. “Trappers can’t make money on it anymore, and people are doing it for different reasons.” 

    VIDEO: "BREAKING: 9th Circuit Upholds Magazine Limitations (Duncan v. Bonta)"--Guns & Gadgets (5 min.). I haven't yet read the opinion, and this video does not discuss the 9th Circuit's reasoning.


        [The IDF] held large-scale exercises in the North in October and November, and there are plans to hold 50% more drills next year than in 2020, and 30% more than in 2021.

        The increased exercises set for 2022 follows years of stagnation, and will be the largest training operation in five years, especially for reserve forces.

        Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, the IDF has also begun conducting drills with Gulf Arab states.

        In a subtle message to Iran, Israel took part in a multilateral maritime security drill in the Red Sea with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and US Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT).

        The drill in early November was the first of its kind, and showed what kind of naval coalition Israel might join should there be military action against Iran.
        Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 18 fighter jets from mainland China’s air force, along with five H-6 bombers and a refueling aircraft, flew through the defense zone near the southern part of the island. Taiwan scrambled its own air force to respond and deployed missile systems to track the Chinese breach.
        The incursion came at the close of a three-day military conference attended by Chinese premier Xi Jinping, where he called for the cultivation of military talent, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

            As the rising power of criminal gangs plunges Haiti deeper into chaos, health care workers are getting overwhelmed by the number of women being raped by these violent groups, and by the sheer horror of the victims' ordeals.

            "Some of the kidnapped women don't even know how many men raped them," said Doctor Judith Fadois, who has worked for the past six years at a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic in Port-au-Prince for victims of sexual violence.

            "In some cases, I would speak of mutilation, they were treated like objects so much," the doctor said of the awful things she has seen and heard at the clinic in recent months.

            There is already a taboo surrounding sex crimes in this society widely seen as chauvinist, and that makes it hard enough to talk about rape. But the heightened cruelty of Haitian gangs has stunned some of the medical teams beyond words.

            In the past two months, as gangs virtually took control of the capital in the wake of the president's assassination and a years-long social and economic crisis, the staff at the clinic have heard things that the doctor says she "never thought a human being could do to another human being."

        Interesting factoid: In 1804, Haiti became the first black controlled country with a republican form of government after throwing off French colonial control. 

            In 2021, through September, reports of violent crimes were up 25% from the same time last year and 9% from 2019, according to L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority data. Some crimes, such as aggravated assaults, are exceeding pre-pandemic levels even though bus and rail ridership hasn’t fully recovered.

            Although still rare, homicides jumped from one in 2019, to three in 2020, the first full year of the pandemic. So far in 2021, five people have been killed in stations or on public transport, including a 28-year-old woman fatally shot on the train while on her way to work.

            While most people ride public transit without incident, the issue of crime recently sparked a clash between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Metro board members over the future of law enforcement on the system. At a news conference to argue for the extension of his department's contract with Metro, the sheriff rattled off a list of eight violent crimes, dating back to 2019, including shootings, stabbings and sexual assaults. He referred to the incidents as "the level of carnage" happening on trains.

        It's the 1970s all over again, except with worse music. But we may be lucky if it only stops with how bad things were in the '70s. We have seen increasing incidents involving mob violence and theft. For instances, The Daily Wire reports that "Two Minneapolis Best Buys Robbed On Black Friday As ‘Flash Mob’ Thievery Spreads Beyond California." The article relates:

            The thefts come days after Best Buy chief executive Corie Barry expressed concern that retail thefts in California stores will provoke employees to quit.

            “These are traumatic experiences, and they are happening more and more across the country,” Barry told CNBC, adding that California cities represent “hot spots” for the thefts.

            “When we talk about why there are so many people looking for other jobs or switching careers, this of course would be something that would play into my concerns for our people because, again, priority one is just human safety,” she said. “And it’s hard to deal with this potentially multiple times in one location.”

            Also on Black Friday, a Home Depot in Lakewood, California, was robbed by a group of teenagers. The suspects reportedly arrived in several cars, donned ski masks, and stole sledgehammers, hand hammers, and crowbars before fleeing the scene.

        (See also this New York Post article). Hammers and crowbars aren't the latest fashion accessory. These are being stolen to help facilitate other property crimes. Combine this with the expected protests in the lead up to the mid-term elections, and we may see the increased mobocracy that will eventually end in Civil War 2.0.

        VIDEO: "Time to panic? Challenges We Now Face"--City Prepping (9 min.)
        A discussion of the omicron variant and how governments are reacting.

         A total of 978 specimens were provided by 95 participants, of whom 78 (82%) were fully vaccinated and 17 (18%) were not fully vaccinated. No significant differences were detected in duration of RT-PCR positivity among fully vaccinated participants (median: 13 days) versus those not fully vaccinated (median: 13 days; p=0.50), or in duration of culture positivity (medians: 5 days and 5 days; p=0.29). 
            Taking an act-now-ask-questions-later approach, countries around the world slammed their doors shut again to try to keep the new omicron variant at bay Monday as more cases of the mutant coronavirus emerged and scientists raced to figure out just how dangerous it might be.

            Japan announced it would bar entry of all foreign visitors, joining Israel in doing so just days after the variant was identified by researchers in South Africa. Morocco banned all incoming flights. Other countries, including the U.S. and European Union members, have moved to prohibit travelers arriving from southern Africa.

            Travelers infected with the new version have turned up in a widening circle of countries over the past few days, including now Spain, and cases in Portugal and Scotland have raised fears that the variant may already be spreading locally.

            “Many of us might think we are done with COVID-19. It’s not done with us,” warned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization.
            The omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization, which warned Monday that surges of Covid infections caused by the variant of concern could have “severe consequences” for some areas.

            “Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said in its risk assessment on Monday within a technical brief to its 194 member states.


        It said in its report on Monday that it is “a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations ... some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”

        Is the high risk concerned with potential deaths? No. South Africa, where the variant appeared, has reported that the Omicron variant has very mild symptoms. The risk instead appears to be to public opinion about the efficacy of the vaccines which are expected to have little or no affect on the Omicron variant. Interestingly, this new variant "seems to have evolved in someone who was HIV positive while infected for an extended period of time with SARS-COV-2, giving the virus ample time to figure out an optimal solution to the vaccine induced immune response." 

            President Biden said Friday that he delayed implementation of a new ban on travel from southern Africa on the advice of his medical advisers, who are led by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

            A reporter asked Biden why the emergency precaution will take effect Monday, rather than immediately to contain the potentially more contagious Omicron version of COVID-19.

            “Why not do it now like other countries have done?” the journalist asked Biden, who is spending a long Thanksgiving weekend in Nantucket.

            Biden said “because that was the recommendation coming from my medical team.” Fauci is Biden’s chief medical adviser and led a half hour briefing for Biden on Friday.

            Biden said “we don’t know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern and it seems to spread rapidly — and I spent about a half hour this morning with my COVID team led by Dr. Fauci and that was the decision we made.”
        “No worries, travel ban begins next week because you know, variants don’t spread on holiday weekends,” Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky scoffed on Twitter. 
            The largest children’s hospital in Wisconsin has been struggling to care for patients in injured in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack on Nov. 21 in large part because of staffing shortages stemming from its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, multiple sources say.
        Eighteen children were brought to the Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee Hospital with injuries suffered when a driver plowed into parade-goers that Sunday afternoon. ...

        * * * 

            Sources at Children’s Wisconsin indicate that when victims first started to be transported to the hospital, it did not have enough nurses or support staff to adequately handle the sudden rush.

        • Damned if you do and damned if you don't. I saw two op-ed pieces in Deutsche Welle concerning Covid and vaccine mandates in Germany. The first said it was time for mandatory vaccines, even if it was too late for the fourth wave, because it would protect against the fifth wave, dismissing societal and legal arguments against such mandates. The second op-ed argued that mandatory vaccines were too late in coming, and so lockdowns needed to be reimposed. How about a third option of no vaccines, no lockdowns? It's crazy enough, it might work.

        VIDEO: "Folding Space"--Isaac Arthur (26 min.)

        And Now For Something Completely Different

            Just three minutes of exposure to deep red light once a week, when delivered in the morning, can significantly improve declining eyesight, finds a pioneering new study by UCL researchers.

            Published in Scientific Reports, the study builds on the team's previous work, which showed daily three-minute exposure to longwave deep red light 'switched on' energy producing mitochondria cells in the human retina, helping boost naturally declining vision.

            She was flying home from a holiday in Samoa when she saw it through the airplane window: a "peculiar large mass" floating on the ocean, hundreds of kilometres off the north coast of New Zealand.

            The Kiwi passenger emailed photos of the strange ocean slick to scientists, who realized what it was – a raft of floating rock spewed from an underwater volcano, produced in the largest eruption of its kind ever recorded.

            "We knew it was a large-scale eruption, approximately equivalent to the biggest eruption we've seen on land in the 20th Century," said volcanologist Rebecca Carey from the University of Tasmania, who co-led the first close-up investigation of the historic 2012 eruption, and together with colleagues finally published the results in a paper in 2018.

            The incident, produced by an underwater volcano called the Havre Seamount, initially went unnoticed by scientists, but the floating rock platform it generated was harder to miss.

        These types of events are probably the source of stories of floating islands, or islands suddenly appearing and then disappearing.

        • "Why a toaster from 1949 is still smarter than any sold today" by Sean Hollister, The Verge. Most toasters rely on timers to adjust toasting time for different types of bread, or bread that is frozen or colder. But it is all too easy to under-toast or over-toast by having to guess where it should be when you turn the knob. The Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster, sold from 1949 all the way through the late 1980s, used a thermocouple to detect the temperature of the bread to get the perfect toast each time, no matter the type of bread or if it started out cold or frozen.


        1. Hey Docent. I read the article on lightweight carbines and notice that you mentioned building a lightweight AR-308. Have you shot it? I'm curious about how bad the recoil is. Years ago I had a Yugo AK in 7.62/.308 and it weighed something like 9 pounds. I wouldn't called that particular rifle "lightweight"...especially with a full 20 rd mag...BUT it did kick like a mule! The bolt travel was so long that it almost felt like a double recoil with the initial impulse followed by the bolt slamming rearward! How does yours feel?

          1. I'm still in the process of collecting the parts. I pretty much have everything but the BCG and handguard. But as I was hefting the ROAM magnesium upper receiver the other day and marveling at how light it was, I was struck with the thought that it is going to hurt to shoot. I have a compensator for it, so hopefully that will cut the recoil.

        2. So we just used your Memo as our script for last night.


        POTD: Abandoned Ski Resort In Switzerland

        Source: " The abandoned ski resorts that really did go downhill: 'Eyesore' facilities litter the Swiss Alps after Covid and glo...